Managing Imported Fire Ants in Agriculture

Imported Fire Ants January 25, 2018 Print Friendly and PDF

 

image of fire ant mounds around a farm pond, with a set of farm buildings in the background

The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, is an introduced species that arrived in Mobile, Alabama from South America during the 1930's. This species has had an enormous impact in the southeastern United States, and continues to spread into areas of North America with mild climates and adequate moisture and food. Approximately 367 million acres in the southeastern United States, California, New Mexico and Puerto Rico are currently infested. A second exotic species, the black imported fire ant, Solenopsis richteri Forel, and hybrids between S. invicta and S. richteri occur in northern Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee, but not farther west.

Pustules from fire ant stings.

Imported fire ants, hereafter referred to as fire ants, impact agriculture in a number of ways. They form hardened mounds in clay-type soil tall enough to damage field equipment and slow down operations. Ants defending mounds can sting and cause medical problems for field workers. The ants have an affinity for electrical units, utility housings and structures, where they can cause equipment failures. Worker ants may feed on some seeds and seedlings (sorghum, corn, small grains, forages, etc.) causing stand failure.

Fire ants prey on a number of pest insects and arthropods, including boll weevils, many species of caterpillars, flea larvae, ticks, and chiggers as well as beneficial insects like green lacewing larvae. They will also "tend" some species of sucking insects (aphids, mealybugs) which provide them with a sugary solution (honeydew) upon contact. Fire ants have displaced many native ant species and eliminated food used by some wildlife. Fire ants can affect newborn livestock and wildlife, especially those animals on the ground or those nesting on the ground or in low trees. Multiple fire ant stings can cause medical problems or even death to some animals. Although the research is not conclusive, populations of some wildlife species may be dramatically reduced.

Fire Ant Biology

picture of fire ant moundLike other ants, the fire ant is a social insect.  Colonies reside in the soil and can build mounds that may exceed 18 inches in height. Fire ant mounds commonly occur in open, sunny areas. Periodically, winged reproductive male and female ants leave colonies on mating flights. Mated females (queens) can fly or be carried by winds for miles, land and start new colonies. Development from egg to adult occurs in about 30 days, progressing though four larval stages and a pupal stage. Worker ants (sterile female ants capable of stinging) can number in the hundreds of thousands in a mature colony.

Fire ant workers tending a queen. Photo by Charles Barr.
Fire ant workers tending a queen. Photo by Charles Barr.

Two forms of fire ants occur: single queen (monogyne) and multiple queen (polygyne) colonies. Areas infested by the single queen form may have 40 to 80 colonies per acre. Multiple queen colony infested land can harbor 200 to 800 or more ant mounds per acre. Worker ants from multiple queen colonies are not territorial and move freely from mound to mound. The opposite is true of workers from single queen colonies. Fire ant mounds can rapidly increase in number after agricultural lands are disturbed by mechanical operations or pesticide use. Due to the fire ants' ability to form a mass of floating bodies, flooding can temporarily move fire ants out of flood prone areas and into areas that were not previously infested.

The fire ant disperses naturally through mating flights, mass movement of colonies or by floating to new locations in flood water. Fire ants can travel long distances when newly-mated queens land in cars, trucks or trains.  Shipments of hay, nursery stock or soil from an infested area may relocate entire colonies or nests (see Quarantine Regulations).  More information on fire ant biology can be found here

USDA Quarantine Program

Fire ant specimens. Photo credit: Bart DreesBecause fire ants are easily transported in nursery stock and soil, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed a quarantine program for this pest in the 1950s. This quarantine is designed to minimize the spread of the fire ant by requiring proper treatment and inspection of all nursery stock, turfgrass, hay and other articles shipped out of quarantined counties. Contact your state’s Department of Agriculture for specific information regarding compliance with these quarantine regulations.

