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FIRE ANT MANAGEMENT IN PASTURES

S. Bambara, Extension Entomologist

CAUTION: This information was developed for North Carolina and may not apply to other areas.


[General Information] [Control] [Other Resources
FIRE ANT, Solenopsis invicta, Formicidae, HYMENOPTERA

angus in pasture
Fire ants have established themselves across and beyond the southern half of North Carolina.  Their requirement of access to sunshine and open land have made pastures an excellent habitat for them. However, their presence in a pasture impacts livestock operations in many possible ways.  Impact may be felt through:
  • Lost Labor
  • Animal Injury
  • Equipment Damage/Wear
  • Hay Production
  • Medical/Veterinary Costs
  • Forage Degradation
  • Electrical Equipment Damage
  • Infested Feed
  • Reduced Feeding
hereford cow in pen

Management

There is no single simple solution to managing fire ants on a farm.  Management depends upon the number of mounds and locations. There are numerous fire ant pesticides, however, only a few are labeled for use directly in the pasture.  Some chemicals are for directly treating a mound, and some are baits containing insect growth regulators (IGRs) that may be broadcast across the pasture.  There are no effective sprays.  In addition, it may be helpful to control fire ants in adjacent areas outside the pasture with different products.

Direct mound drenches have advantages and disadvantages to balance.

Advantages-
Fast acting
Insecticides applied only to targeted mounds
Disadvantages-
More expensive for large areas
More labor intensive
Treatments affect only older colonies showing visible mounds

Broadcast bait treatments also have advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages-
Quick and easy application
Less hazardous, generally
Least expensive method for large areas
Less labor required
Disadvantages-
Slower than liquids (too slow for situations where stings are a major concern)
May harm some helpful non-target ants

"What can I use in grazed pasture?"
BAITS

hydramethylnon (Amdro Pro) for mound or broadcast. 7-day post-treatment interval for cutting or baling hay. Consult label for any additional restrictions and directions in using this bait in pasture.
methoprene (Extinguish) for mound or broadcast
methoprene + hydramethylnon (Extinguish Plus) for mound or broadcast. 7-day post-treatment interval for cutting or baling hay. Consult label for any additional restrictions and directions in using this bait in pasture.
pyriproxyfen (Esteem Ant Bait)

for mound or broadcast on grass pasture. 24-hour

(may be combined with Amdro)

fenoxycarb (Award) Non-grazed farm areas, except may be used on mounds in horse pasture only where horses are not used for human consumption.

DRENCHES

carbaryl (Sevin) 80WSP, XLR Plus, SL mound drench only; follow label directions; may be foraged after application has dried. Best when applied in morning when air temperature is about 70o F.

Do not apply baits and drench at the same time.  Allow 7 days between the two applications. Ants will not forage and accept bait while they are disrupted by poison. The best months to treat are mid-Spring and Fall.  The best time of day to treat is in the morning when air temperatures are around 70 degrees F.  To check if fire ants are active, place a few potato chips or puffed cheese snack on the ground.  If ants are noticed within 30 minutes, colonies are active.

potato chips cheese doodle

Based on two Alabama Extension studies by Henry Dorough, an effective application strategy is to use a 50/50 bait mix of hydromethylnon (AmdroPro) and methoprene (Extinguish).  Apply in a skip-swath pattern.
Treated
Untreated 
Treated
Untreated 
Treated
Untreated 
Treated


Skip-Swath pattern for Fire Ant Bait application

Treating Areas Outside of Pastures

For a list of the products available for treating fire ants in pens, corrals, barns and outside of pastures, nongrazed pasture and rangeland, consult the Agricultural Chemicals Manual. Included in the list may be Award, Distance, Suspend, Clinch.  Consult each label for specific limitations of where and how these products may be used.

NC Fire Ant Quarantine (Dept. Agriculture & Consumer Services)

Movement of Hay and other commodities outside of the red area are regulated by the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and requires a permit.


Helpful References with more information

Easy & Economical Control of Fire Ants in Alabama Pastures

Management of Imported Fire Ants in Cattle Production Systems

Fire Ants in Horse Operations


Recommendations of specific chemicals are based upon information on the manufacturer's label and performance in a limited number of trials. Because environmental conditions and methods of application by growers may vary widely, performance of the chemical will not always conform to the safety and pest control standards indicated by experimental data.

Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical.

Other Resources

For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.


Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.
© 2001 NC Cooperative Extension Service


Prepared by: S. B. Bambara, Extension Entomologist. Thanks expressed to Kathy Flanders, Henry Dorough and Mike Waldvogel. Ant image by Rebecca Norris, USDA APHIS forestryimages.org .

ENT/for-04 March, 2007

Web page last reviewed January, 2010 by the webperson.