Friday, April 29, 2011

Fighting fire ants

The distinctive fire ant mound.
When I was a kid, I didn't know what a fire ant was. It wasn't until I was grown and lived in South Mississippi that I was exposed to this pest. Over the past few decades, however, this fiendish ant has steadily moved northward — and, I think, adapted to our colder winters.

Fire ants first came into the United States through the Port of Mobile in 1929 in dirt being used as ballast in a ship cruising from South America. From its launch pad in south Alabama, the ant has infested most of the Southern United States. 

I have heard that the fire ants' invasion was aided by the expansion of the U.S. highway system. As earth-moving equipment moved from one part of the country to another, fire ant nests were transported along with the dirt-caked machinery.
I have a theory that fire ants first arrived on our farm in the 1990s riding on pulpwood equipment.

There are no natural enemies to the imported fire ant, so chemical methods are the only tools we have to fight this invader. And the truth is this is a fight with no end. I have combatted the pest on properties in central Alabama and all sections of Mississippi for nearly 25 years. The best we can hope for is control — not extermination. No matter how many nests you kill, another always pops up.
The 25-lb. bag is the best bargain. We purchase it at the Tate County Co-op 
in Senatobia, Miss. 662-562-7811.

Each Spring my grandsons and I scout the pastures looking for fire ant mounds. We then treat each one with poison. For the past couple of years I have used Extinguish Professional Fire Ant Bait. I buy it in a 25-pound bag at my local co-op; this year the price is $65.

We use a large coffee container with a 
v-notch in the lid to administer the 
poison granules.

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