 

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

This bulletin provides site-specific, goal-oriented management programs for agricultural situations where fire ant problems occur. You should select programs that use, where applicable, a combination of non-chemical and chemical methods that are effective, economical and least harmful to the environment. The goal of fire ant management is to prevent or reduce problems caused by unacceptably high numbers of fire ants.  The worksheet at the end of this article may help in deciding the cost of fire ants in a particular operation.

Every effort should be made to direct control efforts only at the fire ant. Preservation and encouragement of competitor native ant species is thought to be the best long-term solution. Native species can reduce fire ant population densities by competing with them for food and resources, as well as control other pests.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a concept used in many areas of agriculture to help producers determine if the cost of pest control can be offset by production gains before treatments are applied. The first step in any IPM program is to find out if, how often, and where losses occur and how much those losses actually cost. It is up to the individual to decide what “counts” as a fire ant-related loss and to put a value on that loss. If there is some question, it is often a good idea to make two assessments: one for definite losses and one for losses that might be attributable to fire ants. This method provides a range within which treatment expenditures can be adjusted.

In theory, management efforts should be implemented only where the monetary loss caused by a certain level of a fire ant population density equals or exceeds the cost for controlling them. This is the Economic Injury Level (EIL). The Economic Threshold (ET) is the level set below the EIL at which action is justified to prevent economic losses from occurring. Losses caused by the fire ant, however, are erratic and unpredictable. Loss estimates are best made from historical accounts on a given property.

Livestock Production Systems, Pasturelands, Rangeland, Feedlots and Livestock Barns

Fire ant problems in livestock production systems are widespread and costly, but vary tremendously from ranch to ranch, even within the same locality. As a result, no “one size fits all” management plan can, or should, be used.  More information on this topic is found in Managing Imported Fire Ants in Livestock Production Systems,  Losses must be determined on an individual operation basis (see the worksheets at the end of this article or the Livestock Production article) and treatment plans tailored to minimize those losses at an acceptable cost.

In animal feeding stations, barns and feedlots, fire ants can cause problems similar to those found in poultry houses. Therefore, the programs for poultry houses (see below) can be adapted to treat fire ants in livestock barns and holding pens, provided products used are labeled for treating animal premises.  Around barns and other structures use the Two-Step Method, provided the treated areas are inaccessible to animals and registered products are used. Conventionally-formulated bait products, such as Abamectin (Clinch®), hydramethylnon (Amdro® Pro), or pyriproxifen (Esteem®) can be broadcast-applied outside livestock pens according to directions. S-methoprene (Extinguish®) bait can be used in pens with no withdrawal or grazing restrictions.

Poultry Including Free Range Chickens

image of a chicken house in north ALabama with cattle grazing in frontFire ants can cause problems on poultry farms by attacking chickens and foraging on broken eggs.  Fire ant stings cause blemishes that can reduce the quality of poultry.

Treatment options:

Program 1:  For poultry houses and egg farms (use a combination of the following suggestions)

  1. Remove food sources (trash, piled feed, broken eggs and dead chickens) and potential nesting sites (pieces of lumber, old equipment and manure piles).
  2. Remove weeds and grass from around poultry houses with mowers or herbicides.
  3. Indoors, treat surfaces with a registered product if ants are nesting inside poultry houses.  Note: Although some products like  permethrin (Y-Tex® GardStar®) are registered specifically for control of fire ants in poultry houses, other products, like cyfluthrin (Countdown™), dichlorvos (Vapona® Concentrate Insecticide), and lambda-cyhalothrin (Grenade™ ER Premise Insecticide), are more generally registered for “crawling pests” -- including ants. Read the poultry section of labels for additional precautions. Do not allow insecticides to come into contact with feed or water supplies.
  4. If fire ants are foraging inside the poultry house from ant mounds located outdoors, spray a barrier around the outside of the building with products registered for that usage site (e.g., lambda-cyhalothrin).
  5. On grounds surrounding the buildings, use the Two–Step Method.  Briefly, the Two-Step Method relies on the periodic (once or twice per year) broadcast application of an effective fire ant bait product.  These treatments can reduce mound numbers by 90 percent, but reduction requires several weeks to months to achieve, depending upon the product chosen. The second step uses individual mound treatments to treat only "nuisance colonies". However, with patience, few mounds will need to be treated once the broadcast bait treatment has taken effect. Always read and follow closely the instructions provided on the product’s label. Conventionally-formulated bait products, such as Abamectin (Clinch™), hydramethylnon (Amdro®), pyriproxifen (Distance®) or s-methoprene (Extinguish™) can be broadcast-applied outside the poultry house. Do not allow chickens access to fire ant bait or bait-treated areas.

