Killing Fire Ants - What I Learned from the Real Experts
You may recall that in the GardenLine e-mail tip two weeks ago, I shared some advice from Texas fire ant experts about control of that pest in compost piles and vegetable gardens. Well, last week, I interviewed several of them on that topic in Galveston, just before their big Imported Red Fire Ant Conference. All the research I saw at that event is posted at fireant.tamu.edu/research/results_all.cfm.
In that research, I noted several homespun recipes using molasses, orange oils, soaps, etc., but the experts say such remedies don't work. They all agreed that controls like molasses will make fire ants move, but they don't kill the entire population or the queens. (The goal should always be killing the buggers, not just moving them. They'll eventually make their way back.)
Additionally, research shows that beneficial nematodes — known as a complete organic control — only kill larvae and/or pupae. Once those immature ants are gone, the nematodes die off because their food source is gone and ... you guessed it ... the ants come back.
What about soapy water? Research shows that, while it works as a contact killer on ants near the surface, it never gets to the queen or the entire mound, so again they just move. Plus, if you use too much soapy water, you'll ruin the soil.
The same holds true for orange oil. When it's mixed with liquid molasses at too strong a dose, it can taint the soil for months and years. There is a molasses-and-orange-oil blend available commercially, but it's so ridiculously over-priced that I can't conscientiously recommend it.
So, a good question came up at the conference: "Why are some garden advice "experts" promoting molasses so much?" After a whole lot of shrugs and "I don't knows," I suggested that either they had to be making money off the idea, or they simply didn't want to believe the research. I always rely on the real experts in a field to provide complete studies that show what works and what doesn't. Then, I pass that information along to you.
Here are a few more bits of information from the fire ant conference:
Be sure to listen to GardenLine on 740 KTRH this Sunday morning, because Dr. Paul Nester, THE fire ant specialist with Texas A&M and the AgriLife Extension program, will be on the show to update us on all the fire ant controls available — what still works the best and what's new on the horizon. He'll also review many of the studies I've referred to in this week's e-mail tip, and he can answer any question you have on the subject.
1216 Stonehollow, Kingwood
Our friends with Lady Bug Natural will be on hand with lots of stuff to give out — just show up, and you're likely to get one of their products. Also, I have been given several cases of products that are being discontinued and will likely never be available again, so print a copy of this e-mail tip, and bring it with you Saturday. Show it to me, and I'll hook you up with one of these:
Fruit Inhibitor - It can be used on Sweet Gum trees too.
All-Natural Insect Spray - Made from essential oils like clove and sesame.
Sucker Stopper - It can help reduce pups/sprouts on things like crape myrtles.
This is one of those rain-or-shine events, because we will be indoors no matter what.
exclusively on NewsRadio 740 KTRH.
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