Warm weather mixed with rain is fire ant season, bringing the ants above ground, where they build dirt mounds.
With up to 200,000 ants in a large colony, they can wreak havoc for homeowners, farmers and pets.
“There is no 100 percent solution to the problem of fire ants,” said Kathy Love, a Bell County Master Gardener during the “Fire Ants-Yuck” class on Monday at the Harker Heights Activities Center.
About 10 people attended the session to learn how to control the insects.
“The rust-colored red imported fire ants have black abdomens and range in size from 3/16-inch to 3/4-inch long, and of the six species of fire ants, five are found in Texas,” she said.
Love’s presentation centered on the Texas Two-Step method for fire ant control. The first step she mentioned was to apply a product containing a food source and an insecticide. “Spread the bait over the entire yard and the ant workers will carry the bait back to the mound to the queen and kill her,” Love said
The second step is to treat individual mounds that remain active with fire ant mound products. She emphasized following application directions exactly and to always use fresh bait.
The best time to start the treatment is in the fall when the ants are living beneath the ground and are less active.
“If you treat your yard when it’s cooler, then in the spring, you won’t have as many ant problems,” she said
What about organic methods, a group member asked.
“Try putting dry grits on a mound,” Love said. “Ants eat it and when it expands in their bodies, they explode.”
Another popular method is pouring boiling water on a mound, but Jeanne Hewitt, of Harker Heights, warned of the danger to your yard.
“My son did that and the hot water scorched the grass so bad, it didn’t grow back for several years,” Hewitt said.
One suggestion was to grow large shade trees on the property. “Fire ants love sunny spots, but hate shade, so you don’t find as many mounds in the shade,” Love said.
She directed the group to use the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension website, agrilifeextension.tamu.edu, to get more tips.
Most people left with some sense of relief armed with new knowledge on how to battle fire ants.
“Now I have better ideas to protect my yard from these terrible pests,” said Tom Pennington of Copperas Cove.