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School Gardens May Increase Kid’s Vegetable Consumption

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 16:37

Kids can be reluctant to try vegetables, and it can be a challenge to get them to eat the recommended number of servings in a day. School gardening programs may be an effective way of not only increasing kids’ access to fresh produce, but of increasing their willingness to eat vegetables as well. For example, in a study conducted by Parmer et al., second graders who participated in school gardening as part of a nutrition education class increased their selection and consumption of vegetables at school, compared to second graders who did not participate in gardening.  In addition, students who gardened demonstrated a higher preference for fruits and vegetables that they had sampled.

In another study conducted by Ratcliffe et al., middle schoolers with garden-based nutrition education demonstrated a higher preference for vegetables than the students who were not exposed to garden based nutrition education. Students who gardened were also more willing to taste vegetables and increased the variety of vegetables they ate at school. Middle schoolers have more autonomy in making food choices than elementary school students and may tend to eat fewer vegetables as they reach adolescence. A school garden for your school may serve as an effective way to increase vegetable consumption in young kids and maintain higher levels of vegetable consumption in adolescents.        

Lastly, gardens can be used to teach many subjects and reinforce health messages students receive in other activities at school. Involving teachers from multiple subjects and local health and nutrition educators can help. For example, your local Cooperative Extension office may be a great resource. Additionally, check out this growing guide and the School, Community, & Home Gardening Resource Guide.Whether you are starting a school garden or revamping an existing gardening program, consider these recommendations from Ratcliffe and colleagues. Students in their study increased vegetable intake at school but not at home; so, the team recommends that garden initiatives include home and community components. School family nights or school-based community supported agriculture (CSA) programs could increase families’ access to fresh produce and provide adults with ideas for preparing produce in ways students have enjoyed at school.


Maya George and Tisa Hill, Cornell University, Division of Nutritional Sciences 


Parmer, Sondra M., et al. (2009). School gardens: an experiential learning approach for a nutrition education program to increase fruit and vegetable knowledge, preference, and consumption among second-grade students. Journal of nutrition education and behavior 41.3 (2009): 212-217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2008.06.002

Ratcliffe, Michelle M., et al. (2009) The effects of school garden experiences on middle school-aged students’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors associated with vegetable consumption. Health promotion practice 12.1 (2011): 36-43. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1524839909349182 

(2013). School, Community & Home Gardening Resource Guide. Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County. Retrieved from: https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.cce.cornell.edu/attachments/1233/2013-g4...

Vegetable Growing Guides. Explore Cornell – Home Gardening – Introduction, Cornell University. Retrieved from: http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene0391.html


USDA Project Report Workshop Presentations, August 2017

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 20:02

The Impacts of Conservation Auction Design on Auction Performancea nd Community Welfare: Evidence from Lab and Artefactual Experiments (Banerjee, University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Incentive Payments for Forest Carbon Sequestration on Private land (Cho, University of Tennessee)

Escaping the Resource Curse: Findings from comparative energy impacts research in the Bakken, Powder River Basin and Marcellus (Haggerty, MSU)

Area Sector Analysis Process: Program Structure and Example Application (Harris, Nevada Cooperative Extension)

Modeling the Dynamics of Tillage Choices (Kurkalova, NC Agricultural State and Technical State University)

Applying Entrepreneurship to Support Farm Viability, Economic Development, and Food Security (Liang, NC A&T State University)

Implications of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trans-Pacific Partnership for Food Processing Sector (Luckstead, UA)

Expanding U.S. Market Access In China's Evolving Agricultural & Trade Policy Environment (Marchant, Virginia Tech)

Impacts from Indicators: Immediate and Longer Term Products from the Indicators for Impact Project (Morales, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

A Comprehensive Assessment of theGeospatial Data Used in the Study of Food Deserts (Mulrooney, NC Central University)

Overcoming Honey Bee Pollination Market Information Deficiencies in the Intermountain West and Pacific Coast (Ritten, University of Wyoming)

Local Foods & School meal Demand (Roe, OSU)

Building rural community resilience in context of protected grasslands (Stewart, UI at Urbana-Champaign

Applied Research and Extension to Support Agritourism in the West (Thilmany, University of Colorado)

The Ricardian Model of Climate Change Impact with Interregional Trade Flows: Evidence from the U.S. Agriculture (Dall'erba, University of Illinois)

Economic Resilience and Community Capitals: A Study in the Estimation and Dynamics of U.S. County Resilience to the Great Recession (Ringwood, University of Idaho)


Crop and Feed Safety Video Resources

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 18:22


Topic Titles Organization Resource Type Farm Safety - Crop Protection Products (2011) 2:51 minutes English   French Canadian Agricultural Safety Association Free - Online Video via YouTube Feeder Safety (Dairy Safety Training Part II, Section 3) 2013 6:59 minutes U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers Free - Online Video via YouTube Following Proper Grain Bin Entry Procedures Saves Lives (2013) 3:46 minutes U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers Free - Online Video via YouTube

Preventing Silage-Related Injuries and Fatalities Among Farm Workers


6:30 minutes

Virginia Tech Free - Online Video via YouTube Silage Safety (2015) 17:18 minutes

Dr. Keith Bolsen

Kansas State University

Free DVD - Contact Dr. Bolsen at keithbolsen@hotmail.com Vineyard Safety (2010) 24:10 minutes Farm Employers Labor Services Available for purchase - $98/DVD


The 60 Strategies of the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 20:03

Adam Brumberg, Deputy Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, and Erin Sharp, MS, MAT, Curriculum Designer for the Smarter Lunchrooms National Office, go strategy-by-strategy through the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard, the very popular tool for evaluating any lunchroom's ability to "nudge" students toward making healthier food choices in schools by applying behavioral economics principles. In this 60-minute webinar, they share the rationale behind each research-backed strategy as well as photographs of the strategies in action and tips for implementation. Bonus: This webinar can be used as a training tool!

Learning Objectives: 
  • List the eight sections of the Scorecard
  • Understand the rationale behind each of the 60 strategies
  • Know how to implement each of the 60 strategies
  • Correctly complete the Smarter Lunchroom Scorecard, on paper or online using our online Scorecard Tracker

PDF of Slides with Notes.


Dennis J. Murphy

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 17:22

Dennis Murphy (retired 2017) from the Agricultural Safety and Health Program at Penn State University. He is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Agriculture & Biological Engineering, and a Certified Safety Professional (CSP). Dennis has appointments in extension, research and resident education.  Program areas include applied research and education for: agricultural safety and health management, tractor and machinery safety issues; youth safety; methods of modifying farm worker safety behavior; developing hazard analyses tools; and ventilation of confined-space manure pits to reduce risk of entry into the pits. 

Dennis has developed numerous extension and research publications, reports and programs, and has been awarded over 20 blue ribbons by the American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineering (ASABE) for excellence in their annual educational aids competition. He was awarded the title of Distinguished Professor by Penn State in 2001 and grade of FELLOW by ASABE in 2009.  In addition to ASABE, he is an active in the Agricultural Safety & Health Council of America, (ASHCA), the International Society for Agricultural Safety & Health (ISASH), and is a professional member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). 

Contact Information

Email: djm13@psu.edu

Phone: 814-865-7157

Michael Pate

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 17:17

Michael L. Pate is an associate professor and holds the Nationwide Insurance Endowed Professorship of Agricultural Safety and Health at Penn State University. Michael has appointments in extension, research, and teaching.  His program areas include applied research and education for: agricultural and BioRenewable systems safety and health. Michael’s research interests are in the interaction between metacognitive strategies/cognitive information processing theory and safety-related decisions/behaviors of employees. Michael has experience and training in applying cognitive and educational psychology, with specific training in agricultural education. Michael is a member of ASABE,  NACTA (National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, and the International Society for Agricultural Safety & Health (ISASH).


Contact Information

Email: mlp79@psu.edu

Key Changes to the Child and Adult Care Food Program Meal Patterns

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 16:29

On April 25, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published the final rule related to meal pattern revisions for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). CACFP centers and day care homes must be in compliance with updated meal patterns by October 1, 2017.

The key changes to the CACFP meal pattern requirements for infants include:
  • The introduction of solid foods is delayed from 4 months of age to 6 months of age (as developmentally appropriate)
  • A vegetable and/or fruit must be served at breakfast, lunch, supper, and snack for infants 6 through 11 months old (as developmentally appropriate)
  • Juice, cheese food, and cheese spread no longer contribute to the meal pattern; whereas, whole eggs are now creditable
  • CACFP centers and day care homes may be reimbursed for meals containing expressed breastmilk or for meals when a mother directly breastfeeds her infant at the child care center or home
The key changes to the CACFP meal pattern requirements for children and adults include:

Greater variety of vegetables and fruit

  • There is a separate vegetable component and a separate fruit component at lunch, supper, and snack
  • Juice may be served no more than once per day

More whole grains

  • At least one serving of grains must be whole grain-rich each day
  • The grain component cannot be fulfilled by grain-based desserts
  • Starting in 2019, ounce equivalents will be used to determine the amount of creditable grains instead of “servings.”

More protein options

  • Meat and meat alternatives may take the place of grains at breakfast up to three times each week
  • Tofu and soy yogurts credit as a meat alternate

Less added sugar and saturated fat

  • Yogurt may not contain more than 23 g of sugar per 6 ounces
  • Breakfast cereals may not contain more than 6 g of sugar per dry ounce
  • Unflavored, whole milk must be served to children 1 year old; unflavored, low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk must be served to children 2 through 5 years old; unflavored low-fat (1%), unflavored fat-free or flavored fat-free milk must be served to children 6 years old and older as well as adults

The updated meal patterns more closely align with the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) meal patterns as well as Women Infant and Children (WIC) guidelines. The meal patterns will help ensure the health of young children and improve the wellness of older adults.


Ashley Moen, MS, RD, SNS, Colorado Department of Education 


United States Department of Agriculture. Food and Nutrition Services. (2017). Questions and Answers on the Updated Meal Pattern Requirements for the Child and Adult Care Food Program. (CACFP 08-2017). Retrieved from https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/cacfp/CACFP08-2017os.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture. Food and Nutrition Services. (2017). Updated Child and Adult Care Food Program Meal Patterns: Child and Adult Meals. Retreived from https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/cacfp/CACFP_MealBP.pdf 


Agricultural Safety and Health Mobile Apps

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 15:55

Mobile apps—computer applications that run on mobile devices such as smartphones—can be educational, fun, and easy-to-use, and they can help users improve agricultural safety and health. The number of safety and health mobile apps continues to grow in number and functionality. Below is a list of mobile apps that may be useful for agricultural safety and health:

Ag Safety Games
  • Chicken ROPS Run iOS & Android App: is a fun and challenging arcade-style game with high-quality jet-pack-like game play that emphasizes the value of the tractor Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) in saving farmers from critical injuries, and even loss of life
  • Tractor ROPS Run iOS & Android App: This app reinforces principles of safe tractor operation.
  • Fun Safety Games: Learn workplace safety skills through a variety of games.
  • Keep Clive Alive: Test your reactions as you keep the little blue farmer out of harm’s way.


