Treating fire ants is a common concern in Central Texas. It seems those little buggers become active and take over our yards right when we’re ready to get out there and use it. You don’t have to forfeit your yard to fire ants. You just need a plan of attack so you can take back your yard.
Identify the Culprit
The first thing you need to do is make sure that you are actually dealing with fire ants. Certain types of ants are actually predators of fire ants. We don’t want to kill those! Also, different types of ants and pests require different treatments. Using the wrong treatment can not only waste time and money, but may harm the good bugs you want to keep around.
To identify fire ants, you want to look at three things:
- Appearance: fire ants are reddish brown to reddish black with a stinger on their abdomen.
- Location: Fire ants like to set up their homes in a bright sunny location, and create mounds that can be as much as 18″ tall.
- Behavior: Fire ants are inactive during the hottest part of the day, and appear mostly in the spring and fall. They feed on living insects and dead animals, as well as sweet and fatty foods.
Attack: Chemical Free Approach
If you are looking for natural, chemical free solutions there are a few you can try.
- Pour boiling water on each mound (3 gallons). Most of the time this kills the mound. It’s always best to do this right after it rains.
- In early spring add beneficial nematodes to your soil. These nematodes not only kill ant larvae, but other soil-dwelling critters such as grubs. Add them at to moist soil right at dusk for best results.
Attack: Go for the Kill
As much as we love all natural methods, they don’t always do the trick, especially if you’re dealing with a large, prevalent infestation. You don’t have to pull out the blowtorch nor do you have to douse your entire yard with chemicals. Instead do the following:
- Choose a bait product that is formulated specifically for fire ants. Baits are safer and more effective than contact sprays. Always use fresh bait, as the product can go stale and lose its efficacy over time.
- Apply baits when ants are on the hunt for food. A popular method for testing this is what I like to call the picnic method. Place a potato chip near the mound. Once they start swarming the chip, its time to apply the bait.
- Never apply bait before a rain. It won’t stick around long enough to do its job.
Another thing to consider is to get your neighbors on board. Just like with weeds, a problem in your neighbor’s yard can quickly become yours. If you all treat at the same time, you can eradicate the problem and do a better job of keeping it from coming back.
As always, whenever using chemical applications, read the directions carefully. Follow the instructions and don’t use more than is recommended and be sure to wear protection. Keep all chemicals away from pets and children and store properly to avoid spillage and contamination.
There are many benefits of an irrigation system, especially here in Central Texas where we’ve been in what seems to be a perpetual drought. Whether you’re concerned for the environment or just your pocketbook, there are many reasons to install an automatic irrigation system.
Benefits of Irrigation System to Your Pocket Book
Some people are put off by the cost of installing an irrigation system, but few realize that an irrigation system not only earns back its initial investment, it also brings additional cost savings and equity earnings. Here’s how:
- Cuts down your utilities: Automatic irrigation systems take the guesswork out of watering and help reduce water loss due to evaporation and run off. This can reduce your monthly water bill by as much as 70%.
- Protects your home’s value: Your landscape can constitute up to 20% of your home’s total value. A functioning and well maintained system helps you water evenly and properly, ensuring your outside investment maintains its value.
- Makes your home sell faster: When buyers are looking for a new home they want something that is beautiful, well cared for, and easy to maintain. An automatic irrigation system addresses all three by helping maintain a lush landscape and providing a convenient and easy way to water.
- Saves you time: Time is money, and your time is very valuable. The time you save not hand watering your yard or dealing with weak, thirsty plants can be spent doing the things that matter most to you. Plus you don’t have to remember to do it!
- Earns rebates: Certain municipalities and even some HOA’s offer incentives for water wise practices, including the installation of irrigation systems. Click on the link to learn more about the City of Austin Waterwise Landscape rebate (http://austintexas.gov/department/waterwise-landscape-rebate) program.
Benefits of Irrigation System to The Environment
In addition to protecting your pocketbook, an automatic irrigation system is beneficial to the environment.
- Reduces runoff: Runoff is the number one way groundwater becomes contaminated. A controlled system, especially one with sensors and automatic cutoffs, greatly reduces the amount of runoff carrying pollution and debris into our drinking water.
- Reduces water use: Conserving water is a big deal, especially during a drought. An irrigation system lets you protect our precious resource without sacrificing a lush landscape. A cycled system works to get the right amount of water deep into the root system where plants need it most, so you need to water less.
Bottom line, an irrigation system is worth both the initial investment and the ongoing maintenance costs. An irrigation system puts so much back into your pocket, plus it saves you time with better results than hand watering. Do note that the State of Texas requires that a licensed technician install landscape irrigation systems.
If you want to learn more about Irrigation systems check out the following resources: