Fire Ants in Turf


From an agricultural perspective, red imported fire ants are nuisances primarily because they annoy field workers and because their mounds may damage harvesting equipment. Livestock injury and crop damage are usually minor. Fire ants have a much greater impact on the ornamental plant, sod, and landscaping industries because of problems associated with shipping infested plant material into uninfested areas of the country. Mounds discovered in previously uninfested areas of North Carolina are frequently traced to landscaping performed at commercial and residential developments. For the general public, two aspects of red imported fire ant infestations are particularly annoying: the unsightly mounds formed in lawns and yards and the painful stings received when mounds are disturbed.

Cultural Control

Hot water (i.e., 90°F) and mechanical disruption have been used in many instances. Results of some preliminary evaluations at Texas A&M University have shown that these treatments will kill large numbers of ants; however, satellite mounds formed by surviving ants subsequently appear. Thus, these methods can have a useful, but temporary impact on fire ant colonies in areas situations where pesticides of any type are considered unacceptable. Other non-chemical mechanical devices that disrupt colonies do not have scientifically-based test data to support their effectiveness.

Research is underway to look at the use of biological control agents to control imported fire ants. These agents include parasitic flies and other ant species, as well as fungi and other microorganisms. These methods are not yet proven to be extremely effective by themselves but can help reduce fire ant populations as part of an IPM program. For more information about biological control of fire ants, visit the USDA-ARS website.

Chemical Control

There are two basic approaches to chemical control of fire ants. An insecticide can be applied to individual mounds or it can be broadcast over a wide area infested with fire ant colonies. Individual mound treatments are usually more environmentally and ecologically acceptable because they use less insecticide and limit areas treated as compared to broadcast treatments, and they are likely to have less impact on non-target insects. Regardless of the method used, the objective is to kill not only the workers but also the queen, because she is the only ant in the colony that is capable of laying eggs. Always follow the label directions when applying any fire ant insecticide.

Insecticide and Formulation

Amount per 1,000 sq ft

Precaution and Remarks

bifenthrin* (Menace, Talstar, others) F, GC; G form also available 0.5 to 1 fl oz Use GC formulation for golf courses.
carbaryl* (Sevin) 80 WSP 1 to 1.5 oz
chlorpyrifos* (Dursban) 2E, 4E, 2G, 50 WP, Pro See label For use on golf courses. See new label.

chlothianidin + bifenthrin (Aloft)

See label

chlothianidin + bifenthrin (Aloft) GC SC 0.27 to 0.44 fl oz
chlothianidin + bifenthrin (Aloft) LC SC 0.27 to 0.54 fl oz
chlothianidin + bifenthrin (Aloft) GC G 1.8 to 3.6 lb
chlothianidin + bifenthrin (Aloft) LC G 1.8 to 3.6 lb
cyfluthrin (Tempo 2) 0.143 fl oz Home lawns only.
cypermethrin* (Demon) TC See label
deltamethrin (Deltagard) G 2 to 3 lb/1,000 ft2
fipronil 0.0143 G See label
hydramethylnon* (Maxforce G, Amdro) See label
lambda-cyhalothrin* (Battle, Scimitar, Cyonara) See label Do not make applications within 20 feet of any body of water. No reentry until spray has dried.
acephate* (Lesco-Fate) (Orthene, T, T&O) 75 S See label 1 to 2 tsp/mound Distribute uniformly over mound. For best results apply in early morning or late afternoon.
hydramethylnon* (Amdro) 0.88% bait (Maxforce G) See label Uniformly broadcast 1 to 1.5 lb of bait per acre with ground equipment on pastures, range grasses, lawns, and nonagricultural lands. Or distribute uniformly 5 level tbsp of bait 3 to 4 ft around base of each mound. Do not exceed 1.5 lb per acre.
avermectin/B1 (Affirm) 0.011% bait 5 to 7 tbsp/ mound Distribute uniformly 5 to 7 level tbsp of bait 3 to 4 ft around base of each mound.
bifenthrin* (Menace, Talstar, others) F G form also available Follow label directions.
chlorpyrifos* (Dursban) 4 E See label
fenoxycarb (Award) 1 B 1 to 3 level tbsp
1 to 1.5 lb/acre
Single mound treatment. Apply uniformly with ground equipment.
spinosad (Justice bait) See label
fipronil (Topchoice, Fipronil, others) 0.0143 2 lb Apply as a broadcast.
imidacloprid + bifenthrin (Allectus, Atera) See label Rate varies with pest. Different formulations for different sites.
indoxacarb (Advion) bait 1.5 lb/acre Bait formulation.
lambda-cyhalothrin* (Battle, Scimitar, Cyonara) See label
Metaflumizone (Siesta) bait 1.0 to 1.5 lbs/acre
2 to 4 tbsp/mound
Do not exceed 4 applications in a one-year period.
methoprene (Extinguish) 0.5 % bait 1.5 lb/acre Mound or broadcast.
methoprene + hydromethylnon (Extinguish Plus) 1.5 lb/acre
pyriproxyfen (Distance Fire Ant Bait) See label Mound or broadcast.

Written By

Photo of Dr. Rick BrandenburgDr. Rick BrandenburgExtension Specialist (Peanuts & Turf) & Department Extension Leader (919) 515-8876 rick_brandenburg@ncsu.eduEntomology and Plant Pathology - NC State UniversityPhoto of Dr. Terri BilleisenDr. Terri BilleisenExtension Associate tlhoctor@ncsu.eduEntomology and Plant Pathology - NC State University
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