Ag Safety & Health Apps
  • CSP Quiz Game Plus: These quiz games are designed to help industrial hygienists prepare for the Board of Certified Safety Professionals comprehensive exam.
  • Decibel 10th: This app turns an Apple mobile device into a sound meter.
  • Equipment Inspection Mobile Phone App: Developed by the Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA), this mobile app was designed to assist agricultural employers in conducting equipment inspections.
  • Ezy MSDS Lite: Database for material safety data sheets; enter a product name to find related MSD. (Apple devices)
  • FallClear LITE - Fall Arrest Clearance Calculators : This app provides fall arrest clearance calculators, tools for supervisors and workers trained in fall protection.
  • FarmPAD Mobile App: This app can be used to store farm records, equipment service logs, and spray records or to take notes and pictures.
  • Heat Safety Tool: The US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released this app to enable workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksites and learn about protective measures to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses.
  • Job Safety Analysis: This iPad app was designed for business managers to increase efficiency through a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) or the Safe Work Method Statement.
  • Ladder Safety: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released this app to improve extension-ladder safety.
  • LightMeter: Easy to use light meter, allowing you to measure lighting levels. (Apple devices)
  • Machinery Sizing: This app estimates tractor horsepower to pull implements.
  • Material Safety Data Sheets: Database for material safety data sheets; enter a product name to find related MSD. (Android devices)
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards for iPad: This app provides a source for general information about industrial hygiene.
  • Respiratory Protection Resource: Quick reference guide to identify respiratory protection that may be needed when handling certain chemicals, as well as information on qualitative fit testing of respirators.
  • Sound Meter: Easy to use sound meter that measures SPL (sound pressure level) in decibels (db). (Android devices)
  • Winter Survival Kit: If you are stranded in severe winter weather, this app can help you find your location, call 911, notify emergency contacts, and calculate how long you can keep a vehicle's engine running to stay warm.
  • WorkSafeBC Safety Videos: This app offers access via a mobile device to more than 150 WorkSafeBC workplace safety videos.
Ag Education Apps


Ashley Moen, MS, RD, SNS, Colorado Department of Education

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 15:42

Ashley Moen is the Summer Food Service Program Administrator at the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Office of School Nutrition (OSN). In her role, she works to ensure kids have access to healthy meals during the summer. She is a Registered Dietitian, has a master's degree in nutrition, and is certified as a School Nutrition Specialist. Ashley enjoys traveling, skiing, hiking, cooking, and spending time with family and friends. 

Foodtastic 4-H Field Trips Packed into The Tiny Market

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 19:23

What can you do when you can’t bring the kids to the farmers market for a field trip?  You bring the field trip to the kids!  With the support of a grant through the Walmart Foundation, University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Brevard County Extension 4-H Youth Development built a “Tiny Market” to teach youth around the county about healthy food choices. 

The Tiny Market is portable and allows UF/IFAS to reach more youth in the county at a more cost-effective price tag then offsite field trips.  It is a downsized farmers market that sits on the base of a trailer and was constructed by a local contracting company out of wood.  It has pull down open air windows that hold produce on both sides.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) medical costs for obese adults total 147 billion dollars.  The CDC also states that about 14% of Florida’s adolescents are considered overweight, and 10% are classified as obese(1).  Adequate fruit and vegetable consumption is necessary to ensure that adolescents are meeting their dietary requirements while assisting in combatting obesity.  To date, adolescents are not eating enough fruits or vegetables, and these trends may continue into adulthood. Farmers markets provide access to fresh, local, in season produce.  By exposing youth to farmers’ markets at a young age, they become more familiar with fruits and vegetables and the local resources that are available to them.  This, in turn, will allow them to mature in adults who are familiar with local markets and opportunities to obtain fresh produce.  As a farmers market on wheels, The Tiny Market, can also reach food deserts and other areas where fresh produce is not available.

Debuting this past summer, The Tiny Market visited 10 sites and reached over 1150 students.  The Tiny Market encompassed six hours of 4-H programming for youth, including educational components before and after the market visited.  Youth learned about local agriculture through hands on activities. They created beeswax candles, sampled fresh honey, and played produce bingo. They also went on a scavenger hunt to discover new and exciting fruits and vegetable and went "shopping" at the market to choose a fruit or vegetable to bring home and try with their family. After visiting The Tiny Market, students got to prepare a healthy snack using fresh produce.  

Upon conclusion of The Tiny Market visit, youth were asked to reflect upon what they learned and how they intend to change their healthy living behaviors. Youth replied that they enjoyed trying new fruits and vegetables and didn’t know what some of the samples they saw were until they saw them at The Tiny Market.

The Tiny Market is booking sites for the next season, with the promise of more opportunities to reach youth and their families to teach about preparing healthy snacks and making wiser choices.  UF/IFAS Extension 4-H provide hands-on, multidimensional approaches to combatting obesity.  The Tiny Market is just one facet of what Extension has to offer.


Vanessa Spero-Swingle, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Brevard County Extension


CDC, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. Florida State Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Profile. 


Tips for Beginning School and Family Gardens on a Budget

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 19:21

Building and maintaining a garden can seem like an expensive project, but with some careful planning, it doesn’t have to cost much at all. Whether you work with a school that could benefit from a garden or you are the parent that wants to start a garden at home or help start a garden at school, consider the following tips that will make gardening affordable.  

1. Plan ahead

Careful planning can save a great deal of money by preventing the overbuying of seeds and tools. Think about what  vegetables or herbs your school or family will enjoy, and stick to those5. Additionally, if you don’t own many tools, you can avoid buying some equipment by choosing plants that don’t require many tools to grow. The tools you will needs for basic gardening are a shovel, bucket, garden hose, rake and gloves. Potatoes, radishes, and kale are a few great vegetables that are simple to grow 2. Some herbs that are light on equipment needs include mint, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary, and sage. If you want to start off with plants that are even simpler, basil, coriander, parsley, and chili pepper are herbs that grow nicely in pots on a windowsill2. Check out this Kids Gardening Website and Growing Guide6 for further growing information, as well as this School, Community, & Home Gardening Resource Guide4 for additional resources.

Once you decide what you want to grow, carefully map out your garden so you know exactly how much you need to get your garden started.  

2. Make friends who garden

Making friends who garden can extend your budget and make gardening more enjoyable.  Before you shop, see if any friends have extra seeds, tools, or even space in their garden beds for you to share. If you are reluctant to start your own garden bed this season, see if sharing garden space with a neighbor is an option. Have seed swapping gatherings where fellow gardeners can bring extra seeds to swap and share, and help foster connections that will bring your garden community closer together.

3. Start with seeds, not seedlings

Seedlings can appear to be a convenient option, but you will get much more bang for your buck if you grow from seeds. For example, a pack of six lettuce seedlings will cost anywhere from $3 to $6, whereas a pack containing 500 lettuce seeds will cost less than $31. SNAP Benefits can be used for purchasing seeds as well. For plants that don’t grow well from seeds, you can ask your friends that garden if you can take a cutting from their already-grown plants. Simply cut a few pencil-width sticks from it, plant them in moist perlite and you should see roots and leaves start to grow within a few weeks to a few months1. Perlite is an amorphous volcanic glass that has a relatively high water content, typically formed by the hydration of obsidian. It occurs naturally and has the unusual property of greatly expanding when heated sufficiently. Most shrubs, many trees, and almost all perennials are easily grown from cuttings1. Learn more about growing from cuttings here3.

4. Buy used tools & get free ones too   

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.  You can likely find many handy gardening tools at your local Re-Use center or at neighborhood garage sales. You can also try looking on Freecycle, a website where members of your local community can choose to give away things for free and where you can request items you are looking for2.  

5. Grow organic

You can save money by avoiding chemical pesticides and fertilizers which may also be detrimental to you and your family’s health5. Compost works great as a natural fertilizer. To learn more about how to fertilize and protect your garden from insects, read Why Natural Insect Control Works Better and A Quick and Easy Guide to Homemade Organic Fertilizer5.


Maya George and Tisa Hill, Cornell University, Division of Nutritional Sciences 


1. Barth, Brian (2016). 10 Smart Ways to Garden on a Budget. Modern Farmer. Retrieved from https://modernfarmer.com/2016/02/gardening-ideas-on-a-budget/

2. (2012) Cheap Gardening Tips for Beginners: Saving and Making Money. Lovemoney. Retrieved from https://www.lovemoney.com/guides/539/cheap-gardening-for-beginners

3. (2017) How to Take Cuttings in 6 Easy Steps. The English Garden. Retrieved from http://www.theenglishgarden.co.uk/choice/how-to-take-cuttings-in-6-easy-...

4. (2013). School, Community & Home Gardening Resource Guide. Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County. Retrieved from: https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.cce.cornell.edu/attachments/1233/2013-g4...

5. Siegele, Lindsey (2010). Gardening on a Budget: 7 Tips for Success. Mother Earth News. Retrieved from: https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/gardening-on-a-budget

6. Vegetable Growing Guides. Explore Cornell – Home Gardening – Introduction, Cornell University. Retrieved from: http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene0391.html


Healthful Celebrations in Schools

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 12:30

There are many fun ways to celebrate special events in schools.  Check out these ideas.

For Birthday Fun:

What a teacher can do:

  • Make a crown, button, sign or banner for the birthday child.
  • Allow the student to pick a book and ask a parent, principal or special person in the child’s life to come and read it.
  • Have the birthday child be the special helper or line leader for the day.

What a parent/caregiver can do:

  • Check with your child’s teacher if you would like to bring in a special snack for a celebration.
  • Provide a healthy snack like fruit, mini-muffins, low-fat popcorn or yogurt parfaits instead of cookies, cupcakes or ice cream.
  • Give small “goody bags” to the classroom made up of fun items like pencils, erasers, temporary tattoos, stickers, crayons or other inexpensive items.
  • Instead of a special snack, suggest a special activity or craft that you could make with the class.
  • Give a small gift to the classroom in honor of your child.  Check with the classroom teacher to see if there are any special wanted or needed items.
  • Donate a book to the library in your child’s name.
Other healthful celebration ideas:
  • Allow the class to have a few extra minutes of outside time.
  • Have a dance party or find a different activity to promote exercise.
  • Provide parents with healthy ideas for birthdays and other classroom celebrations.
  • List only healthy items on the snack or party sign-up sheet.

For more healthy celebration resources, click here! 


Sarah Pechar, Cornell Cooperative Extension Schenectady County

Sources & For more information Healthy Celebrations: Promoting a Healthy School Food Environment Healthy School Celebrations


Information for Alabama Residents

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 20:19
Decapitating fly distribution in Alabama, November, 2014

Since 1998, the Alabama Fire Ant Management Program has been releasing decapitating flies, natural enemies of imported fire ants. Thus far, five species of decapitating flies have been released in Alabama: Pseudacteon tricuspis, Pseudacteon curvatus, Pseudacteon litoralis, Pseudacteon obtusus, and Pseudacteon cultellatus. These flies, originally from Brazil and Argentina, were imported by the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Extensive testing in South America and in quarantine facilities at the USDA-ARS, CMAVE lab in Florida has shown that the decapitating flies are not harmful to humans, mammals, or other groups of insects. It is hoped that these organisms will provide a natural, biological control of fire ants.