Program 2: Broiler houses

Program 1 for egg farms can be adapted to broiler houses, provided the products used are registered for this site. Because the broilers roam freely in the houses, care must be taken to avoid contact of chickens with insecticides by confining treatments to the outside of the broiler house (see Step 5 above).

Program 3: Free Range Poultry

 

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.

 

Field Crops and Commercial Vegetables

 

fire ants attacking a caterpillarIn cotton and sugarcane production, the fire ant is considered a beneficial insect and fire ant control is not suggested. In cotton fields, fire ants are effective predators of caterpillars and can be sampled using the beat bucket method where the terminals of cotton plants are beaten into a plastic bucket to dislodge insects. In Louisiana sugarcane fields, habitat modification studies have shown an increase fire ant abundance and predation by the ants on sugarcane borers, Diatrea saccharalis (Fabricius). Therefore, fire ant control in sugarcane fields should be avoided to prevent an increase in sugarcane borers and their damage, which will increase pesticide use and counteract sugarcane IPM programs.

image of fire ants on okraFire ants occasionally feed on germinating seeds and seedlings of corn, sorghum and other field or cover crops, particularly during dry conditions in the spring, sometimes causing stand loss. Fire ants also have been reported to feed on young watermelon, cucumber and sunflower plants, and have damaged peanut and soybean plantings. Okra growers are constantly battling fire ants due to the ants’ attraction to the oils in the plant, nectaries, buds and developing fruit. Fire ant mounds can cause problems in areas where soybeans are not planted on raised beds or rows (i.e., they are flat-planted) because mounds along the rows can be tall enough to interfere with harvesting equipment. During dry periods, the fire ants can chew irrigation tubing, as has been reported in vegetable crops.

 

Treatment options:

fire ants attacking newly germinated corn seed

Conventionally-formulated abamectin (Clinch®), pyriproxifen (Esteem®) or  s-methoprene (Extinguish®­) bait products are registered for use in cropland and can be used to reduce fire ants in these areas. However, these baits are slow-acting and must be broadcast-applied several months before maximum suppression is required. Optimum timing of application(s) and economic benefits from control are still to be determined. Use where estimated losses exceed cost of application, and monitor closely for potential secondary pest outbreaks in treated fields.

To prevent injury to corn and sorghum seedlings, neonicotinoid seed treatments (clothianidin, thimethoxam, and imidacloprid) aid in control of fire ants.  An insecticide such as Warrior II (lambda cyhalopthin) or Lorsban®­ 15G (chlorpyrifos) over an open furrow at planting can be helpful where there is a history of stand loss.

Few contact insecticide products are registered specifically for fire ant control in watermelon, sunflower and other crops although some products containing pyrethrins ( Pyrenone® Crop Spray and others) are generally labeled for ant control in these sites. Insecticides  registered  for  other  pests  on  these crops (and known to be toxic to fire ants) are occasionally used to temporarily suppress foraging ants when the crop is threatened.

Fruit and Nut Orchards, Vineyards and Blueberry Plantings

Although fire ants are mostly a nuisance to field workers in these crops, their overall economic and ecological impact remains unknown. In pecan orchards, fire ants prey on pests such as pecan weevils and hickory shuckworms in fallen pecans, but they encourage aphids by preying on their natural enemies. The ants’ nest building aerates the soil of the orchard floor, which is beneficial, but they will feed on the meat of cracked pecans and can damage irrigation systems. Fire ant mounds may interfere with some types of harvesting operations. Chemical control is warranted only if the cost of control is less than the potential economic loss ants may cause. In pick-your-own operations, the liability of ants attacking customers also should be considered.

