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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Gardening class focuses on fire ants

Gardening class focuses on fire ants

By Bridget Carlson
Correspondent

Fire ants are a serious problem in Texas and on Monday the City of Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Department held a Fire Ant Control class as part of their Gardener’s Education Series at the Activities Center.
“One of the keys to fire ant control is we do not have a 100% effective program for fire ants,” said Kathy Love, Bell County Master Gardner.
Love jokingly showed a picture of a nuclear bomb going off and said “after all my research and everything I did, and based on that I could only come up with one suggestion to really eliminate fire ants.”
“There are between 260 and 290 species of ants; six are fire ants and five are in Texas. The good news is four of them are native, which means they are supposed to be here,” said Love.
The one that causes problem for Texans is the red imported fire ant also referred to as RIFA.
“The real problem is the red imported fire ant which came into the are in the 1930s,” said Love.
While most people see no benefit in fire ants, they do eat several species of bugs that tend to be less desirable to humans and crops.
“The actually do prey on other things that we do not like. They are omnivorous and will eat anything that stands still for more than 15-20 seconds. Their preliminary diet consists of insects and other invertebrates. This includes fleas, ticks, termites, cockroaches, cinch bugs, mosquito eggs and larva; scorpions they also eat and cotton boll weevils. They can be somewhat beneficial just on crops because they have destroyed those bad bugs,” said Love.
Texas A&M top recommendation is the two-step method also known as the do it yourself method.
“It’s sometimes referred to as the do it yourself method because it’s easy to do and 77% of users actually do report better control,” said Love.
The two-step method requires broadcasting bait at 1-1 ½ pounds per acre then treating the individual mounds that are considered problem mounds such as sidewalks, house perimeters, and high traffic areas.
While you can treat for fire ants at anytime, it is best to treat in the fall.
“The best time to tackle fire ants is in the fall. If you are going to be doing it in a neighborhood, you should try and get your neighbors together and work on it together,” said Love.
Several landscape designs elements can also discourage RIFA, such as habitat diversity, shade trees, good sanitation, and mowing/disturbing mounds.
For more information about fire ant control visit the Texas A&M Agrilife extension website at http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu.

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