To see the decapitating flies in action:


Imported Fire Ant species in Alabama, October 2009

Red Imported Fire ant species and Black Imported Fire Ant species can hybridize. This map displays where each species or hybrid has been collected in Alabama.

For more information on imported fire ants in Alabama please see:


Managing Imported Fire Ants in Agriculture

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 16:12

The red imported  fire  ant,  Solenopsis  invicta Buren, is an introduced species that arrived in Mobile, Alabama from South America around the 1920s. This species has had an enormous impact in the southeastern United States, and continues to spread into areas of North America with mild climates and adequate moisture and food. Approximately 270 million acres in the southeastern United States and California are currently infested. A second exotic species, the black imported fire ant, Solenopsis richteri Forel, and hybrids between S. invicta and S. richteri occur in northern Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee, but not farther west.

Imported fire ants, hereafter referred to as fire ants, impact agriculture in a number of ways. They form tall, hardened mounds in clay-type soil that can damage field working equipment and slow down operations. Ants defending mounds can sting and cause medical problems for field workers. The ants have an affinity for electrical units, utility housings and structures, where they can cause equipment failures. Worker ants feed on some seeds and seedlings (sorghum, corn, small grains, forages, etc.) causing stand failure.

Fire ants prey on a number of other insects and arthropods, including boll weevils, many species of caterpillars, flea larvae, ticks, and chigger and prey upon beneficial insects like green lacewing larvae. They will also "tend" some species of sucking insects (aphids, mealybugs) which provide them with a sugary solution (honeydew) upon contact. These imported species have displaced many native ant species and eliminated food used by some wildlife. Fire ants can affect newborn livestock and wildlife, especially those animals on the ground or those nesting in low trees. Their stings can cause medical problems or even death to some animals with multiple stings. Although the research is not conclusive, populations of some wildlife species may be dramatically reduced.

Fire Ant Biology

Like other ants, the fire ant is a social insect and colonies reside in mounds of dirt that may exceed 18 inches in height. Fire ant mounds commonly occur in open, sunny areas. Periodically, winged reproductive male and female ants leave colonies on mating flights. Mated females (queens) can fly or be carried by winds for miles, land and start new colonies. Development from egg to adult occurs in about 30 days, progressing though four larval stages and a pupal stage. Worker ants (sterile female ants capable of stinging) can number in the hundreds of thousands in a mature colony.

Fire ant workers tending a queen. Photo by Charles Barr.

Two forms of fire ants occur: single queen (monogyne) and multiple queen (polygyne) colonies. Areas infested by the single queen form may have 40 to 80 colonies per acre. Multiple queen colony infested land can harbor 200 to 800 or more ant mounds per acre. Worker ants from multiple queen colonies are not territorial and move freely from mound to mound. The opposite is true of workers from single queen colonies. Fire ant mounds can rapidly increase in number after agricultural lands are disturbed by mechanical operations or pesticide use. Due to the fire ants’ ability to form a mass of floating bodies, flooding can temporarily move fire ants out of flood prone areas and into areas that were not previously infested.

The fire ant disperse naturally through mating flights, mass movement of colonies or by floating to new locations in flood water. Fire ants can travel long distances when newly-mated queens land in cars, trucks or trains.  Shipments of hay, nursery stock or soil from an infested area may relocate entire colonies or nests (see Quarantine Regulations).

USDA Quarantine Program

Because fire ants are easily transported in nursery stock and soil, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed a quarantine program for this pest in the 1950s. This quarantine is designed to minimize the spread of the fire ant by requiring proper treatment and inspection of all nursery stock, turfgrass, hay and other articles shipped out of quarantined counties. Contact your state’s Department of Agriculture for specific information regarding compliance with these quarantine regulations.


Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

This bulletin provides site-specific, goal-oriented management programs for agricultural situations where fire ant problems occur. You should select programs that use, where applicable, a combination of non-chemical and chemical methods that are effective, economical and least harmful to the environment. The goal of fire ant management is to prevent or reduce problems caused by unacceptably high numbers of fire ants.

Every effort should be made to direct control efforts only at the fire ant. Preservation and encouragement of competitor native ant species is thought to be the best long-term solution, since these species can reduce fire ant population densities by competing with them for food and resources, as well as control other pests.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a concept used in many areas of agriculture to help producers determine if the cost of pest control can be offset by production gains before treatments are applied. The first step in any IPM program is to find out if, how often, and where losses occur and how much those losses actually cost. It is up to the individual to decide what “counts” as a fire ant-related loss and to put a value on that loss. If there is some question, it is often a good idea to make two assessments: one for definite losses and one for losses that might be attributable to fire ants. This method provides a range within which treatment expenditures can be adjusted.

In theory, management efforts should be implemented only where the monetary loss caused by a certain level of a fire ant population density equals or exceeds the cost for controlling them. This is the Economic Injury Level (EIL). The Economic Threshold (ET) is the level set below the EIL at which action is justified to prevent economic losses from occurring. Losses caused by the fire ant, however, are erratic and unpredictable. Loss estimates are best made from historical accounts on a given property.  

Livestock Production Systems, Pasturelands, Rangeland, Feedlots and Livestock Barns

Fire ant problems in livestock production systems are widespread and costly, but vary tremendously from ranch to ranch, even within the same locality. As a result, no “one size fits all” management plan can, or should, be used.  More information on this topic is found in Managing Imported Fire Ants in Livestock Production Systems,  Losses must be determined on an individual operation basis (see the worksheets at the end of this article or the Livestock Production article) and treatment plans tailored to minimize those losses at an acceptable cost.

In animal feeding stations, barns and feedlots, fire ants can cause problems similar to those found in poultry houses. Therefore, the programs for poultry houses (see below) can be adapted to treat fire ants in livestock barns and holding pens, provided products used are labeled for treating animal premises.  Around barns and other structures use the Two-Step Method, provided the treated areas are inaccessible to animals and registered products are used. Conventionally-formulated bait products, such as Abamectin (Clinch®), hydramethylnon (Amdro® Pro), or pyriproxifen (Esteem®) can be broadcast-applied outside livestock pens according to directions. S-methoprene (Extinguish®) bait can be used in pens with no withdrawal or grazing restrictions.

Poultry Including Free Range Chickens

Fire ants can cause problems on poultry farms by attacking chickens and foraging on broken eggs.  Fire ant stings cause blemishes that can reduce the quality of poultry.

Treatment options:

Program 1:  For poultry houses and egg farms (use a combination of the following suggestions)

  1. Remove food sources (trash, piled feed, broken eggs and dead chickens) and potential nesting sites (pieces of lumber, old equipment and manure piles).
  2. Remove weeds and grass from around poultry houses with mowers or herbicides.
  3. Indoors, treat surfaces with a registered product if ants are nesting inside poultry houses.  Note: Although some products like  permethrin (Y-Tex® GardStar®) are registered specifically for control of fire ants in poultry houses, other products, like cyfluthrin (Countdown™), dichlorvos (Vapona® Concentrate Insecticide), and lambda-cyhalothrin (Grenade™ ER Premise Insecticide), are more generally registered for “crawling pests” -- including ants. Read the poultry section of labels for additional precautions. Do not allow insecticides to come into contact with feed or water supplies.
  4. If fire ants are foraging inside the poultry house from ant mounds located outdoors, spray a barrier around the outside of the building with products registered for that usage site (e.g., lambda-cyhalothrin).
  5. On grounds surrounding the buildings, use the Two–Step Method.  Briefly, the Two-Step Method relies on the periodic (once or twice per year) broadcast application of an effective fire ant bait product.  These treatments can reduce mound numbers by 90 percent, but reduction requires several weeks to months to achieve, depending upon the product chosen. The second step uses individual mound treatments to treat only "nuisance colonies". However, with patience, few mounds will need to be treated once the effects of the broadcast bait treatment have taken effect. Always read and follow closely the instructions provided on the product’s label.Conventionally-formulated bait products, such as Abamectin (Clinch™), hydramethylnon (Amdro®), pyriproxifen (Distance®) or s-methoprene (Extinguish™) can be broadcast-applied outside the poultry house. Do not allow chickens access to fire ant bait or bait-treated areas.

Program 2: Broiler houses

Program 1 for egg farms can be adapted to broiler houses, provided the products used are registered for this site. Because the broilers roam freely in the houses, care must be taken to avoid contact of chickens with insecticides by confining treatments to the outside of the broiler house (see Step 5 above).

Program 3: Free Range Chickens

Use bait stations on grid pattern

Field Crops and Commercial Vegetables

In cotton and sugarcane production, the fire ant is considered beneficial insects and no fire ant control is suggested. In cotton fields, fire ants are effective predators of caterpillars and can be sampled using the beat bucket method whereby the terminals of cotton plants are beaten into a plastic bucket to dislodge insects. In Louisiana sugarcane fields, habitat modification studies have been shown to increase fire ant abundance and predation by the ants on sugarcane borers, Diatrea saccharalis (Fabricius). There, control of fire ants increases the incidence of sugarcane borers and damage they cause; increasing pesticide use which counteracts the IPM program.

Fire ants occasionally feed on germinating seeds and seedlings of corn, sorghum and other field or cover crops, particularly during dry conditions in the spring, sometimes causing stand loss. Fire ants also have been reported to feed on young watermelon, cucumber and sunflower plants, and have damaged peanut and soybean plantings. Okra growers are constantly battling fire ants due to the ants’ attraction to the oils in the plant, nectaries, buds and developing fruit. Fire ant mounds can cause problems in areas where soybeans are not planted on raised beds or rows (i.e., they are flat-planted). The tall mounds along the rows interfere with harvesting equipment. During dry periods, the fire ants can chew irrigation tubing, as has been reported in vegetable crops.

Treatment options:

  1. Conventionally-formulated abamectin (Clinch®), pyriproxifen (Esteem®) or  s-methoprene (Extinguish®­) bait products are registered for use in cropland and can be used to reduce fire ants in these areas. However, these baits are slow-acting and must be broadcast-applied several months before maximum suppression is required. Optimum timing of application(s) and economic benefits from control are still to be determined. Use where estimated losses exceed cost of application, and monitor closely for potential secondary pest outbreaks in treated fields.
  2. To prevent damage to corn and sorghum seedlings, neonicotinoid seed treatments (clothianidin, thimethoxam, and imidacloprid) aid in control of fire ants.  An insecticide such as Lorsban®­ 15G (chlorpyrifos) over an open furrow at planting can be helpful where there is a history of stand loss. 
  3. Few contact insecticide products are registered specifically for fire ant control in watermelon, sunflower and other crops although some products containing pyrethrins ( Pyrenone® Crop Spray and others) are generally labeled for ant control in these sites. Insecticides  registered  for  other  pests  on  these crops (and known to be toxic to fire ants) are occasionally used to temporarily suppress foraging ants when damage is observed and the crop is threatened.
Fruit and Nut Orchards, Vineyards and Blueberry Plantings   Although fire ants are mostly a nuisance to field workers in these crops, their overall economic and ecological impact remains unknown. In pecan orchards, fire ants prey on pests such as pecan weevils and hickory shuckworms in fallen pecans, but they encourage aphids by preying on their natural enemies. The ants’ nest building aerates the soil of the orchard floor, which is beneficial, but they will feed on the meat of cracked pecans and can damage irrigation systems. Fire ant mounds may interfere with some types of harvesting operations. Chemical control is warranted only if the cost of control is less than the potential economic loss ants may cause. In pick-your-own operations, the liability of ants attacking customers also should be considered.

