Extension Connection: No magic bullet on Horizon for fire ants

By Nelson Wynn / Guest Columnist

Across Alabama, people are talking about a recent news story on a virus that kills fire ants, but an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System says people should not get their hopes up that fire ants will soon be gone from the state.

“There is no magic bullet that is going to wipe out fire ants in Alabama or the United States,” says Kathy Flanders.

“The prospect of a disease that may help control numbers is great news, but the better solution for most people is to learn how to manage the fire ants in their yardsneed to understand that the odds of exterminating fire ants totally from the United States are incredibly high,” Flanders said.

She feels that people waste too much money, time and effort trying to eradicate or control fire ants.

“If you understand a little about fire ants, you will find that they are easy to live with. Homeowners and other land owners need to understand how to manage their fire ant problems.”

Generally, fire ant mounds can be eliminated on a particular site for only a period of time, but surrounding areas that haven’t been treated will eventually lead to reinfestation.

“Once fire ants and other predatory insects, including other ants, are eliminated from a site, reinfestation is easier,” Flanders said. “Controlling fire ants on a site is usually an ongoing effort.”

There are a number of good resources to turn to for advice on managing fire ants. People should talk with their county or Regional Extension Agent. They can provide information and publications on managing fire ants.

But people also can turn to a new Web site for the latest in fire ant management.

“There is also a great new online resource for people,” said Flanders.

“eXtension’s Imported Fire Ants Web site puts a wealth of research-based information directly on consumers’ computer screens. It’s an excellent resource for anyone needing information about imported fire ants and how to control them.”

To use the site, people can register visit www.extension.org.

Nelson Wynn is a Regional Extension Agent for Shelby County focusing on home grounds, gardens and home pests. He can be reached at 669-6763