Managing Fire Ants Successfully & Economically

A success Story for SFP216-ANR: Alabama Fire Ant Management Program
By Ricky W. Colquitt from Shelby County on 2012-12-11

Situation (problem or issue)

Shelby County spends thousands of dollars year each in an attempt to control fire ants as well as repair the damage they cause to equipment and electrical control panels. Furthermore, fire ants pose a health risk for workers and residence.

Inputs (collaborators, funding, stakeholders)

Shelby County Extension staff, Extension Specialists and the Shelby County Commission Maintenance Department personnel developed a demonstration to measure the effectiveness of bait treatment to control fire ants at the Shelby County Airport. Extinguish Plus was the product selected for the demonstration.

Activities (what was done and who participated)

Fire ant activity was measured by Extension and County personnel prior to the bait treatment and on May 23, 2012 fire ant bait was applied at 1 pound per acre rate. The baits offer lower environmental risk and low rate of product applied per acre.

Photo 1: Preparing to spread fire ant bait
Preparing to spread fire ant bait

Outputs (materials and services)

Shelby County equipment was used to spread the bait with the bait and bait spreader supplied by Extension.

Outcomes/Impacts (change in knowledge, actions, conditions; public value)

Post treatment fire ant activity was assessed on July 27, 2012 and revealed a 94% reduction in active mounds and a 64% reduction in foraging worker ants. While the cost of one bait treatment ($10/acre for a total cost of $750) is comparable to previous treatment methods (0.05% deltamethrin+ aerosol foam for a total cost of $1000/year) there are a couple notable differences. The bait treatment provided longer lasting and more effective control but the major difference was in labor savings and lack of equipment damage. Prior to the use of baits County personnel had to check each runway light every day. During the project, the effectiveness of the bait made this task unnecessary, thereby saving the County an estimated 173 man hours in labor costs which equates to $2422/year. Repairs costs prior to bait treatment included replacing strobe lights ($700 each), junction box circuit boards ($900 each) runway lights ($150 each + 1 hour labor for a total of $164/light) as well as fuel farm electronics and keypad entries.  No equipment damage due to fire ants was observed during this project. An unexpected outcome was that airport hangar tenants are happier because the treatment controlled problem fire ants in the hangar area and aesthetically the grounds look better.

When asked what was learned a County worker responded “better fire ant management methods”. Since the project conclusion Shelby County has since incorporated the use of baits into the fire ant control arsenal and is in the process of purchasing a bait spreader.


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