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Local exterminator discusses treatment options for targeting fire ants

The return of warmer weather means fire ants will become more active in yards and gardens. That means the battle to eradicate the bothersome pests will ramp up, as well. Unfortunately, Ricky Vinson - with Liberty Pest Control - said a change in Environmental Protection Agency rules a few years back reduced the potency of over-the-counter treatments. According to information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the first ants first showed up in the United States from South America more than 70 years ago. Currently, fire ants infest more than 260 million acres of land in nine southeastern states, including all or portions of Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Fire ants have the potential of spreading west and surviving in southern Arizona and along the Pacific coast north to Washington. The extension service reports a high percentage of mounds in Texas have multiple queens, which can live for two to five years and produce up to 800 eggs per day. Experts say ants infest such an expansive area and reproduce so quickly, that a pesticide treatment massive enough to wipe them out could also cause serious damage to the environment. Therefore, the nuisance pests have become permanent residents. The financial impact of red imported fire ants in the state of Texas is estimated to be $1.2 billion annually. Red imported fire ants are pests of urban, agricultural and wildlife areas and can pose a serious health threat to plants and animals. Again, Ricky Vinson – with Liberty Pest Control – says the ingredients in over-the-counter treatments have changed in recent years. Therefore, treatments targeting fire ants with those products last about one month. However, he said professional pesticide applicators have products that will last some nine months to a year and the license to apply those chemicals.   

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