Fire ant control is essential for Alabama vegetable growers hoping to protect their crop this fall. Alabama Cooperative Extension warns producers that fire ants are known to be pests of numerous vegetable crops, including okra and potatoes.
Ayanava Majumdar, Alabama Extension Professor, said fire ants can especially be harmful to vegetables because they’ll congregate on plants that have a heavy load of aphids. They will tend to protect aphids and other honeydew producers on vegetables. Fire ants can also damage the crops themselves and contaminate the produce.
“I think the issue is they get on plants that get a heavy load of aphids. They follow aphids. If plants have aphids you often have the ants protecting the aphids,” Majumdar said.
Few Management Options
Alabama Cooperative Extension offers producers a few management options. Control fire ant mounds around or outside the vegetable production area to prevent them from moving into the garden or field. Also, manage excessive plant residue on the soil. This will help increase detection of foraging ants, provides ants fewer places to hide and make it easier to scatter bait insecticides on open ground.
The best time to apply broadcast baits is now through Oct. 15. Mound treatments may be done year-round on warm, sunny days above 65 degrees F when the fire ants are active. Majumdar attests that the ants are active now.
“They’re pretty active in my peanut fields. They’re pretty active in and around my vegetable fields and my garden. They’re very active,” Majumdar said.
For more information on fire ant control, read Managing Fire Ants with Baits located on the Alabama Extension website. More information is available in Fire Ant Control: The Two-Step Method and Other Approaches on the eXtension Foundation website.