Mallory’s Gardening Tips

Mallory Kelley, ACES, Regional Extension Agent

Controlling Fire Ants this Fall

The temperatures are finally falling and with all the recent rainfall, the leaves are quickly falling too. After the hot and humid summer, everyone is anxious to get outside and enjoy the fall foliage, football and maybe even a bonfire. However, if your not careful you may encounter fire ants. Is now a good time to treat for these awful pests? Now is the perfect time to rid your lawn or landscape of these unwelcome invaders!
“Fall is a great time to treat fire ants,” Dr. Kathy Flanders, an Alabama Cooperative Extension Entomologist said. “Fall temperatures are perfect for fire ant activity and foraging, making it an opportune time to put out fire ant bait.”
While the warm weather is rolling out and cooler air moves in, fire ants are still actively foraging. Fire ants look for protein-rich foods all year, but especially in the late spring and early fall. Foragers will continue searching for food until temperatures drop below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Using fire ant baits on a sunny day after the dew on the ground has dried can provide specific and continued control of fire ants, in a cost-effective way.
Not only are fire ants a nuisance outdoors, but they can wreak havoc indoors, as well. Fire ants will be looking for a warm place to overwinter and begin searching for warm places to spend the cold months. Often, this means mounds inside the house or built against the foundation.
Treating all areas in the landscape surrounding the home should eliminate a home invasion. Be sure to inspect your pile of leaves or compost area, stacked firewood, raised garden beds and potted plants as they all make great hiding places.
Flanders said it is important to check for fire ants before playing, working or carrying wood inside and remain proactive. This is a great time to consider a slow-acting bait for continued control going into the cold season. Treat the areas before piling up leaves to play in or for compost, treat your preferred firewood location and treat around the perimeter of your garden, but only specific products can be applied in a vegetable garden no matter what time of year it is.

For increased success, controlling fire ants should definitely be a team effort. Working with neighbors or surrounding landowners can greatly boost your success. Fire ant control is more effective when larger areas are treated. When an 80-90% control rate is acceptable, consider participating in a community- or neighborhood-wide treatment program. If the problem is widespread, a large treatment plan could be more effective than treating in small areas. Flanders said Extension professionals have developed a community-wide management program that is available for use and implementation.
For more information on controlling fire ants, please visit
Cooperative Extension Fire Ants Info.


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