Fire ants are common pests in home vegetable gardens. They directly damage some vegetables, especially okra and Irish potatoes, but they also damage gardeners! Gardeners who unknowingly step in mounds while working in the garden can be stung dozens, or even hundreds, of times. Fire ants foraging on peas and other vegetables to tend aphids or collect plant exudates will sting gardeners who are picking the fruit. |
Granular baits work well for this purpose, but keep in mind thatmost of the fire ant baits used in home lawns are not approved for use directly in vegetable gardens. This is not a particular problem because most of the fire ants that invade small to medium sized gardens come from mounds located in the lawn area around the outside of the garden. Apply a labeled fire ant bait to a 50 to 75 foot wide band around the outside of the garden two to three times per year in spring, mid-summer, and fall, and you will have a lot fewer problems with fire ants in the garden. Just remember, baits are slow-acting and have to be used preventively.
The best way to keep fire ants out of your vegetable garden is to do a good job of controlling them in your lawn, especially the area immediately outside the garden. Since fire ant control are very hard to do, let's see what we can do to manage them and still raise vegetables for consumption.
Pyrethroid insecticides, including esfenvalerate and cyfluthrin, are approved for use against fire ants in the garden if the wording for this use is found on the label. Not all companies making these products apply for approval,even though it is the same pesticides others get approved. These two pesticides will kill foraging ants on contact.
There are usually fewer fire ant mounds in tilled areas, such as gardens and fields, because tilling disturbs the ants and causes them to move. But there will be some mounds that persist, despite being disturbed by tillage.
Some fire ant baits can be used in the garden and lawn. Don't wait until you have big mounds, go ahead and apply one of these baits as soon as you see fire ants moving into the garden. But don't forget to treat the lawn area around the outside of the garden as well. Workers from mounds located just outside the garden will readily forage into the garden area.
Liquid Mound Drenches for Use in the Garden
You can use a liquid drench to eliminate large mounds that need to be controlled quickly, but be sure to use an insecticide labeled for use in home vegetable gardens. Many insecticides commonly used in home vegetables include label directions for mixing and applying as a mound drench. Products containing the active ingredients spinosad, permethrin, or carbaryl are quite effective as mound drenches and are often used for pest control in the home vegetable garden.
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