            Treatment options:

  1. S-methoprene bait (Extinguish® Professional Fire Ant Bait) is registered for use in all cropland, and pyriproxyfen (Esteem Ant Bait), abamectin (Clinch® Ant Bait), and metaflumizone (Altrevin®­ Fire Ant Bait Insecticide) are registered in most commercial fruits and nuts.  Optimum timing of application(s)  are still to be determined. Where used, monitor closely for potential secondary pest outbreaks.
  2. In pecan and citrus orchards, chlorpyrifos products (Lorsban® Advanced, Lorsban® 15 G, etc.) used to treat the orchard floor will temporarily suppress foraging ants. Spot applications around irrigation systems may be useful to protect equipment from ant damage.
  3. Few contact insecticide products are registered specifically for fire ant control in bearing peach orchards, vineyards and blueberry plantings although some products containing pyrethrins (Pyrenone® Crop Spray and others) are generally labeled for ant control in these sites. Insecticides  registered  for  other  pests  on  these crops (and known to be toxic to fire ants) are occasionally used to temporarily suppress foraging ants when damage is observed and the crop is threatened. Turf areas around such plantings can be treated using products registered for use in that site.

Nursery Crops and Sod Farms

image of two potted ornamental plants, one with a fire ant nestQuarantine:

The USDA-APHIS PPQ Treatment Manual describes treatment programs for complying with the United States Department of Agriculture imported fire ant quarantine regulations.  A separate publication lists quarantine treatments specifically for nursery related items. Any regulated items, including both container and field-grown nursery stock, as well as grass sod, moving outside the IFA quarantined area must have a certificate or permit issued by a State or Federal plant inspector. Items moving within the IFA quarantined area are not regulated Federally and may move freely, however, some states have regulations that plants must be pest-free, so be sure you are abiding by any State regulations. Please contact your State Division of Plant Industry or your State PPQ Office for additional information.

Specific treatments for complying with the Federal IFA Quarantine are listed and updated in the electronic PPQ Treatment Manual. There are numerous products on the market for treatment/management of IFA, however only select products are approved for use in the Federal IFA Quarantine and for use in nurseries. The following treatments are valid as of January 2018, but should be confirmed either online or with your local State plant inspector.

Containerized Nursery Stock

  • Pre-plant incorporation of granular insecticide
    • bifenthrin
    • tefluthrin (still on list of approved treatments but no label available)
  • Pre-shipment drench or dip/immersion
    • bifenthrin
    • chlorpyrifos

Field-Grown Nursery Stock

  • Post-harvest Balled-and-Burlapped stock
    • drench with chlorpyrifos
    • dip/immersion with bifenthrin or chlorpyrifos
  • Pre-harvest in-field treatment
    • broadcast bait + broadcast chlorpyrifos (still on list of approved treatments but no chlorpyrifos label available for this use pattern)

Grass Sod

  • bifenthrin
  • fipronil
  • chlorpyrifos (still on list of approved treatments but no label available)

All treatments have limited certification periods within which they are valid and some treatments have an exposure period after treatment application and prior to allowing shipment (time for pesticides to work)

 

Management:

Management of fire ants in nursery or grass sod situations for sanitation purposes is different than treatment for compliance with the Federal Imported Fire Ant Quarantine. Any insecticide labeled for fire ants and for use in commercial nurseries or commercial grass sod can be used to manage fire ants; it does not have to be approved for use in the Federal Imported Fire Ant  Quarantine if your purpose is solely management or sanitation. To keep IFA in check in your nursery, you can use the Two Step method on the perimeter of your property, around blocks of plants and in high traffic areas (broadcast bait followed by selected individual mound treatments with contact insecticides).  You may also want to use broadcast contact insecticides to treat high traffic areas such as staging areas, loading areas, etc.

