Did you know Pamlico County lies in a Fire Ant Quarantine Zone? Many residents may not realize that fire ants are not active across all of North Carolina or the United States. In fact, North Carolina has a Quarantine Zone established by USDA and the NC Department of Agriculture that regulates the export of certain items that might carry ant infestations to other parts of the country.
Of course, those of us lucky enough to be inside of this area know all to well the difficulties of living with fire ants. Fire ants are a non-native species that came to the United States around 1930. They have spread across most of the Southeast U.S. and continue to progress each year.
Late spring and early fall (late Sept.- Early Oct.) are the best seasons to attempt control of fire ants. There are numerous products available for control of fire ants. However, whenever you use a pesticide product ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE LABEL DIRECTIONS. That statement should be emphasized as the effectiveness of your product relates directly to its application. Also, residents should understand that one application might not always control your fire ant issue. You could overlook small mounds with your initial application, ants can escape treatment through underground tunnels and satellite mounds, or the product could be misapplied or rendered ineffective by weather conditions (bait gets wet, etc.). To ensure the maximum effectiveness carefully examine the pesticide label. Other non-chemical options exist, however these treatments often result in only temporary control.
A common approach to infestations is to apply an ant bait product and in a few days follow-up with a mound treatment. Baits can either be applied around existing mounds or broadcast over large areas (read the label). Most bait products contain active ingredients that require days to weeks to be entirely effective. As ants forage for food they are attracted to the bait, which they then bring back and share with the colony. The time delay mechanism of these pesticides helps to spread the insecticide to numerous ants in the colony. Mound treatments tend to work in hours to days. The active ingredients in these products require direct contact with the ant. Some of these products also require a certain amount of water to be applied to move the chemical down into the mound for greater contact, while others do not (read the label).
The most difficult task of trying to control fire ants is realizing that it takes time to effectively manage fire ants in your area. For those unfamiliar with fire ants, remember that fire ants can sting. For many they are a nuisance, but for those who are allergic they can be deadly. When attempting control of fire ants take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. This includes reading the pesticide label and following the application requirements for protective equipment (shoes, pants, long-sleeve shirts, gloves, etc.). Some residents may question about the safety of pets and humans while using these pesticides. Again, carefully, read the pesticide label, as all labels should contain information on safety precautions and hazards that exist to pets and wildlife. In general, following the instructions on the pesticide label will help to ensure safety for all.
For more information on fire ants and their control, please call the Extension office at (252) 745-4121 or visit this online insect note https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/lawn/note145/note145.html.
Submitted by: Daniel Simpson
Agriculture Extension Agent