            Treatment options:

  1. S-methoprene bait (Extinguish®­) is registered for use in cropland, and abamectin (Clinch®), pyriproxifen (Esteem®) or metaflumizone (Altrevin®­) is registered for use on bearing citrus.  Optimum timing of application(s)  are still to be determined. Where used, monitor closely for potential secondary pest outbreaks.
  2. In pecan and citrus orchards, chlorpyrifos products (Lorsban® Advanced, Lorsban® 15 G, etc.) used to treat the orchard floor will temporarily suppress foraging ants. Spot applications around irrigation systems may be useful to protect equipment from damage the ants can cause.
  3. Few contact insecticide products are registered specifically for fire ant control in bearing peach orchards, vineyards and blueberry plantings although some products containing pyrethrins (Pyrenone® Crop Spray and others) are generally labeled for ant control in these sites. Insecticides  registered  for  other  pests  on  these crops (and known to be toxic to fire ants) are occasionally used to temporarily suppress foraging ants when damage is observed and the crop is threatened. Turf areas around such plantings can be treated using products registered for use in that site.
Nursery Crops and Sod Farms

The Imported Fire Ant Program Manual describes treatment programs for complying with the United States Department of Agriculture imported fire ant quarantine regulations.  A separate publication lists quarantine treatments.

Federal quarantine regulations mandate specific fire ant treatment(s) for plants to be shipped to areas free of fire ants. Among fire ant infested states, there are different regulations and agencies that enforce them. In Texas and Louisiana, for instance, Floral and Nursery Laws mandate that plants must be apparently pest-free, but do not mandate formal treatment programs. In addition to those products mentioned below, other products, including those containing acephate (Orthene®), carbaryl (Sevin®), diazinon ant mound treatments, and abamectin (PT®370 Ascend®) and pyriproxyfen (Distance®) and s-methoprene (Extinguish® Professional Fire Ant Bait) conventionally-formulated baits, are also registered for treating fire ants in turfgrass areas, around ornamental plants or in potting media. However, these are not approved quarantine treatments at this time.  The following treatment suggestions are for commercially produced ornamental plants to be shipped out of a quarantined area (modified from "Imported Fire Ants: A guide for Nursery Operators," Program Aid No. 1420, USDA, APHIS, December 1988).  In all cases, the producer must obtain a Compliance Agreement from their state’s regulatory agency (i.e., Texas or Louisiana Department of Agriculture, Arkansas State Plant Board, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries). Greenhouse-produced plants may be exempt from quarantine treatment regulations if the facilities are determined to be tightly closed by the nursery inspector, although they still must have a Compliance Agreement.

            Treatment options (for compliance with the USDA Fire Ant Quarantine):

Program 1:  Fire Ant-Free Nursery Program for containerized nursery stock. 

  1. Treat all exposed soil surfaces  (including  sod  and  mulched  areas) on property where plants are grown, potted, stored, handled, loaded, unloaded or sold. Use a broadcast bait such as hydramethylnon (Amdro®­ ) or fenoxycarb (Award®)­ at least once every 6 months, with the first application as early in spring as possible.
  2. After broadcast treatments, treat individual mounds to eliminate remaining colonies.
  3. Inspect the area for new mounds twice a month and treat any that appear.
  4. Treat all potting media with bifenthrin (Talstar® T&O Granular Insecticide or Talstar® Flowable) or tefluthrin (Fireban® Granular Ornamental Insecticide).
  5. Federal or state inspections of nurseries participating in this program will be conducted at least twice per year.
  6. (Optional).  Immerse  stock   in  chlorpyrifos  solution  (Dursban®­  4E) or apply chlorpyrifos or bifenthrin (Talstar®  Flowable) to the containers to the point of saturation (one time only).

Program 2:  For balled and burlapped stock.

    1.     Immerse stock in chlorpyrifos (Dursban® 4E), or drench stock twice daily for 3 consecutive days.

Program 3:  For field-grown woody ornamentals, preharvest.

  1.  Broadcast bait (Award®­ II, Amdro®­). These treatments must be used in combination with granular chlorpyrifos (Dursban®) treatments. Consult with your local regulatory agency to see if additional treatment options apply.
  2. See Program 2.

Note: Following treatment, nursery stock or plants must be shipped within a specific period of time, depending on the treatment applied.

Fish Farms, Production Aquaculture

Bodies of water, such as rivers, streams, ponds and lakes,  are highly attractive to fire ants.  Around fish farms and production aquaculture, fire ant mounds around ponds and on dams and levees can be a nuisance and pose a threat to workers. When using insecticides around these areas,  every effort must be made to avoid contamination of water sources with fire ant control products. Fire ant bait products contain very small amounts of active ingredients and can be applied close to shorelines, avoiding direct application to the water. Risk of runoff into waterways is minimized when baits are applied during times of active ant foraging so that ants collect the bait particles quickly. Individual mound treatments should be made with care, selecting products with lower toxicity to fish, such as acephate (Orthene® TT&O). Pyrethrins and rotenone products should be avoided because of their high toxicity to fish. Do not apply surface treatments, baits or individual mound treatments if rains are likely to occur soon after treatment. Alternative non-chemical treatments, such as use of steam or very hot water mound treatments, may also be suitable for sensitive areas.


Fire ants invade bee hives and feed on developing bee larvae, occasionally destroying weak colonies. Use chemicals with care because the bees will be affected by insecticides.

            Treatment options:

    1.     Treat areas around hives using the Two–Step Method (see Cattle Production Systems, Pastureland and rangeland section) using products registered for the site in which hives are located. Conventional bait formulations (e.g., those containg hydramethylnon, pyriproxifen, or s-methoprene) are the safest for use around bee hives; dust formulations should be avoided.

    2.     Elevate the hives several inches on bricks or stones.

    3.     (Optional). The outer surface of the stand elevating hives can be carefully treated with a surface application of a non-volatile, long-residual contact insecticide. Specialty paint-on or paint additive formulations containing diazinon or chlorpyrifos (e.g., Insecta® Clear Finish,  Killmaster® II) are available to produce a chemical barrier on surfaces. A registered contact insecticide also can be applied to the ground around the hives. Apply insecticides late in the evening or early in the morning when bees are not active to prevent bees from contacting treated surfaces. Read product labels and use insecticides and formulations least toxic to bees.

Wildlife Breeding Areas

Certain forms of wildlife are especially affected by ants during and soon after birth or hatching. The risk is greatest during warm months. Fawns are vulnerable because they are born in June and because they instinctively remain motionless in their hiding places.  Hatching quail and ground-nesting waterfowl chicks are also attacked. However, the impact of fire ants on area-wide populations of wildlife remains undocumented. Fire ant control programs in wildlife areas are discouraged unless the benefits from such treatments have been documented.  Many pesticides are toxic to non-target organisms (particularly to aquatic organisms) and may directly or indirectly affect game species if not used properly.

Treatment options:

    1.     Wildlife breeding areas are considered non-agricultural lands, and thus can be treated with products  registered for this kind of site using the Two–Step Method.

    2.     Exotic game ranches are considered commercial agriculture areas. Breeding areas may be treated with products registered to treat livestock grazing areas or pastures using the Two-Step Method.


Maintaining Native Ant Populations

A number of ant species are native to the areas infested with red and black imported fire ant, including several other species of fire ants. Many of these ants compete for resources with the imported fire ants, attack mated queen ants trying to establish new colonies, and invade weakened fire ant colonies. Preservation and encouragement of native ant species is considered the best defense against the invasion of fire ants. In areas with less than 20 imported fire ant mounds per acre and where native ants are a concern, the broadcast application of a bait-formulated insecticide product is discouraged.

For additional information, contact your local County Extension Agent, entomology specialist or visit Imported Fire Ant eXtension or the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project.  


The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the participating states’ Cooperative Extension Service agencies in this regional publication is implied.



The authors are grateful to the thorough review comments from our colleagues in the Ant Pests eXtension Community of Practice..





WORKSHEET I: Livestock


How many acres are in your agriculture operation .................................................        _______

1. How much do you spend in an average year to treat injured animals?       

  Include medicines, bandages, vet bills and an estimated cost of your time ...             $_______


2. A. How many animals do you lose per year to ants? If less than one, give a fraction (e.g., 1 calf/2 years = 0.5 calf/year). Include only those directly killed by ants ...............................           ______

    B. What did you pay for the young or value added to adult animal? .................................................$______

    C. How much profit if calf had been sold normally? ......................................................$______

            Add B and C, then multiply by A to get total death losses .......................               $_______


3. What are your average yearly losses due to fire ants for the following:


                                    Cost of material  + labor including your own  = Total

Ruined Feed               $______________+$__________      =          $__________

Ruined Hay                 $______________+$__________      =          $__________

Shredder damage        $______________+$__________      =          $__________

Electrical damage        $______________+$__________      =          $__________

Other damage/loss      $______________+$__________      =          $__________

            Add the above items to get Total material and equipment losses ....              $__________


4. Losses in Hay Production, from other form if applicable .................................        $__________

5. Any Medical Costs for you, your family, or workers per year ................................  $__________

6. Per year losses to other animals i.e., pets, horses, food animals, exotic breeds, if not covered in #2..................... $__________

7. Any other per year losses that can be blamed on fire ants ................................   $__________


GRAND TOTAL. Add totals for 1-7 ............................................................................        $__________



Grand Total ÷ number of acres in your operation = $_____________ per acre in losses.


 If your LOSS PER ACRE is:

! Greater than about $12, you can probably make money by treating your entire place.

! Less than about $12, you need to pinpoint where these losses occur and only treat those areas.




Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Paul R. Nester, Extension Program Specialist, 

Robert T. Puckett, Assistant Professor and Extension Entomologist

Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Kathy Flanders, Extension Entomologist and Professor,

Kelly Palmer, Animal Sciences and Forages Regional Extension Agent

Fudd Graham, Research Fellow IV

University of Georgia and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service

Dan Suiter, Professor

Tim Davis, Ph.D.,  Chatham County Extenson Coordinator

Karen Vail
Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist,
University of Tennessee Extension

University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service

John Hopkins, Associate Professor and Extension Entomologist

Kelly Loftin, Extension Entomologist

Louisiana State University AgCenter

Dennis Ring, Entomologist, Extension Specialist, Professor




This publication was originally written and published as:


Drees, B. M., C. L. Barr, D. R. Shanklin, D. K. Pollet, K. Flanders, and B. Sparks. 1998. Managing red imported fire ants in agriculture. B-6076. Texas Imported Fire Ant Research & Management Plan. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. 18 pp

Management of Imported Fire Ants in Livestock Production Systems

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 15:52


Imported fire ants are now a major pest problem throughout the southeastern United States, including in livestock production operations. They are also found in parts of California.

