Fighting Fire Ants (podcast)Apr 13th, 2012 | By Cecilia | Category: Featured Articles, podcast, the show
Everyone loves to be in the vegetable garden this time of year, including red imported fire ants.
These six-legged devils, accidentally imported from South America to the American South via Mobile Alabama in the 1930s, have infested more than 260 million acres, with infestations reported from Maryland to California, and even Puerto Rico.
They reached Texas in the 1950s and have been marching westward ever since.
Entomologist, Wizzie Brown, says Solenopsis invicta is a problem in Texas because unlike our native fire ants, no local predator or parasite has evolved to keep this invasive pest in check. Because their numbers are immense and they are highly aggressive, it is not uncommon for them to attack animals and people by swarming and biting, with sometimes devastating results.
They’re even killing off native ant species.
Wizzie is an Extension Program Specialist at Texas AgriLife Extension Service, specializing in integrated pest management and fire ant efficacy trials, which includes testing home treatments for the pesky red imported interloper.
I met Wizzie at Richard Moya Park in SE Travis County where she was testing club soda as a fire ant treatment. It had been creating some buzz…or should I say fizz…on online gardening forums.
She’s a frequent visitor to these cyber gathering places for gardeners, where the latest home treatments for fire ants are touted. Most people are looking for safe ways to dispatch the pesky insects without using strong poisons that can have a possible negative affect on other living things and groundwater.
It was mid March when we met; we located several active mounds and Wizzie gave them “what for” with the carbonated beverage.
All it really did was anger the colony–no deaths were reported.
Wizzie says she’s also testing used coffee grounds and even oak ash. So far, she says no home treatment she’s tested for this invasive species has had any real impact on the colonies. But as long as home gardeners talk about home remedies against this misplaced maladapted menaces, Wizzie Brown will test them.