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Experts share tips on how to keep fire ants under control

By |  February 21, 2024 0 Comments
Fire ants can be a challenge as there is no surefire way to prevent them from establishing colonies on the golf course. (Photo: Wizzie Brown)

Fire ants can be a challenge as there is no surefire way to prevent them from establishing colonies on the golf course. (Photo: Wizzie Brown)

As the name suggests, the bite of a fire ant is less than pleasant, presenting issues for golf course superintendents and golfers alike.

When provoked, fire ants will swarm and latch onto their target. According to Wizzie Brown, senior Extension program specialist at Texas A&M University, unlike more common ant species, they’re not easy to shake off either.

Wizzie Brown

Wizzie Brown

“They are actually holding on to you with their mandibles and will continue to sting until you brush them off,” Brown says. “(After the bite) you’ll get an immediate burning sensation in the area, and it will eventually redden and swell.”

Fire ant mounds are large and easy to identify, as they often appear in sunny, low play areas of the golf course. As the seasons begin to shift, Brown adds that the ants may migrate to new areas of the course, potentially closer to in-play areas.

“When it starts to get cooler, (fire ants) may gravitate toward paved areas and use those as a heat sink,” she says. “When you get into the warmer time of the year, especially if you have little rainfall, they will often move near irrigation heads. So, if a sprinkler breaks, that can make things interesting.”

As for treatment, Brown says there are three main ways superintendents can target this pest. Individual mound treatments are the most labor-intensive option for treatment and would be a good option for courses with only a few mounds.

The other two treatment options, broadcast bait applications and broadcast granular applications, are more cost- and time-effective options.

“Those are more common (modes of application),” says Brown. “I find those tend to work best when it’s early in the season. You want to have the product out in the soil when those fire ants start tunneling and building mounds, so when the weather starts to warm up it’s already there and will start to kill them off.”

Photo: Wizzie Brown

Photo: Wizzie Brown

Brian Mount, M.S., B.C.E. (Photo: FMC)

Brian Mount, M.S., B.C.E.

FMC

Brian Mount, M.S., B.C.E.

Technical Service Manager

Fire ant control on a golf course can be accomplished in several ways. Existing mounds can be treated with properly labeled insecticides via mound drenches. Mound drenches are done by applying one to two gallons of insecticide solution directly into the mound and treating about 3 ft. out from the mound. These treatments will only control the mounds that are directly treated. Fire ant baits are another great choice for keeping fire ant numbers down. Baits can be broadcast over large areas and will help keep new colonies/mounds from developing as foraging ants pick up the bait and bring it back to the colony, ultimately killing the queen. Lastly, insecticides may also be broadcast over large areas to keep fire ants at bay. Insecticides are most effective in late spring and summer when ants are more active and likely to contact the treatment.

Heather Patterson

Heather Patterson

Quali-Pro

Heather Patterson

PCO Technical Service Manager

Red imported fire ants (RIFA) pose a significant challenge in maintaining turfgrass areas across the southeastern U.S. With an ideal combination of well-maintained turfgrass, moist soil and warm air, golf courses are prime locations for RIFA activity. As temperatures rise in spring, mounds start appearing, and fire ant workers actively forage for food to share with their nestmates. This is a good time to make granular bait applications. Another effective strategy involves bait applications in the fall, as it targets colonies when they are in decline. This proactive approach helps to reduce the population and mounds the following spring, ensuring a more enjoyable golfing experience. When it comes to controlling fire ants on golf courses, Quali-Pro offers several products. These include specially formulated bait granules, mound drench products and granular insecticides, offering a superintendent multiple solutions to combat fire ants.

Lane Tredway, Ph.D.

Lane Tredway, Ph.D.

Syngenta

Lane Tredway, Ph.D.

Technical Services Manager

Superintendents can control fire ants with products such as Advion fire ant bait. The active ingredient indoxacarb means superintendents no longer have to choose between fast-acting mound treatments, that leave the probability that colonies will re-emerge, or complete Broadcast insecticide treatments that can provide colony control but could take weeks to kick in. Advion fire ant bait controls foraging worker ants within 12-48 hours and can provide complete colony control within 72 hours. Superintendents can apply Advion as a broadcast application at 1.5 lbs per acre or as a mound treatment at 4 tablespoons per mound. Syngenta guarantees season-long control of fire ants with two broadcast applications, typically in May and September when fire ants are actively foraging.

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About the Author: Rob DiFranco

Rob DiFranco is Golfdom's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Golfdom, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio


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