Imported fire ant stings are painful and can cause allergic reactions and even death of livestock and humans.

No methods have been developed to successfully eradicate fire ants, but research may ultimately provide a method to eliminate this pest. Biological control can potentially suppress fire ant populations but will never achieve absolute control. The appropriate fire ant control methods should be determined by the problem that the fire ants cause in a particular area.

This publication provides information to help ranch managers develop integrated pest management (IPM) plans to address imported fire ant problems in livestock production systems. The goal of integrated pest management is to control a pest only when the potential cost of the problem meets or exceeds the cost of the solution. This publication also provides tips to help reduce the cost of fire ant treatments.


Imported fire ants build unsightly mounds that interfere with farm operations.


The Problem

Two species of imported fire ants were accidentally introduced into the southern United States from South America in the early 1900s. The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, and the black imported fire ant, Solenopsis richteri, interbred and produced sexually active hybrid ants in areas where they occurred together, such as in the northern portions of Mississippi and Alabama and adjoining parts of Tennessee and Georgia.

Imported fire ants have two colony types: the single queen or monogyne type and the multiple queen or polygyne type. Workers in ant colonies with a single egg-laying queen are very territorial and will fight with fire ants from other colonies. Worker ants in colonies with two or more egg-laying queens do not have this territorial behavior. Therefore, these polygyne fire ants occur in much higher densities because the mounds they build can be closer together. More mounds and ants mean more problems in areas infested with the polygyne colonies. The single queen colony is predominant throughout most of the southeastern United States while the multiple queen colony is predominant throughout the eastern two-thirds of Texas.


Cost of the Problem Types of losses due to fire ants in cattle operations. (Based on a drawing by Charles Barr,Texas A&M University)

In 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the annual cost of problems caused by imported fire ants in agriculture was $750 million, with $38 million in losses to livestock. Losses occur mainly where ants interfere with activities of man and where ants and vulnerable animals are found together. In some small operations, such as those where profit is not the goal or where the ants' impact is not a major economic concern, the decision to control ants can be subjective. The cost of eliminating ants from an entire operation may not be justified by the economic losses caused by fire ants, particularly in large production farms and ranches. In these cases, the better option is to identify and treat only those areas where control costs are justified.

By analyzing where imported fire ants are causing problems, managers can determine where economic losses occur. The probability of serious incidents, such as livestock injury or death or equipment damage, is low and may rarely or never occur. Losses associated with these events, therefore, need to be adjusted to an annual estimate of cost. Losses that are potentially or historically serious or costly are often fairly specific to certain farming and ranching locations or operations.

Cost of Control

The type of treatment chosen will determine the cost of treating the entire livestock operation. The estimated cost for treatments using broadcast application of conventionally formulated fire ant bait products, such as hydramethylnon (Amdro Pro), pyriproxyfen (Esteem), methoprene (Extinguish) or Extinguish Plus (blend of hydramethylnon and methoprene), is $10-15 per acre which may or may not include the cost of application.

Large fire ant mound in pasture.

In small operations in heavily infested areas, this treatment cost may be negligible. However, in larger operations, this treatment cost may be unacceptably high and not economically justifiable. With the exception of Extinguish, products are generally not approved for all use sites that comprise a livestock operation. In these situations, a better approach to the whole-ranch treatment option is the implementation of more refined, site-specific IPM techniques that can include chemical as well as nonchemical (cultural) methods.

Regulatory Considerations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has developed a quarantine and regulatory program to help prevent spread of this exotic species from infested to non-infested parts of the United States. See latest quarantine map.

If your livestock operation is located in infested counties and materials such as hay or livestock trailers are to be shipped to non-quarantined areas, contact your local Department of Agriculture office for information on how to comply with quarantine regulations. For movement of hay bales, for instance, only bales stored in off-ground locations will be certified as ant free and approved for shipment.

Biological Control Considerations

One reason imported fire ants are so abundant in the United States is that their specific natural enemies, which help keep their population levels in check, were left behind in their native South America. Researchers across the Southeast are committed to introducing biological control agents to help provide sustainable suppression of imported fire ants.

A phorid fly, Pseudacteon curvatus. Photo by Bart Drees.

Species of parasitic flies called phorid flies (from the fly’s scientific family name, Phoridae, in the insect order Diptera), have been released in infested areas of the southern United States. These species include Pseudacteon tricuspis, P. curvatus, P. litoralis, P. nocens, P. cultellatus, and P. obtusus and will possibly include others in the future.

Fire ant decapitated by phorid fly. Photo by Sanford Porter, USDA.

A disease of fire ants called Kneallhazia (=Thelohania) solenopsae is also being established and monitored. Although the impact has yet to be documented, these organisms are capable of sustaining themselves in the environment and of spreading naturally. They are expected to help suppress imported fire ant colonies to some degree. The effect is expected to be similar to that of hot, dry environmental conditions that frequently cause a decline in fire ant populations.

Microbial pathogen Kneallhazia (=Thelohania) solenopsae.

Fire ants do have some natural enemies in the United States. Other ant species, for example, are important predators of imported fire ant queens. They can raid and destroy small imported fire ant colonies and compete for nesting sites and resources. Preservation of these competitor ant species, in addition to conserving introduced and native biological control organisms, will help provide biological resistance to prevent the formation of high densities of imported fire ants. To preserve these competitor species, avoid chemical treatment where populations are historically low, such as fewer than 20 ant mounds per acre. Spot treatment of nuisance mounds in these areas may still be necessary.

Developing a Fire Ant Management Plan for a Livestock Operation

The first step in developing a fire ant management plan for your livestock operation is to decide where you want to control fire ants. Insert economic values in the outline below to estimate the cost of losses in your livestock operation.



Estimated Cost of Loss, Repair, or Treatment

Around the farmstead
Infestation of lawns
Invasion into the home
___________ Medical treatment for people and domestic pets ___________ Electrical and utility equipment damage ___________ Penned livestock
Medical injury or death
Ruined feed and hay
Infested bedding
___________ Equipment replacement or repair
Machinery breakdown (cutter, shredder)
Electrical equipment and water pump damage
Drip irrigation equipment
___________ Hay pastures
Reduced yield from raising cutter height
Time lost unclogging cutter
Infested bales of hay
Medical injury to field workers
___________ Livestock pastures, rangeland
Livestock injury or death
___________ Other losses
Wildlife losses
Exotic game injury or death
Fishing pond access
Enjoyment of outdoor activities
___________ Current treatment and fire ant control costs (product and labor) Around farmstead ___________ Penned animals, barns, and poultry houses ___________ Hay pastures ___________ Livestock pastures, rangeland ___________ Other farming operations
Field crops
Fruit and nut orchards
Hunting lands
___________ Subtotal (losses and costs) ___________ Estimated benefits from fire ant control Insect/arthropod infestations affected by fire ants +__________ Total ___________

Create a rough map of your livestock operation or use an aerial photograph. Your operation will include a number of use sites besides pasture and rangeland. On the map, mark the areas where fire ant control is most important to you. Management options are provided below for six use sites.

Cattle operation use sites: (1) farmstead or headquarters; (2) hay pasture; (3) livestock pasture or rangeland; (4) farm pond; (5) orchard; (6) field crops.

A typical map might include the following priorities: the areas around the farmhouse that receive heavy foot traffic or where children play; the area around electrical circuit boxes; the area where frequently used farm equipment is parked outside; and any areas where livestock will be closely confined, particularly in the summer. These areas may include the most valuable hayfields, areas where hay is to be stored, and summer birthing pastures.

The next step is to identify where the fire ant mounds are within what you have designated as important areas. Note the greatest concentrations of fire ant mounds. Classify the marked areas according to how quickly you need fire ant control. For instance, if fire ants are all over your picnic area and your family reunion is in two days, you would want to use a fast-acting individual mound treatment or a fast-acting bait (see below). If your family reunion is in two weeks, you could use a fire ant bait containing a slow-acting insecticide. If your family reunion is in two months, a bait containing an insect growth regulator would be appropriate.

More information on managing fire ants in other areas of the farm can be found in these publications:

Farmstead or Headquarters

Use sites comprising the farmstead or headquarters may include homes, barns, storage buildings, and other structures; electrical and utility fixtures such as air conditioners; and ornamental turf, bedding plant, and vegetable garden areas. The potential for economic loss as well as the loss of enjoyment or access are the greatest and the tolerance for imported fire ants is the lowest in these areas. Alternatives for fire ant control in these locations are the greatest because these are not necessarily agricultural lands.


The two-step method of fire ant control is the most suitable for treating the acre or so that constitutes the farmstead or headquarters. This method relies on the broadcast application of a bait-formulated product once or twice per year. More labor-intensive, expensive but faster-acting mound treatments are used to treat only nuisance ant mounds that may develop between broadcast bait applications (see Bait Basics). This approach can provide about 90 percent control that can be maintained at relatively low cost.

Man applying a mound drench in a pasture.

Alternatively, a contact insecticide, such as a pyrethroid liquid or granular formulation, examples are bifenthrin, gamma-cyhalothrin, lambda-cyhalothrin etc., can be applied to the surface of the entire lawn as directed. Fire ant problems in sensitive areas such as compost piles and gardens may be prevented by treating around the perimeter with a bait or granular insecticide. If it is necessary to control fire ants in vegetable gardens, use only products registered for this use and with instructions for such applications in that use site (See Field Crops).

Treatment of the entire grounds around the headquarters area should prevent infestations of ants indoors and in utility boxes. If ants do cause problems in these areas, specialty products are available that can be applied to eliminate and prevent future infestations. For instance, faster-acting bait formulations such as those containing indoxacarb, hydramethylnon, spinosad or metaflumizone can be applied around utility boxes or other inaccessible areas to eliminate colonies within a few days. Conversely, insect strips such as Hot Shot® No-Pest Strip (dichlorvos) and Rainbow High Tech Insectape Insecticidal Strip or Insect Patch (propoxur) can help prevent infestations in utility housings.


Hay Pastures Hay bales on a trailer.

Fire ant mounds in hay pastures can cause equipment breakdowns when cutting machinery hits tall, hardened mounds. The ants may also consume seeds or seedlings of some forage crops. On the beneficial side, the ants also prey on other arthropod pests such as armyworms, and they reduce soil compaction by building nests and foraging tunnels. Some producers have replaced sickle-bar-type cutters with disc-type cutters to reduce equipment breakdown. Even these cutters, however, become jammed with grass and moist soil when cutting through ant mounds, resulting in a loss of time. Some producers raise the cutter, at least when approaching tall mounds, thereby losing some yield. Dull cutting blades and increased wear on machinery also cost money and lost time. Custom cutting and baling operators may charge more for their services where fire ant infestations are severe.

Infested hay is a regulated item when it is to be shipped out of quarantined areas. Field workers can be stung, particularly when handling square bales. For these reasons, some growers have shifted from producing square bales to producing round bales.

