“When there have been real hot, dry conditions, you won’t see the tall hardened mounds, you won’t see ant activity on the surface to any degree, but yet, they are out there, and then the rains come and fire ant mounds pop up everywhere. Some people think, well they just arrived, well, no, they were always there, they’re just deeper in the ground.”
Extension entomologist Bart Drees says fire ants are a problem for city folks as well as agricultural producers.
“In Texas alone, this is a 1.2 billion dollar problem a year. About 90 million dollars has been estimated for losses or impacts to agriculture, and recent surveys have actually shown that that’s low.”
The biggest economic losses aren’t associated with people, livestock, or wildlife.
“If you’re one of those 1% or so that is hypersensitive to fire ants, it’s deadly, or could be deadly, but in reality the economic losses are really much more related to what they do to equipment, electric installations.”
A large landowner can find the cost of blanket treatments staggering.
“When you’re standing out in the middle of a pasture, it’s hard to ask yourself, well, what’s the economic impact of fire ants. The probability of a calf getting injured, or dying from massive fire ants is there, but it doesn’t justify the cost. You’re looking at a cost of about $10 per acre just for the product, probably by the time you finish applying, $17 an acre is a good guess.”
Experts advise agricultural producers to pick their battles.
“We asked producers to look at their production systems, find out exactly where their problem areas are, and apply an appropriate response to those areas.”
We’ll look more at when and where to combat fire ants next week. I’m Joe Brown looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From the Ground Up.