News in Brief on Turf Pests and Fire Ants

Turfgrass knowledge online (Dr. Mike Merchant)

Maintaining a healthy lawn does not have to be difficult, but does require know-how. There are a number of excellent online resources at Texas A&M AgriLife to help you get the lawn you want.

Integrated pest management starts from the ground up…literally. Nowhere is this more evident than your lawn. The foundation for good turf pest management is good lawn care. And if you want advice on the best varieties, proper soil preparation, correct fertility, and watering, you should head out right now for the AggieTurf website. The sections on selecting the right grass and how to care for your lawn are especially useful.

Proper fertility can help or hinder pest control. Over fertilizing is known to attract chinch bugs and can make your grass susceptible to disease. Under-fertility makes your grass weak and more susceptible to a variety of pests. Knowing what fertilizer to apply, therefore, is a critical first step to a healthy lawn. To get your soil tested, follow the directions and send a sample either to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory, or (for a private test lab) the Texas Plant and Soil Testing Lab.

Not all turfgrass pests are insects. In fact, disease-causing pathogens and nematodes are probably as important, or more important, than insects in causing problems for your lawn. To learn more about turfgrass diseases, or to find out how to send in a turf sample for diagnosis, check out the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab website. Getting a sample evaluated costs at least $35.

To read about some of the insect pests that affect turf in Texas, be sure to check out the turfgrass pests section of this website. The two most common pests of home lawns are white grubs and chinch bugs; but several other pests show up occasionally, including stunt mites, armyworms, and mole crickets.

Fire ants may not feed on turfgrass, but they do disfigure lawns with their mounds, and make the lawn less usable due to their presence and painful stings. For everything (and more) that you want to know about fire ants and their control, check out the eXtension fire ant web pages.

Great Time to Treat for Fire Ants (Molly Keck)

You may have noticed that since the rainstorm this weekend, fire ant mounds have popped up. When it rains, or you water well, the fire ants move their colony to higher ground to keep from drowning, making their mounds very noticeable.

fire ants on stick - USDAIt also makes them easier to step on and sting us. The weather we are having right now, is the perfect weather to treat for fire ants. If you treat now, you can give yourself some good control through the summer (unless mounds relocate from your neighbor’s into your yard).

After the dew has dried, broadcast spread a fire ant bait of your choice around the yard. Be sure to follow the recommended label rate – more bait does not mean better control. In fact, it only takes one little granule of bait to be brought into the colony to eliminate the colony. The workers feed the bait to the larvae, who then regurgitate the partially digested food and it is fed to the queen. When the queen dies, the colony dies.

If applied correctly, baits can be an environmentally friendly option, saving other ant species and not harming wildlife, other insect, pets, or us.

Be sure to find a bait that is labeled for fire ants. Other ant baits aren’t as attractive to fire ants. I find that application is almost more important than what bait you choose. Apply fresh bait, not old bait, apply to dry grass, and apply when rain is not in the forecast for at least 24 hours (do not water the lawn either). When fire ants are actively foraging for food is the best time to apply. This is generally when it’s over 65 degrees. You can test this by placing a piece of hot dog or a potato chip outdoors for about 45-60 minutes. Fire ants love hot dogs and potato chips and if they are looking for food, they’ll come to it. Then you know if it’s a good time to spread your bait.

For more information on fire ants, visit these websites:

Southern Universities Combine to Produce an Online Fire Ant Course

The drought conditions in parts of the south have likely resulted in fire ant management taking the back burner for some. However, fire ants are still around and have simply been simmering during these dry periods. In Arkansas, for example, January and February rains and a few warms days have shown that fire ants are still present and in high densities. Be prepared by enrolling in the Imported Fire Ant IPM course to enhance your fire ant expertise.

A team of fire ant experts and researchers with over 50 combined years of fire ant experience from fire ant infested southern states have created the comprehensive, distance-delivered course on Imported Fire Ant IPM. This course, taught by Dr. Kelly Loftin, Department of Entomology, University of Arkansas, provides the most up-to-date, detailed information about fire ant identification, biology and management. Use of text, videos, and still photos engage students in an active and fun learning environment that places emphasis on integrating management tactics which include biological, cultural and chemical controls. This course is available without prerequisite, and will benefit anyone involved in fire ant control.

To make it more broadly accessible, course developers from the University of Arkansas and Auburn University chose the proven IPM3 Training Consortium platform to deliver the Imported Fire Ant IPM module. This web-based, self-study course is available online 24/7 and will take approximately 10 hours to complete. IPM3 is a consortium of federal agencies and land-grant institutions dedicated to the efficient and timely delivery of practical integrated pest information to people responsible for developing, implementing and promoting Integrated Pest Management. In addition to the Fire Ant module, IPM3 delivers 7 other courses to students in the US and internationally.

IPM3 is offering a 33% discount on tuition for the Fire Ant Module. The course, which results in the 1.0 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) plus a Certificate of Completion, is $168 through 30 June 2013, 33% off the regular tuition of $250.

A course outline and registration details can be found at

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