Where imported fire ants are a problem, costing more than about $15 per acre to treat, broadcasting registered bait-formulated products, such as hydramethylnon (Amdro Pro), methoprene (Extinguish), pyriproxyfen (Esteem), Extinguish Plus (hydramethylnon plus methoprene) or a hopper blend (see below) can reduce ant numbers and result in reduction of mound height and number. Mound treatments using registered products such as agricultural formulations of carbaryl (Sevin), or a fast-acting bait such as hydramethylnon should be reserved only for nuisance mounds.

Shallow disking and dragging a heavy object such as a railroad tie will reduce mound height for several weeks to months but used alone will not reduce ant or mound numbers. In areas infested with multiple queen colonies, dragging may cause the colonies to split into more but smaller colonies. Furthermore, if ants are not eliminated using an insecticide, reduced mound height will be temporary. Tall mounds can persist even after ant colonies are eliminated where grasses and other vegetation have grown into mounds.

Livestock Pastures or Rangelands

Imported fire ant foragers can quickly recruit other ants to food and moisture resources. Newborn livestock and wildlife, birds hatching from eggs, and confined animals are particularly vulnerable to attack by imported fire ants, although reported cases of injury are not common. During the hot summer months, the frequency of livestock injury and deaths increases dramatically because the ants are starved for food and moisture. For this reason, scheduling fertility programs to avoid birthing during hot summer months can help prevent this problem. When birthing is scheduled for the summer months, placing livestock in a designated birthing pasture that has been treated to reduce fire ant populations may be justifiable and cost effective.

The ants are not known to harm mature animals other than ostriches and emus that, reportedly, can go into shock when stung. Although tall ant mounds can become numerous and unsightly, they cause little economic damage. Fire ant mounds may reduce property values during land sale transactions. Imported fire ants can reduce populations of some other pests such as lone star ticks and forage-feeding caterpillar species.

Treatments for livestock pastures or rangelands include those products registered for hay pastures (see above). Other products are available for use in nonagricultural land that is not being used for animal or plant production. Some insecticide product labels for fire ant control, particularly those considered to be organic, do not list all approved use sites. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer for clarification.

Farm Ponds Fire ant mounds near a farm pond. Photo by Bart Drees.

Any bodies of water on the farm are attractive to imported fire ants, which must have access to surface or subsurface sources of water to survive. Worker ants will forage heavily along shorelines, and colonies will continually migrate closer to sources of moisture. This can create problems for fishermen who may not be able to stand on a shoreline without being attacked by stinging ants.

Most insecticides are toxic to aquatic organisms including fish. Products containing high concentrations of rotenone or pyrethroids may be particularly hazardous while others such as acephate (Orthene) have lower toxicity to aquatic animals. Orthene is not registered for use in hay or livestock pastures. Bait-formulated products registered for the appropriate use site such as hay pastures can be broadcast near water edges of farm ponds if care is taken not to broadcast particles into the water. Applications may need to be made more frequently around these areas to maintain control because of the favorable habitat for ants that the water provides.


Bait Basics

The broadcast application of a bait product is the least toxic, most cost effective, and environmentally sound approach to reducing imported fire ants in large areas of land. These treatments are particularly suitable where fire ant mounds are numerous (20 or more per acre). In these areas, preservation of native ants is of less concern and treatments may actually increase native ant species numbers after imported fire ants have been reduced. Some ant species, such as red harvester ants, may be particularly sensitive to some bait products, such as those containing hydramethylnon.


All bait formulations consist of an attractant soaked into a carrier particle. The conventional formulation uses soybean oil soaked into de-fatted processed corn grit. The active ingredient is dissolved in the attractive oil, which is consumed by worker ants. It is returned to the ant colony and fed to the workers, the brood (larvae), the queen(s), and the winged reproductive male and female ants. If the oil becomes stale or rancid due to exposure to air over a period of time, the bait particle becomes unattractive to foraging ants and treatment will be ineffective. For this reason, use of a fresh and properly stored product is essential. It is advisable to work closely with your distributor to assure the product is fresh. Avoid mixing bait with seed or fertilizer since this causes bait particles to lose attractiveness. Other formulations using different attractants, carriers, and use rates are also available.

Application Timing

Imported fire ant workers forage for food only when conditions are favorable. This occurs when air temperatures range from 65 to 90 degrees F. In the heat of the summer, foraging occurs predominantly at night so baits should be applied in the late afternoon or early evening. During winter months and times when colonies are not actively producing brood, attractiveness to baits may be reduced. At certain times, some colonies may be more attracted to other available food sources and will ignore the bait. When in doubt about product freshness or presence of foraging behavior, place a potato chip or a small pile of the bait near a fire ant mound. If ants are carrying off bait particles or the potato chip within 30 minutes or so of placement, the time is right and the bait is attractive.

Broadcast Application Methods

Baits can be broadcast applied using handheld seeders or spreaders. They must be calibrated to apply the amount of product per acre as directed on the product label. Rotating or vibrating agitator mechanisms are preferable because they do not grind the bait particles, which can result in clogging. The hopper opening should be adjusted as small as possible to allow bait to drop onto a spreader fan. Calibrate by applying a known quantity of bait to an area of known size. For larger areas, use a vehicle-mounted, electrically powered applicator such as a Herd GT77 broadcast seeder specifically manufactured to broadcast apply ant bait products. Baits can also be applied aerially provided the hopper and gate on the aircraft are modified to achieve the low use rates for these products.


Speed and Duration of Control

After broadcast application, the mode of action of the ingredient in these bait products determines the speed at which 80 to 90 percent maximum control is achieved. Baits that kill worker ants within a few days to a few weeks (including indoxacarb, fipronil, hydramethylnon, and spinosad) produce maximum results within several weeks after treatment. From that point, reinvasion of treated areas begins and may require additional treatments to maintain control. When used as individual mound treatments, results are even faster and often eliminate treated colonies in several days even where colonies are in inaccessible locations such as sidewalks and driveway cracks, bases of tree trunks, compost beds, and utility housings, but reinvasion will still occur.

Insect growth regulator or IGR products (methoprene, pyriproxyfen) are synthetic chemicals that mimic an insect hormone. These ingredients do not generally kill worker ants, which must die of natural causes before a colony is eliminated. Rather, they affect queen ants and developing brood and preventing them from developing for about a year following treatment. Effects vary by season. A spring or summer treatment achieves maximum control in several months while a late summer or fall application may require 6 months. These products are ideal for maintaining control, once achieved. Suppression from an IGR may last for a year or more. Abamectin containing products (Ascend Award II and Clinch) provide an IGR-like response when broadcast even though this ingredient affects the nervous system. When used as a mound treatment, results occur more quickly.

Cost-Saving Considerations

Applied research has documented several methods that can help reduce the cost of using broadcast applications of bait products. Some of these methods have been adapted by manufacturers and are now registered uses. Others are made available to producers as management options whereby the user assumes responsibility for results obtained.

Hopper blend treatment. A 50:50 mixture of a fast-acting bait product such as hydramethylnon (0.75 pounds Amdro Pro) with a slow-acting, long-lasting IGR such as methoprene (0.75 pounds Extinguish) applied at 1.5 pounds blended product per acre can provide a performance profile characteristic of both products: 80 to 90 percent control in 3 to 6 weeks sustained for a number of months. This use pattern now appears on product labels or supplement labels. Blends using combinations of other fast-acting and slow-acting IGR products may also provide this effect such as hydramethynon + pyriproxyfen.

Skip-swath application. IGR products can be applied to every other 20- to 25-foot swath at the use rate directed on the product labels. This leaves every other strip untreated. In this application method, only half the use rate product is applied per acre and half the time is needed to apply the product to the land area. The effects of these stable, slow-acting baits have been shown to produce levels of control similar to those achieved by the conventional application pattern. This use pattern, however, is not supported by some of the manufacturers and does not constitute a recommendation by Extension in some states. In Oklahoma, regulations do not allow producers to apply pesticides at rates below those on the product label. In most other states, however, the user can choose to apply at reduced rates.

Mixing with fertilizer.  Studies have shown that you can mix your fertilizer and fire ant bait, but you must apply the mixture immediately after the mixing process for the greatest chance of success with this method.  Fertilizer has the potential to reduce the attractiveness of fire ant baits.   If you cannot apply the bait-fertilizer mix right away, see the next section on tandem application. Be sure to check regulations in your state, a person with a pesticide handlers license may need to be present to blend the bait and fertilizer.


Tandem application: Herd GT77 seeder mounted on a fertilizer spreader.

Tandem application. Blending bait products with seed or fertilizer to save a trip across the field is discouraged because this method can quickly dilute or reduce attractiveness of the bait product. However, a bait applicator such as a Herd GT77 broadcast seeder can be mounted on a dry fertilizer spreader or seeder and calibrated so that both materials are applied simultaneously. Swath width differences between lighter bait versus heavier fertilizer particles may, however, result in a skip-swath treatment of ant bait.

Additional information on Broadcast Baits can be found in Broadcast Baits for Fire Ant Control and The Latest Broadcast on Fire Ant Control Products.

Individual Mound Treatments With Contact Insecticides

Individual mound treatments are generally considered the most labor intensive and costly treatment methods, and they give the shortest fire ant free period. However, fast-acting methods are the most desirable in some situations. Where imported fire ant mound numbers are small (fewer than 20 mounds per acre) or where preservation of native ant species such as red harvester ants and other competitor ant species is desired, this may be a preferred method. Some products, such as those containing pyrethrins, pyrethroids, acephate, or spinosad, or d-limonene, can provide almost immediate control when and where necessary. Individual mound treatments are most effective when the queen and her brood are near the top of the mound. During cold, hot, or dry conditions, the queen may be deeper in the ground and survive the treatment. Finding all of the mounds in an area may be a challenge and colonies that do not have visible mounds will be missed so you may have to retreat in a short time.

Acephate products such as Orthene Turf, Tree, and Ornamental Spray can be diluted in water and poured over a mound in lawns and noncrop areas. This is known as a mound drench. The dust formulation can also be used straight from the container by sprinkling a measured amount of powder on top of the mound. Agricultural and horticultural formulations of carbaryl (Sevin) are available for use as a mound drench on lawns, non-crop areas, pastures, and hayfields. It is one of the least expensive mound treatments available for treating ant mounds in pastures (about $.10 per mound for the cost of the chemical) when the diluted product is poured onto mounds from a nurse tank. Many more ant mound treatment products are available for use in nonagricultural sites in a livestock operation. Some are considered organic. Some cost pennies per treated mound; others could cost more than $6.00 per treated mound. Time from treatment to control varies. IGR bait products, for instance, have mound treatment instructions on product labels. Speed of control compared to the broadcast application of these materials, however, does not increase when applying material to individual mounds. Always read and follow instructions on the product label.

More Information on Fire Ants

For more information, call your county Extension office. Look in your telephone directory under your county’s name to find the number.

Other resources on fire ants can be found at Publications and Resource Links.

Pesticide Disclaimer


Kathy L. Flanders, Extension Entomologist, Associate Professor, Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University; and Bastiaan M. Drees, Extension Entomologist, Professor, Entomology, Texas A&M University.