 

Fish Farms, Production Aquaculture

fire ant mounds near a farm pondBodies of water, such as rivers, streams, ponds and lakes,  are highly attractive to fire ants.  Around fish farms and production aquaculture, fire ant mounds around ponds and on dams and levees can be a nuisance and pose a threat to workers. When using insecticides around these areas,  every effort must be made to avoid contamination of water sources with fire ant control products. Fire ant bait products contain very small amounts of active ingredients and can be applied close to shorelines, avoiding direct application to the water. Risk of runoff into waterways is minimized when baits are applied during times of active ant foraging so that ants collect the bait particles quickly. Individual mound treatments should be made with care, selecting products with lower toxicity to fish, such as acephate (Orthene® TT&O). Pyrethrins and rotenone products should be avoided because of their high toxicity to fish. Do not apply surface treatments, baits or individual mound treatments if rains are likely to occur soon after treatment. Alternative non-chemical treatments, such as use of steam or very hot water mound treatments, may also be suitable for sensitive areas.

 

Apiaries

Fire ants invade bee hives and feed on developing bee larvae, occasionally destroying weak colonies. Use chemicals with care because bees can be affected by insecticides.image of some beehives on the Auburn University Campus

            Treatment options:

  1.     1.  Treat areas around hives using the Two–Step Method using products registered for the site in which hives are located. Conventional bait formulations (e.g., those containing abamectin, hydramethylnon, indoxacarb, spinosad, metaflumizone, pyriproxifen, or s-methoprene) are the safest for use around bee hives. Bees should not be harmed by bait formulations as long as label instructions are followed and baits are not applied directly to the hive or its bottom board. Dust formulations should be avoided.
  2.  Elevate the colonies by using hive stands so as to reduce ants entering the hives. Keep the grass mowed, and lubricate each of the four legs with vaseline (or an equivalent such as Tangle Foot) to prevent ants moving into the hives. It’s important that the ants cannot pass this barrier, and that uncut grass does not reach up to the hive or above the sticky barrier on the leg.  Other methods may work, such as the use of moats.
  3. Reduce outside feeders which encourage fire ants and other ants to get close to the hives.
  4. (Optional). With care, hive stands can be treated with a surface application of a non-volatile, long-residual contact insecticide. Apply insecticides before mounting the hive on the stand, or else when bees are not active (late in the evening or early in the morning) to reduce the risk of bees contacting treated surfaces.  Specialty paint-on or paint additive formulations may provide longer lasting protection from ants.  Apply insecticides late in the evening or early in the morning when bees are not active to prevent bees from contacting treated surfaces. Also, a registered granular contact insecticide can be applied to the soil before bee hives are moved into the apiary.   Read product labels and use insecticides and formulations least toxic to bees.

Wildlife Breeding Areas

image of a fawn's head

fire ants attacking newly hatched chicksCertain forms of wildlife are especially affected by ants during and soon after birth or hatching. The risk is greatest during warm months. Fawns are vulnerable because they are born in June and because they instinctively remain motionless in their hiding places.  Hatching quail and ground-nesting waterfowl chicks are also attacked. However, the impact of fire ants on area-wide populations of wildlife remains undocumented. Fire ant control programs in wildlife areas are discouraged unless the benefits from such treatments have been documented.  Many pesticides are toxic to non-target organisms (particularly to aquatic organisms) and may directly or indirectly affect game species if not used properly.

 

Treatment options:

    1.  Wildlife breeding areas are considered non-agricultural lands, and thus can be treated with products  registered for this kind of site using the Two–Step Method.

    2.  Exotic game ranches are considered commercial agriculture areas. Breeding areas may be treated with products registered to treat livestock grazing areas or pastures using the Two-Step Method.

