April is the ideal time to resume the annual war against red imported fire ants in Louisiana, according to experts in the LSU AgCenter.
One of the best tactics to attack the critters is through an area-wide, neighborhood baiting program, said AgCenter entomologist Linda Hooper-Buí.
“At the community-wide level, we can reduce fire ant movement, reduce costs and decrease the amount of chemicals used,” Hooper-Buí said.
Treating large areas will help eliminate existing colonies and reduce the introduction of new ones. If individuals treat only their own property, ants may return from neighboring areas that have remained untreated.
Experts say the most effective way to treat fire ants is with baits, which don’t affect other beneficial insects. Baits work because the ants forage for food, pick up the bait and take it back to the nest, where they feed other ants. Eventually, the chemical finds its way to the queen.
“Once they get the bait into the colony, it works its way into the system,” Hooper-Buí said. “Then the colony dwindles and dies.”
Hooper-Buí recommends that communities or neighborhoods use the two-step method. It involves broadcasting a bait product followed by treating nuisance mounds with a faster-acting individual mount treatment.
“It doesn’t matter if everyone uses the same product or not. But it’s important that all residents treat their yards. Get the people on your block together, purchase fresh bait -- fresh baits are most attractive to ants -- and attack the problem together.”
Treating the area in April gets the bait to the ants before they begin multiplying during the warm summer. A second treatment later in the season will help control any colonies that escape the first bait application.
Baits generally take a period of time to eliminate a colony -- anywhere from a week to a month, depending on the chemical used.
“Bait products don’t protect against reinvasion by ant colonies from surrounding land or by newly mated queens,” Hooper-Buí said. “And populations can fully recover within 12 to 18 months of the last bait treatment.”