Originally published as a joint publication of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Texas AgriLife Extension Service (Alabama Cooperative Extension Circular ANR-1248, Management of Imported Fire Ants in Cattle Production Systems).

Broadcast Baits for Fire Ant Control

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 20:57


When choosing a broadcast bait to control import­ed fire ants, hereafter referred to as fire ants, consumers and pest management professionals are faced with a confusing array of brand names and active ingredients with varying product performances. This guide addresses common con­cerns about broadcast baits to help consumers and professionals choose products that best fit their needs and situations.

Although the information presented here is as cur­rent as possible, frequent changes in technology, marketing and regulations affect the availability of and regulations for specific products. Therefore, this guide will focus on general principles of bait use, not specific products.

For specific, up-to-date information about avail­able of broadcast baits, visit The Latest Broadcast on Fire Ant Control Products.

Bait basics

A bait is a tool used to manage a pest population.  Baits contain an insecticide (preferably slow acting) combined with food that the target insect (or other pest) finds palatable if not attractive. In the case of ants, workers find the bait and carry it back to the colony, where it is fed to the larvae, work­ers and queens. Foraging workers may consume some of the liquid portion of the bait before returning the particle to the colony.

Most fire ant baits in current use are similar in appearance and odor and in their handling and application. These baits are small, oily, yellowish granules that smell like toasted corn. They consist of three main components:

  • Defatted corn cob granules serve as a means of distributing the attractant and the active ingredient. Although ants carry the granules to the mound, the granules have no insecticidal properties.  The foraging ants do not eat the granules since they cannot chew and swallow but feed the granules to the larvae who then digest the granules releasing the active ingredient to be passed to all in the colony.
  • Vegetable oil (often soybean) serves as both the attractant and active ingredient carrier. The active ingredient is dissolved in the oil. Preservatives and anti­oxidants are usually added to the oil to extend product shelf life.
  • The active ingredient is the actual insecticide that affects the ants.

Although active ingredients have different modes of action, they all serve to break the life cycle of the colony, resulting in its death. Baits containing insect growth regulators (IGRs) do not kill workers or queens. Instead, they disrupt larval development so that when the adult ants die of natural causes, they are not replaced, and the colony gradually dies out. Consequently, the speed of activ­ity of IGR baits depends on environmental conditions and may be very slow. Fast-acting baits (non-IGR baits) kill the queen and, to varying degrees, worker ants.

To learn more about principles of insecticide formulation and the mode of action of the various insecticides used in fire ant baits, refer to University of Georgia bulletin number 1412, Insecticide Basics for the Pest Management Professional, available on-line as a PDF at caes.uga.edu/publications.

Broadcasting vs. individual mound treatments

The single greatest advantage of broadcast baits over individual mound treatments (IMTs) is that you do not need to find the colonies to treat them.

It takes about an hour to thoroughly examine an acre of land for fire ants and mark the colonies for treat­ment and you have to assume you found all that need to be treated.  In reality hidden colonies escape detection, especially in hot, dry weather. With a broadcast bait, locating the colonies is unnecessary. All foraging ants from colonies that are visible and those that are not visible will have access to the bait.  Foraging ants from the smallest, most well-hidden colony to the largest, most obvious colony will likely pick up an effective dose of broadcast bait. The result is easy, thorough control over large areas.  

Broadcast baits have other advantages over contact insecticides and individual mound treatments:

  • In most cases, baits are the least expensive way to control fire ants.
  • Ants are controlled in an area for a longer period than with individual mound treatments.
  • Very little labor is required for the application.
  • Baits pose very little toxic threat to people, pets and wildlife.
  • There are very few environmental hazards as­sociated with baits.
Baits vs. granules

Many non-bait insecticides, including many that are used against fire ants, come in the form of granules. Some baits are actually labeled as “bait granules.” It is very important to know the differences between a bait and a contact insecticide granule and how to use each of them.

Appearance and odor: Baits are yellowish, oily and have a toasted corn smell. Granular contact insecticides are usually gray or brown, not oily and have either a neutral or unpleasant chemical smell.

Application rate: Most baits are applied at broadcast rates from one to, at most, about 22 pounds per acre (an acre is 43,560 square feet, roughly the size of a football field or a square 209 feet on a side). Granular contact insecticides are applied at rates much higher than this, often on the order of 43 to 87 pounds per acre (1 to 2 pounds per thousand square feet).

Effect of moisture: Baits should never be watered in. Water ruins bait particles. Granular insecticides usually work faster and better when watered into the soil surface.

What does “broadcast-applied” mean?

Insecticides may be applied either directly to a target (mounds, in the case of fire ants) or to an entire area—a procedure known as broadcasting. Although baits may be applied either way with good results, they are best suited to broadcast application because of their ability to control most of the colonies in an area, regardless of the number of colonies, without the need to locate individual mounds.

How do you use baits successfully?

Many bait products are applied at a rate of 1 to 1½ pounds per acre of land. This is very little material and requires special application equipment. New “consumer” type baits are formulated as low concentrated high volume baits and are designed to be applied with common fertilizer spreaders with use rates up to 20 pounds per acre.

Regardless of the exact application rate, over-applica­tion offers little or no additional benefit in eliminating ants; it just costs more money.

Baits do require special conditions and handling for best results:

  • The ants must be actively foraging for bait.

Fire ants search for food (forage) at a wide range of temperatures and can be found foraging in al­most any season. However, they may be search­ing for only certain kinds of food, which might not be the oil of a bait. The only reliable way to confirm whether ants are feeding on bait is to offer them a small amount and see if they pick up the particles. Place a small amount of bait and wait about 30 minutes. If fire ants are actively foraging on the test bait it is a good time to broadcast fire ant bait.  Never apply bait during the extreme heat of the day, or in the morning when dew is present.

  • Use fresh bait.

The soybean oil in baits becomes rancid over time, making it unattractive to ants. Unfortunate­ly, bait product labels do not list a manufacture or expiration date. Rancid bait smells somewhat like old latex paint, unlike the fresh, toasted corn smell of fresh bait.

Because bait can spoil sitting on store shelves, it is important to check its freshness and return it to the seller if it is rancid.

  • Use the bait promptly.

Most companies claim that their products have a shelf life of 2 to 3 years if the packages remain unopened. Bait left open to the air may become rancid in a few months. Even when resealed and stored properly bait from an opened container should be used within a year.  Store baits in a cool, dry place without other chemicals.  Heat can make the oil in baits go rancid faster.  If other chemicals (gasoline, etc.) are stored with baits, the bait can absorb some of the odors, making the bait less attractive.

  • Do not allow baits to come into contact with water.

Water ruins baits. In favorable conditions, most bait is picked up overnight or even within a few hours, but for best results, do not apply a bait if rain is expected within 24 hours and do not ir­rigate the area for at least 24 hours. Avoid applica­tion when there is a heavy dew.

  • Do not mix baits with other insecticides.

To avoid contaminating bait with fertilizers or granular pesticides, wash the application equipment thoroughly.

What to expect from a bait treatment

Most broadcast baits work more slowly than do contact insecticides, though a few work just as fast. There is a trade-off, though: The faster a bait works, the sooner the area is open for reinvasion by new fire ant queens.

With any broadcast bait, you should expect 80 to 95 percent maximum control lasting 3 to 12 months, though the reinvasion rate depends on several factors such as weather and season. No product gives 100 percent control overnight or lasts forever.

Figure 1 shows results of a fire ant test applied in Texas in October 2004. These results are typical of what should be expected from the different types of broad­cast baits and other fire ant control products within the first few weeks.

Figure 2 shows data from the same test through 7 months. Note that some treatment areas are being reinvaded as oth­ers are maintaining or reaching full effectiveness.

Base your product choice on the time of the year that control is desired, the quickness of the reduction in activity and the duration of control that is needed.  Cost may play a role depending on the size of area that needs to be treated. No single product is right for every situation.

Untreated (black): The number of mounds varies naturally by season and rainfall.

Advion Fire Ant Bait (yellow): This fastest acting of baits does most of its work within a week.Thereafter, the area is open for reinvasion.

Amdro Fire Ant Bait (red): This treatment represents fast-acting baits; it takes about 4 weeks to reach maximum control.

Insect Growth Regulator Bait (green): Most colonies do not die until warmer, drier weather the following year.

Talstar (blue): This treatment represents broadcast contact insecticides. Control is fast, and residual control can last for months.

TopChoice (purple): This is a contact insecticide that takes about a month to work fully. Residual control can be expected for a year. Reinvading colonies die in a few weeks.

Choosing a treatment method

For most situations, the best treatment is a bait. But despite their many good points, baits are not the best treatment for every situation.

For instance, a bait may cost $15 per acre when broad­cast. If there are 150 mounds in that acre, the per-mound cost is a mere 10 cents with little labor. But if there are only 10 mounds, the per-mound cost soars to $1.50 per mound. At 25 cents per mound, an individu­al mound treatment may be a better choice, except time would still need to be spent locating the mounds which may be better spent just broadcasting the bait.

Table 1 lists the characteristics of individual mound treat­ments and broadcast baits. Remember: These are gener­alizations; there is a range within each product category.

Table 1.  Advantages and disadvantages of individual mound treatments and broadcast baits.


Nonbait individual mound treatment (IMT)

Broadcast baits

Broadcast nonbait insecticide*

Speed of action

Fast (hours to a few days)

Varies (3 days to months)

Fast (hours to a few days)

Time to reinfestation

Not applicable, except where treated

2 up to 12 months

A few months; varies

Area retreatment times

Weekly to monthly

1 to 2 per year

1 to 3 per year

Need to locate mounds

Essential, takes about an hour per acre



Application labor

Moderate to high



Application equipment

Household items to professional equipment

$10 to $350 spreader

Fertilizer spreader (granules) Sprayer (liquid)

Cost per acre (43,560 ft2)

Depends on the number of mounds in the area

$10 to $18 (1.5 lb/acre rate)

$80+ (“consumer” product rate)

$50-$260 per acre; varies by product and rate

Cost per mound

1 cent to more than $1

Depends on the number of mounds in the area

Depends on the number of mounds in the area

Potential applicator toxicity

Low to high

Very low

Moderate to high

Potential environmental toxicity: leaching, runoff, etc.

Low to moderate

Very low

Moderate to high

Risk to nontarget ants


Depends on the species; some other ants may benefit from fire ant removal.


Fire Ant Foraging Activity

Not required for application. Suitable for all season applications

Foraging activity required. Results vary during cool months even if foraging activity was observed.

Not required for application.    Suitable for all season applications

Applicator and Environmental Safety

When selecting and using baits, it is important to con­sider the safety of both the applicator and the environ­ment. Generally, broadcast baits use and introduce fewer toxic active ingredients into the environment than almost any other type of insecticide application resulting in reduced exposure to the applicator and other non-target animals.

The main environmental drawback of broadcast baits is that they may harm desirable ant species that pick up the bait. However, removal of fire ants from an area may be far more beneficial to the desirable ants than any ill effects caused by a bait.

Applicator safety

Although broadcast baits by almost any standard are less harmful to the environment and non-target organisms and are easy to apply, applicators should take a few safety precautions when applying them. Most precautions are designed to keep the bait granules from contacting your skin and eyes.

