Experts discuss managing fire ants in East Texas during spring, summer

Experts discuss managing fire ants in East Texas during spring, summer
Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 6:32 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 11, 2023 at 8:45 PM CDT
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Spring is underway, and with that comes fire ants. Experts say now is the time to treat them to keep them under control before summer.

During the winter months, fire ants stay beneath the ground to keep warm. As springtime approaches the ants come out and begin to spread, Texas A&M AgriLife Agent Cary Sims said this is the time you should treat them.

“We need to understand that we’ve got fire ants, we’re always going to have fire ants. They are going to show up in the spring, and they’re going to disappear in the late fall, and we can take care of our landscape to keep them away so we can enjoy the outdoors,” Sims said.

Retired entomologist Joe Pase said fire ants are originally from South America. He said they were first reported in the United States in Mobile, Alabama around 1930, and first were reported in Texas around 1950. He said they now cover the eastern part of Texas and keep mostly south.

“And their spread has been primarily by people because of moving invested soil and nursery plants and stuff like that,” Pase said.

Pase said that most of the ants in a colony are worker ants.

“The queen and some reproductive males will have wings and they will fly to disperse an established colony to start new colonies. So that usually happens in the warmer months of the year and can happen usually after a rain, but it could happen anywhere through spring to early fall,” Pase said.

Pase said that in a flooding situation, ants can ball up and create a raft to survive. They then will disperse wherever they land when the flooding goes down.

Sims said there are several ways to treat fire ants. One is using a bait for the queen and she will bring it back to the colony; another is a dust or powder you put on individual mounds, and last is putting an insecticide on a whole area you are wanting to treat.

AgriLife recommends the “Texas Two Step” in which you treat individual mounds and bait the area for long term control.