 

Maintaining Native Ant Populations

Monomorium minimum (the native little black ant) workers attacking S. invicta queen (photo by Bart Drees).A number of ant species are native to the areas infested with red and black imported fire ant, including several other native species of fire ants. Many of these ants compete for resources with the imported fire ants, attack mated queen ants trying to establish new colonies, and invade weakened fire ant colonies. Preservation and encouragement of native ant species is considered the best defense against the invasion of fire ants. In areas with less than 20 imported fire ant mounds per acre and where native ants are a concern, the broadcast application of a bait-formulated insecticide product is discouraged.

 

 

 

 

 

Are Fire Ants Costing Your Agriculture Operation Money?

WORKSHEET I: Livestock

 How many acres are in your agriculture operation .................................................        _______

1. How much do you spend in an average year to treat injured animals due to the presence of fire ants? 

  Include medicines, bandages, vet bills and an estimated cost of your time ...             $_______

 

2. A. How many animals do you lose per year to ants? If less than one, give a fraction (e.g., 1 calf/2 years = 0.5 calf/year). Include only those directly killed by ants ...............................           ______

    B. What was your cost for the young or value added (due to treatment) to the adult animal?..$______

    C. How much profit if calf had been sold normally? ................................................................$______

            Add B and C, then multiply by A to get total death losses .........................................           $_______

 

3. What are your average yearly losses due to fire ants for the following:

 

                                    Cost of material  + labor including your own  = Total

Ruined Feed               $______________+$__________      =          $__________

Ruined Hay                 $______________+$__________      =          $__________

Shredder damage        $______________+$__________      =          $__________

Electrical damage        $______________+$__________      =          $__________

Other damage/loss      $______________+$__________      =          $__________

            Add the above items to get Total material and equipment losses .......................... $__________

 

4. Losses in Hay Production, if applicable (see worksheet II for estimate) ........................  $__________

5. Any Medical Costs for you, your family, or workers per year  ................................  $__________

6. Losses/year to other animals i.e., pets, horses, food animals, exotic breeds, if not covered in #2 $_________

7. Any other per year losses that can be blamed on fire ants .......................................................   $__________

 

GRAND TOTAL. Add totals for 1-7 ............................................................................        $__________

 

CAN YOU AFFORD TO TREAT FOR FIRE ANTS?

Grand Total ÷ number of acres in your operation = $_____________ per acre in losses.

 

 If your LOSS PER ACRE is:

! Greater than about $12, you can probably profit by treating your entire place.

! Less than about $12, you need to pinpoint where these losses occur and only treat those areas.

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WORKSHEET II: Hay Production

                                                                  

On how many acres do you usually produce hay?     .........................................                    ________

How many cuttings do you usually make per year? .........................................                      ________

What is your average profit per bale/role? ...................................................................   $________

 

How have fire ants increased your operating costs?

 

1.  More expensive equipment: $__________÷ # years used ..........................      $ _______

 

2.  Broken equip. or faster wear per year:

                                                Parts:                                                   $_______

                                                Labor (incl. your time)                       $_______

                                     Add to give,   Total breakage ...............................................  $_______

 

3. Stops to clean out machinery:  Stops per cutting x cuttings/yr                             _____

                                                            minutes per stop                                     _____

                                                            hourly cost (labor and machine time)     $_____

            Multiply stops x minutes, divide by 60, then multiply by hourly cost to get, Lost time   $_______

 

4. Do you have to raise your cutter to avoid mounds? If so,

            how much yield do you think is lost?         ________ bales or roles/acre,

            multiply by profit per bale/role                   $_______ loss/acre

            multiply by number of acres to get, Lost Yield: .................................    $_______

 

5. Other costs? Give total  ..................................................................................  $_______

 

Total Losses due to fire ants: add 1 - 5 totals ...............................................  $_______

 

Now, divide total losses by number of acres to get LOSS PER ACRE .....     $_______

 

If your LOSS PER ACRE is:

! Greater than $12, you can probably profit by treating for fire ants.

