Just got off the phone with Jay Gilbert a resident of Lago Santa Fe, Santa Fe, TX. He gave me a quick update on their 2012 community fire ant management program, The Lago Santa Fe Fire Ant Project.
This community project is a good example of a successful community-wide fire ant management program where the bi-annual broadcasting of a fire ant bait product (in this case Extinguish® Plus) has resulted in continued suppression of a fire ant population. Lago Santa Fe is a Private Lake Community, situated 25 miles, South/Southeast of Houston, TX, in Galveston Co. The Community consists of 100 acres with four, ½ mile long X 200 ft wide lakes, with 48, one acre lots that border the lakes and 12 lots that do not border the lakes.
A quick history on the project. Back in 2001, Lago Santa Fe was chosen as the site to host the 2002 National Water Ski Championships and the 2002 U.S. Open Water Ski Championships. This meant that in August of 2002, ~1000 participants from all over the U.S. and the World, with up to 4,000 spectators would invade this 100 acre area for 7 days. Initial fire ant mound activity evaluations showed over 160 large (> 12” diameter) active fire ant mounds per acre. The Lago Santa Fe Community realized they needed a coordinated approach to manage these pests. Jay and Lydia Gilbert visited with me about the The Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s recommendations for fire ant management and we decided to work together and develop an annual repeatable process for the management of the fire ants in this community.
The Lago Santa Fe Fire Ant Project gave The Texas AgriLife Extension Service a chance to “showcase” the Community-Wide fire ant management concept as promoted by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and how coordinating the efforts of an entire community can result in an efficient process for managing fire ants in the community over time.
Fire ant mound activity assessments showed that after a single spring broadcast application of a fire ant bait product, fire ant activity was reduced 85% in the community of Lago Santa Fe before the scheduled 2002 water ski events. Here is a video documenting this effort.
The baiting was a success and the Lago Santa Fe property owners association (POA) decided to support bi-annual broadcast applications of fire ant bait to manage fire ant populations. Over the years the Lago Santa Fe community has been able to keep fire ant populations at levels that do not affect their outdoor activities.
In a 2008, the Lago Santa Fe Fire Ant Project was re-visited and the residents surveyed as to their satisfaction of this project over the past years. The residents (11 responses from 40 property owners, 28%) all responded (100%) that they felt the dollars spent by the POA for the Lago Santa Fe Fire Ant Project was cost-effective and all responded (100%) that they wanted it to continue. All (100%) ranked the project from good to excellent and 10 of the residents (91%) felt very positive about this fire ant baiting program being supported by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. One comment from a resident was, “Prior to moving to TX and Lago Santa Fe a few years ago, we had never lived anywhere that had a fire ant problem. We’ve only been exposed to the problem and solutions since living here but have heard numerous stories from neighbors as to how bad it was and how it is today. We certainly appreciate all the efforts made by Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Jay and Lydia Gilbert."
A bump in the road: An opportunity
Extenuating circumstances kept the original organizers and other community members from coordinating the baiting event in the fall of 2010 and the fall 2010 community-wide fire ant baiting event did not happen. As the year ended and the new (2011) year began, there was chatter in the community indicating that fire ant populations were increasing on the various properties, in numbers not seen in previous years (personal communication with Jay Gilbert, Lago Santa Fe resident, fall 2010). When communicating with Jay Gilbert, one of the original organizers of the Lago Santa Fe Fire Ant Project, it was decided to try and renew interest in the community-wide project by making a concerted effort in the spring of 2011 (10 years after the first fire ant baiting event) to make all residents aware of the importance of the bi-annual baiting by organizing an event and taking before and after observations of fire ant activity.
This time the Lago Santa Fe Fire Ant Project gave The Texas AgriLife Extension Service an opportunity to again:
1) Showcase The Community –Wide fire ant baiting concept promoted by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
2) Demonstrate how coordinating the efforts of the entire community can result in an efficient process for managing fire ants over the Lago Santa Fe property.
3) Evaluate if tolerance or resistance (behavioral or physiological) of the fire ants in this community to the active ingredients hydramethylnon and s-methoprene was occurring.
2011 started out to be a promising year for obtaining fire ant management data but turned into a record setting year for Texas by having the hottest average temperature for June through August according to National Weather climatologists. The spring and summer of 2011 was extremely dry in south Texas. One would assume that the irrigation of lawns would attract fire ants. The lawns of Lago Santa Fe were no exception.
Great Community Participation
Good fire ant activity was seen April 25, 2011. Over 136 fire ant mounds per acre were observed. The mounds were not overly large (< 12” diameter) but they were present. Extinguish® Plus Fire Ant Bait was distributed to the residents and each resident baited their own property with volunteers from the community spreading the bait over community property and property of absentee landowners. Greater than 90% reduction of the fire ant mound activity was observed in the treated properties of Lago Santa Fe when compared to pre-treatment counts.
Were the residents of Lago Santa Fe satisfied with the 2011 effort? An email from Jay Gilbert, one of the originators of the Lago Santa Fe Fire Ant Project in the fall of 2011 mentioned that fire ant baiting again occurred in October 2011 and was facilitated with 4 block captains. Utilizing block captains reduced the burden on any one person and made organizing the baiting event easier. He said “the fall baiting appeared successful - as there were no complaints compared to lots of negative chatter last year. You will recall we skipped the fall baiting that year (2010) and the ants really were a problem. I have only spotted a couple of nuisance mounds following a 6.5" rain event Jan 9, 2012. We will go after them again in the Spring.”
Block captains were chosen to help facilitate future fire ant management events. Jay summed it up when he said, “We will go after them in the spring (2012)!”
- Percent reduction from April 25, 2011 to July 27, 2011 was 94.7% (versus 85.5% reduction after initial treatment, April 18, 2002 to July 7, 2002), indicating that after annual multiple application, Extinguish® Plus Fire Ant Bait continues to perform over 10 years with no indication of resistance by imported fire ant populations.
- The Community-Wide fire ant
management concept as promoted by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service remains
a viable solution to the management of the red imported fire ants in a
It has been a pleasure to monitor the success of this community-wide fire ant management effort over the years. This effort dramatically illustrates that the coordinated planning for the use of fire ant baits in a community (i.e., all baiting on the same weekend!) will result in a much lower fire ant population, and outdoor family and/or community activities can be enjoyed without the presence of the annoying fire ant.
Interested in Community-Wide Fire Ant baiting?
If your community is interested in community-wide fire ant baiting give the Texas AgriLife Extension Service a call, Harris County Extension Office. I will gladly talk to about establishing one in your community..
Here are some important links for you to view:
Texas Imported Fire Ant webpage: Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project
eXtension.org fire ant webpage: Imported fire ants
Fire ant management strategies here: Imported Fire Ant Control
Check out the available fire ant baits here: Latest Broadcast on Fire Ant Control Products