How do you kill fire ants where free ranging chickens and other birds (such as Guinea hens, ducks, and geese) occur?

Imported Fire Ants January 31, 2018 Print Friendly and PDF

When using any pesticide, always read and follow the label directions. See links to publications below for managing pests of poultry or penned animals.

Deciding how to manage fire ants where there are free ranging birds is a bit complicated.  Free range means different things to different people.  The labels for various fire ant control products may specifically mention penned animals or penned birds, but not address birds that might be ranging across lawn or pasture areas.  In addition, state governments differ in how insecticide labels are interpreted.

Fire ant experts recommend using a bait-based approach for safe and effective control of fire ants in areas with free ranging birds.  Choose a bait that is labeled for the site where the birds are ranging, for example, animal pen, lawn, or pasture.  Because birds can pick up individual particles of bait, birds should be confined outside the treated area during and for at least 24 hours after the bait application.  Exclusion from the treatment area will give fire ant workers a chance to pick up the bait and take it back into their nests (studies have shown that fire ants pick up most of the bait in 12 hours). However, incidental ingestion of baits labeled for sites where birds are free ranging should not harm the birds.  Baits should only be applied during favorable conditions (i.e., greater than 60oF and optimal at 70 to 90oF and no rain expected) to ensure fire ants adequately pick up the bait.  To confirm that fire ants are foraging, you can place a few potato chips in the area to be treated.  If the fire ants are found on the chips within 15 minutes, it is a good time to apply fire ant bait.  Alternatively, a bait product can be applied in such a manner to make it unavailable to free ranging poultry, such as applying it around but not inside the pen.  Another alternative is to place bait stations designed for fire ant baits in a grid.  These stations can provide an additional margin of safety, unless a bird breaches the bait station.  If possible choose a bait station that is designed to prevent access by birds.  Be aware that poor fire ant control has been observed with bait stations if individual fire ant colonies dominate the bait stations, excluding workers from other colonies.

More information on applying fire ant baits can be found in Broadcast Baits for Fire Ant Control.

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Find more information about fire ants in eXtension's Imported Fire Ant Resource Area.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.