! Less than $12, but greater than $6you may profit by focusing your efforts on the most problem areas and incorporate non-chemical methods. (see page —).

! Less than $6, you're probably just going to have to live with fire ants or lose money.

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WORKSHEET III: Crop Production

If you have a “pick your own” situation or worker safety concerns please see note below.*

                                                                  

On how many acres do you usually produce?     .................................................         ________

How many harvests do you usually make per year? .........................................            ________

What is your average profit per acre? ...................................................................      $________

 

How have fire ants increased your operating costs?

 

1.  More expensive equipment: $__________÷ # years used .................................    $ _______

 

2.  Broken equipment or faster wear per year:

                                                Parts:                                             $_______

                                                Labor (incl. your time)                  $_______

                                     Add to give,   Total breakage ...............................................  $_______

 

3. Stops to clean out machinery:        Stops per harvest run                                 _____

                                                            minutes per stop                                         _____

                                                            hourly cost (labor and machine time)       $_____

            Multiply stops x minutes, divide by 60, then multiply by hourly cost to get, Lost time   $_______

 

4. Do you have to raise your harvester to avoid mounds? If so,

            how much yield do you think is lost?               ________ /acre,

            multiply by profit per acre                              $_______ loss/acre

            multiply by number of acres to get, Lost Yield: .................................    $_______

 

5. Other costs? Give total  ..................................................................................  $_______

 

Total Losses due to fire ants: add 1 - 5 totals ...............................................  $_______

 

Now, divide total losses by number of acres to get LOSS PER ACRE .....     $_______

 

If your LOSS PER ACRE is:

! Greater than $12, you can probably profit by treating for fire ants.

! Less than $12, but greater than $6you may still profit by focusing your efforts on the most problem areas and incorporate non-chemical methods. (see page —).

! Less than $6, you're probably just going to have to live with fire ants or lose money.

 

*Fire ant stings can cause serious injury to some resulting in hospitalization or death.  To minimize liability issues from exposure of the general public or workers to fire ants a good fire ant management program should be followed.

 

Additional Information

For additional information, visit Imported Fire Ant eXtension or the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project.

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The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the participating states’ Cooperative Extension Service agencies in this regional publication is implied.

Individuals who use pesticides are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Before purchasing or using any pesticide, always read and carefully follow the label directions.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors are grateful to the thorough review comments from our colleagues in the Ant Pests eXtension Community of Practice. Images courtesy Bart Drees, Dale Pollet, and Kathy Flanders.

 

 

Authors

 

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Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Paul R. Nester, Extension Program Specialist,

Robert T. Puckett, Assistant Professor and Extension Entomologist

Molly Keck, Integrated Pest Management Program Specialist

Mike E. Merchant, Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist

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Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Kathy Flanders, Extension Entomologist and Professor,

Kelly Palmer, Animal Sciences and Forages Regional Extension Agent

Fudd Graham, Research Fellow IV

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University of Georgia and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service

Tim Davis, Ph.D.,  Chatham County Extenson Coordinator

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Karen Vail
Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist,
University of Tennessee Extension

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Tennesee State University

Jason Oliver, Research Professor

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University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service

John Hopkins, Associate Professor and Extension Entomologist

Kelly Loftin, Professor and Extension Entomologist

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Louisiana State University AgCenter

Dennis Ring, Entomologist, Extension Specialist, Professor

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Clemson Cooperative Extension

Vicky Bertagnolli-Heller, Consumer Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator

 

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University of Florida

Faith Oi, Associate Extension Scientist, Urban Entomology

 

_____________________

Acknowledgment

This publication was originally written and published as:

1998.ManagingIFAinAgric.B6076.pdf

Drees, B. M., C. L. Barr, D. R. Shanklin, D. K. Pollet, K. Flanders, and B. Sparks. 1998. Managing red imported fire ants in agriculture. B-6076. Texas Imported Fire Ant Research & Management Plan. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. 18 pp

 
 
 

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