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Property Damage.

first_imgFire ants don’t just cause pain to humans. They cause damageto public and personal property and to Georgia crops.”Fire ants appear to be attracted to electricity,”said Beverly Sparks, an Extension Service entomologist with theUniversity of Georgia College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences. “They can enter electrical boxes and cause damageto traffic lights, air-conditioning units and electrical conduits.”Sparks’ research focuses on fighting the fire ant battle inGeorgia. She and UGA research coordinator Stan Diffie have theenvious job of killing fire ants for a living.”Stan has killed more fire ants than anyone else in Georgia,”Sparks said.Besides the damage fire ants cause inside electrical boxes,their mounds damage landscape and farming equipment.”Fire ant mounds sit out in the open and dry to the consistencyof concrete,” Sparks said. “When lawn mowers and haybalers hit these mounds, they can cause significant damage tothe equipment.”Fire ants were once a problem only for people in central andsouthern Georgia. “Now we’ve found fire ants in every county,”she said, “even in mountainous areas we first thought weretoo cold in the winter for them to survive.”Spreading Across the U.S.Until recently, fire ants in the United States were a southernproblem. But they’re spreading out. Fire ants are now reportedin southern states as far west as Texas and in five Californiacounties.In Texas, fire ants damage pecans, Sparks said, by enteringcracks in the soft-shelled nuts and eating the nutmeats.”They can damage agricultural crops and harm wildlife,including birds, deer and cattle,” she said.If you’re battling a few fire ant mounds yourself, Sparks recommendsnot disturbing the mounds.What You Can Do”If you can tolerate a few mounds, it’s better to leavethem alone,” she said. “This keeps new mounds from poppingup.The fire ant mounds you see are actually only one-third ofthe entire mound. To kill the ants, you have to reach the wholething.”With fire ant baits, you can enlist the assistance ofthe ants to help you deliver the insecticide to every member ofthe colony,” Sparks said. “The secret is to get theworker ants to carry your pesticide into the mounds and shareit with others, especially the queen.”Broadcast a bait first, she said. Then come back two to threedays later and treat any large mounds. “It’s important todo this twice a year, in the spring and fall,” she said.Having tested most of the baits on the market, Sparks saysthose containing hydramethylnon, sold under the trade names ofAmdro and Siege, work the fastest.”All the baits basically look the same. They’re made ofcorncob grit and soybean oil, which attracts the ants,” shesaid. “It’s the toxicants inside that are different.”Looking For New ControlsSparks and other UGA entomologists are studying new and unconventionalways to fight fire ants. One new technique is to introduce oneof the ant’s natural enemies, the Brazilian phorid fly.The tiny fly lays its egg inside a fire ant’s body. The egghatches into a larva, which moves into the ant’s head and causesit to fall off. The fly completes its development inside the fallenhead.”Phorid flies and other biological controls will stresscolonies,” Sparks said. “They’ll suppress them. Butthey won’t totally get rid of them.”Another promising biological control agent is a microsporidiumcalled thelohania solenopsae.”This seems to have a lot of promise,” Sparks said.”It gives the colony a disease which weakens it.” Onthe down side, the microsporidium is hard to apply.Since fire ants arrived in the 1950s, Georgians have learnedhow to coexist with them.”I worry more about visitors,” Sparks said. “Visitorscome to Georgia, stay in our hotels and play on our golf courses.If they don’t know what fire ants are, they’re in for a big surprise.”last_img

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