If you are anything like me, you have enjoyed getting out side over the past few weeks, getting into the garden and playing in the yard; however, that fun can quickly disappear when you or your child gets into a fire ant hill and gets several bites.

Fire ants are a nuisance insect that is present in almost every county in Georgia and controlling them in our yards has been a frustration as long as I can remember. They are an invasive species brought from South America into Alabama in the 1930’s and they have quickly spread throughout the southeast.

The good news is that there are some good tools to greatly reduce their numbers on your property and properly timed applications can almost eliminate them.

The most common and effective method to control fire ants in your yard is referred to as the “Two-step” method. It is quite easy and affordable. The two-step method consists of a bait step and mound treatment step that combine to very effectively control ant populations in your yard.

The first step is to broadcast a bait product such as Amdro or Extinguish Plus all over the desired area. Most bait products are spread at 1 to 1.5 lbs per acre which requires a low setting on a spreader and should be spread on a day with 3-4 days without rain ahead to ensure time for ants to find and retrieve the bait.

The baits consist of small pieces of soybean that are blended with an insecticide that the foraging ants take back to the ant colony as food and it is consumed by worker ants and the queen. The insecticides used take 2-4 weeks to kill the colony but does a great job of eliminating the queen and exterminating the entire colony. It also works great because ants from hard to find colonies (small mounds, in garden beds, behind tree line) also take the bait back to those colonies.

The best time to apply bait is in the late spring, early summer after the queens have their spring mating flight and then establish new colonies. An additional treatment late summer or early fall prior to their fall mating flight can greatly reduce the number of fire ant mounds that you will see the next spring.

Step 2 is to apply a direct mound treatment starting about 2-3 weeks following baiting your yard. There will be a greatly reduced number of mounds to treat comparative to and un-baited location. Continue as needed throughout the summer to prevent re-infestation. The bait combined with spot treating mounds has been shown to provide 90% reduction in fire ant colonies, providing a more enjoyable environment for you and your children.

While fire ants will always be a nuisance in Georgia, this tactic will greatly increase the amount of fun you will be able to have out in your yard without those itchy bites all summer. Remember to always follow label guidance on any insecticides for both safety and effectiveness.

Please contact me with any questions or if you want to learn more about controlling fire ants in livestock pastures or hay fields. We are always here to help at the Banks County Extension office. Ways to contact us are to call us at 706-677-6230, by email at zmccann@uga.edu.

Zach McCann is the Banks County Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent.

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