Your Little Fire Ant treatment isn’t working?

It takes time for there to be a noticeable difference. Most LFA treatments begin with Tango. Tango does not kill LFA. It acts similar to a birth control. Queen Ants that consume the Tango will lay less eggs and the eggs they do they will not be able to develop into adults. The larvae that is fed Tango will also not be able to develop into adults. The ants will die off from natural causes and have less and less ants to replace them as you move through a one year treatment plan. Worker ants live 3-4 months where as queens can live 1-2 years (provided they have their colony to take care of them). It may be a slower process but in the long run you’ll be happy you started this way.

It’s been longer than 6 months and you don’t notice any changes? Because the drop off of LFA is slow it may not be noticeable. Now would be a good time to repeat your initial survey and compare the progress.

Done with the mid year survey and still no change? Let’s move forward and read through these 7 common reasons.

Here are 7 reasons your treatment plan for LFA may not be working.

1. Boundaries

You may be treating your property but your neighbors may not be. Little Fire Ants live on the ground, in the bushes and all the way up in trees. They’re not good at holding on in the wind and will use the tiniest vine as a main highway between yards. To avoid having you’re neighbors LFA come and visit/move in, laying barrier treatments down around the property line will help reduce these odds. But unless you have cleared the property line of brush and other debris, as well as, trimmed back over hanging tree branches the Little Fire Ants can still find a way in.

Living near a river can be magical but LFA are very good at creating rafts and floating down stream. If you live near a river this is another way for the ants to find their way onto your property. Currently there are no pesticides, used to manage LFA, that are labeled for use near waterways. This means you will have to lay a barrier down further into your property. Always follow the label when applying pesticides.

2. Ideal Living

Does your yard have a lot of sitting items? Little Fire Ants prefer ready made homes. They don’t build mound nests like other ants. All they need is a place that provides them with shade and moisture. It is best to remove any unnecessary items and clean up the property as best as possible.

Some ideal living areas are things we can’t easily move and would like to keep, such a compost pile. For situations like this you can create a barrier, or quarentine, around the area. For a good how-to-guide on checking and maintaining your compost and mulch piles you can read the LFA Fact Sheet #7  and then the Little Fire Ant Fact Sheet 2 from the Hawaii Ants Lab.

3. Out of Reach

Owner, Alapai, applying Tango to a tall Ulu Tree.

Little Fire Ants are not afraid of heights and they live in very tall trees too. The higher you can get the HAL Gel Bait, the better. LFA are not good at holding on. When the wind blows they will fall to the ground and join the next LFA nest they come across.

To choose the best applicator for you’re situation you can use the LFA Fact Sheet 8, by the Hawaii Ant Lab, for recommended Gel Bait applicators. As pictured, we use a professional Co2 pressure sprayer to ensure that we have the maximum application range for the HAL Gel Bait. The Zep Professional Bottle Sprayer, also pictured, is the most affordable applicator for the HAL Gel Bait. The Zep bottle sprayer can apply HAL Gel Bait on trees up to around 15 feet high and is best for up close application spots.

4. Active Ingredient Errors

When it comes to using the Hawaii Ant Lab’s (HAL) Gel Bait matrix, you’re responsible for following the directions to a T. If you don’t, it can’t be expected to be effective. We could write a whole bunch here but we will refer you to the same fact sheet we use when mixing Tango or Provaunt with the HAL Gel Bait. We’ll admit, we don’t do anything fancy. No special tricks here. We stick to the tested methods because they’ve proven to be effective while having the least negative impact on the environment. But donʻt worry, as the Hawaii Ant Lab finds better methods we’ll update our website information and the services we offer.

5. Not Staying on Schedule

Missing a treatment date. Because Tango acts much like an ant birth control and not a permanent sterilization, if a queen misses her treatment she can begin to lay eggs as normal and will increase egg production due to the decrease in her colony. With any bait, if you treat a few weeks late, you could be setting your treatment plan back by months. As long as there is a surviving queen, Little Fire Ant colonies seems to be able to completely recover from a single bait treatment in eight (8) to ten (10) weeks, so it’s vitally important to stay on schedule.

Treating too soon. The colony has a short term memory. Not all the of the ants will die from a toxicant bait treatment; some will only ingest enough to get sick. They’ll remember what made them sick and avoid it. It is thought that the colony has a memory that possibly lasts for up to four (4) to (6) weeks. Treating too frequently can also go against the product use instructions. Be sure to always read the label.

6. Trojan Horse

Be very cautious about what you bring onto your property. Little Fire Ants spread primarily by hitchhiking. Common modes include mulch, gravel, potted plants, used cars and other second hand items. Learn how to set up a quarantine area for new materials and items you bring onto your property.

7. Baits and Barriers

Baits and Barriers should never be done on the same day. Ideally a barrier should be laid down seven (7) to fourteen (14) days after. The closer to two weeks apart the better. Baits work when they are taken back to the nest and shared. Barriers act like electric fences and prevent pests from crossing over them. If a barrier is laid down on the same day as a bait treatment this can prohibit the ants from taking the bait back to the nest and from communicating the location of the bait with other ants. In a sense, baits and barriers cancel one another out. Save time, save money and spread their treatments dates apart.