Pesticide handling precautions

  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt, untucked, and long pants left outside a boot.
  • Wear nonabsorbent gloves. Leather and cotton soak up oil and prolong exposure hazard.
  • Inexpensive aprons are good for keeping par­ticles out of pockets and oil off clothes.
  • Wear boots. Bait granules accumulate easily inside shoes.
  • Wear safety glasses or goggles. Particles are eas­ily blown by the wind and can get in your eyes.
  • If the bait contacts your skin, brush off the granules, then wash with soap and water. Remember: The ac­tive ingredient is in an oil, so soap is necessary.
  • Do not wear the clothes again before washing them separately from other laundry.


Application safety
  • The spinning rotor of an electric spreader can seriously injure your fingers. Before you approach the rotor, be sure that the spreader is turned off or, preferably, disconnected from the battery. Even the rotor of a hand-held spreader can cause a painful bruise or cut to a finger.
  • To prevent the particles from hitting others, do not allow anyone within 40 feet of an electric spreader.
  • Unlike with fertilizers or heavier granules, the wind greatly alters the distribution patterns and distances of bait, causing it to blow back onto the operator or into non-target areas. Adjust the swath spacing and safety buffers relative to the wind as you move back and forth over an area.
Environmental safety precautions

Take steps to minimize undesirable effects of broad­cast baits on the environment. Although the risks are slight, the precautions are easy to follow:

  • The label is the law.  Always follow label directions!
  • Never apply bait directly to water.
  • Do not apply bait to hard surfaces (paving, plas­tic, etc.) where water runs off quickly. Use a broom or leaf blower to blow bait granules and other insecticides onto grassy areas. NEVER let a granule remain on a hard surface where it might be washed into a local body of water.
  • Avoid application to non-target sites. For ex­ample, wooded and shady areas tend to harbor more desirable ants but fewer fire ants.
  • Do not apply bait to food-producing areas, such as vegetable gardens, orchards and pastures, unless the product is specifically labeled for use there.
  • Avoid using baits where poultry or other animals might easily pick up the bait particles. Remove the animals until the ants have gathered the bait (overnight is usually sufficient, or as directed on the label.)
  • If a high level of reduction in ant activity is not needed, consider using IMTs or no treatments where there are fewer than 20 colonies per acre.
  • Avoid over-application by using proper calibra­tion methods.

One pound per acre is a light scattering, not a yellow cloud!


Many people are concerned about pesticides in the environment. Table 2 outlines the characteristics of some representative baits and, for comparison, those of a few contact insecticides commonly used for indi­vidual mound treatments.






Table 2. Characteristics of commonly available fire ant baits and individual mound treatment chemicals.


Active ingredient


Brand name(s)


Concentration (as supplied)


Class or activity1

Active ingredient/ acre


Product Oral/dermal LD50 (mg/kg)2


Half-life in soil (days)

Broadcast Baits




@1.5 lb./acre




Ascend, etc.



0.00011 lb




MaxForce FC



0.000675 lb




Amdro, etc.



0.0073 lb




Advion, etc.



0.00068 lb




Siesta, etc.



0.00094 lb







0.005 lb




Distance, etc.



0.005 lb




Come and Get It



0.00015 lb



Contact IMT




@150 mounds/ac







        1-2 lb



bifenthrin, IMT

Ortho Max, etc.



0.06 lb



   Contact  broadcast                                                                                                                                                                        

bifenthrin, brdcst




2 lb (high rate)



IMT = Individual mound treatment, brdcst = broadcast
1IGR = insect growth regulator; toxicant = slow insecticidal activity; contact = contact insecticide
2LD50 is the amount of labeled product in mg/kg body weight that will kill 50 percent of laboratory mammals (rats or rabbits) tested when administered either orally or dermally. Higher values indicate less-toxic pesticides.

Application Equipment

Broadcast baits are easy to apply. They require no mixing, little measuring or weighing, and one rapid pass over the area to be treated. They also require some specialized, relatively inexpensive application equipment to apply such small amounts.

The main reason to use such equipment is to avoid over-applying bait. Applying too much fire ant bait has little or no effect on product effectiveness, the envi­ronment, worker safety or any other factor. It does, however, increase the cost and is off-label.

If a little is good, a lot is not better. It’s just more expensive.

Over a large area, you must apply baits consistently and accurately for the treatments to be effective and economical.

Walk-behind lawn push spreaders and large PTO-powered fertilizer spreaders are not recommended for most fire ant bait applications.

The following are some of the more common types of effective bait application equipment. The list is not comprehensive, and the illustrations should be used only as examples. Any brand of spreader with the characteristics outlined here should broadcast bait effectively and accurately.


 For small areas, not much larger than a typical yard

Type: Hand-held rotary (manual or battery powered) Cost: Less than $10 (manual); $20-$30 (battery powered) Brand name: Numerous Availability: Feed, hardware, and garden stores Bait distribution and rate accuracy: Fair to poor, in an 8- to 10-foot swath Comments: These are inexpensive, rugged and good enough for around the home, but they cannot be calibrated accurately, and they usually overapply.  Because the stirring agitator works poorly, the spreader must be shaken to keep the bait flowing.  

 For medium-sized areas (up to about 10 acres) or for high accuracy

Type: Hand-cranked rotary Cost: $25 to $30 Brand name: Earth-Way, etc. Availability: Lawn and garden centers Bait distribution and rate accuracy: Excellent, in an 8- to 15-foot swath Comments: Seeders can quickly pay for themselves by applying the proper amount of bait. The shaking gate agitator gives very good flow with few clogs. More area can be covered by having the applicator sit on the back of a vehicle.  

 For large areas (more than 10 acres) and frequent or heavy use

Type: 12V electric-powered

Cost: $400 to $550

Brand name: Herd Broadcast Seeder, model GT-77 (various mounts available) (see video) 

Availability: Farm or lawn equipment dealers, usually 2- to 3-day delivery Bait distribution and rate accuracy: Excellent, in 20- to 30-foot swath Comments: Can be mounted on anything with wheels and 12-volt power.    

 For large areas (more than 10 acres) and frequent or heavy use

Type: PTO driven Cost: $2,000-$3,000 Brand name: Vicon Pendulum spreader with clover attachment Availability: Search online Bait distribution and rate accuracy: Excellent, in 20- to 30-foot swath Comments: Can be mounted for use on tractor with PTO. Use of clover inserts aids calibration.  

 For very large areas, rough or wooded/brushy terrain

Type: Aerial application (see video) Cost: $2.50 to $4 per acre, application only Brand name: Local certified aerial applicator Bait distribution: Excellent and fast, but drift may be severe in crosswinds Rate accuracy: Excellent, if calibrated and applied properly

Comments: Modifying aircraft to apply bait is simple and inexpensive. For details, see this aerial application guide


Note: Never apply bait through a spreader without cleaning it first. Worker are extremely discriminatory about smells, and are capable of detecting fertilizer and herbicides that have been put through the spreader.

Spreader calibration Why bother?

Baits applied at a typical rate of 1.5 pounds per acre are hard to see coming out of a spreader. Most people don’t believe that such a tiny amount will do anything. Even doubling the amount is barely no­ticeable—until you run out of bait. Over-application is always more costly than necessary. On the other hand, under-application or poor coverage with some products can result in poor fire ant control.

Because so many factors can change, it is best to calibrate your spreader before every application. Bait flow can be altered by temperature, humidity, bait brand and lot, even ground roughness and especially speed of applicator.  For large treat­ments, you must calibrate the day of the application because of the high costs involved.

Calibration by trial and error

How Much Bait Do I Apply?

[(Length x Width)/43,560] x [lbs./acre on bait label] = lbs. of bait to apply to target area

Trial-and-error calibration is easy for small areas and hand-held spreaders, but it is also recommended for large ground and aerial applications because it ac­counts for differences in bait flow caused by terrain and turbulence. You will need some type of accurate scale to calibrate. Kitchen, postal and fishing scales are inexpensive and easily available and do a good job.

Small areas and hand-held spreaders

Calculate the area to be treated, and weigh out the proper amount of bait following label directions. Set the spreader gate opening to about 3/16 inch and walk at a comfortably brisk pace. Be sure to keep the swaths even with as few overlaps or gaps as possible.

If you have bait remaining when finished, apply it in swaths perpendicular to the first, and open the gate slightly wider or walk faster the next time you apply. If you run out before finishing, add more bait and complete the job with a smaller gate opening. It is helpful to make note of the gate setting and walk­ing speed on the spreader with permanent marker to reference for your next application.

Large applications by vehicle or air

Mark a smaller area to treat for calibration (at least 1 acre for ground application). Weigh out enough bait into the hopper to cover the area plus enough to ensure that it does not “run dry” during application, and record the total amount. If using a Herd Broadcast Seeder, individual plates are available in the "Plate kit for Fire Ant Bait" to place in the bottom of the hopper to gauge the amount of bait that flows onto the spinner.  Each plate will be associated with specific ground speed and specific flow of the bait.  Please refer to the instructions for the Herd Broadcast Seeder Plate kit for Fire Ant Bait to make sure you choose the right plate for the rate of bait to be applied to the area.  An aerial applicator should have an estimate of a beginning gate setting.

Set the spreader at the height at which it will be used because this affects the swath width. Keep in mind that tall vegetation easily deflects bait particles.

Determine the swath width by spreading the bait for a few seconds and measuring the width of the pat­tern. It is also helpful to note how it changes or shifts to one side in the prevailing wind. You will need to compensate for this during application.

Apply the bait to the marked area at a maintainable, steady speed with even swaths. Ground infested with fire ants is often very rough, requiring slower speeds to maintain control of a vehicle.

After the application, remove all the bait from the hopper and reweigh it. Calculate the application rate based on the area you treated and the amount you used.

To increase the application rate:

  • Reduce the speed.
  • Reduce the swath width (lower the spreader)
  • Increase the gate opening.

To decrease the application rate:

  • Increase the speed.
  • Increase the swath width (raise the spreader).
  • Decrease the gate opening.

For minor corrections, begin by adjusting the speed, then the swath width.

Helpful Links for Spreader Calibration

Herd Seeder Calibration Tables for fire ant plates for various baits

Calibrating a Fire Ant Bait Spreader (Tennessee publication)

  Choosing an application vehicle Tractors: The ability to set the throttle in a tractor makes for the most accurate application. Although a 3-point-hitch mount will need to be fabricated, the spreader can be mounted high enough to clear tall vegetation with no loss of vehicle stability (easily 3 to 5 feet). Connections to shut off bait flow or an electrical connection to stop the rotor are easy to make and operate by the driver. Pick-up trucks: Receiver mounting is fast and easy, but without mount modifica­tion, the spreader height is limited to only about 2 feet. It is also difficult to keep a consistent, slow driving speed. A mechanical shut-off is impractical for the driver to use, so an electrical switch must be installed to operate the spreader from the cab. ATVs and utility vehicles: These work well for areas with sensitive turf, many ob­structions or rough terrain, but holding a steady speed on them can be tiring. The mounting height is limited to less than 4 feet to avoid stability problems. The driver can usually operate the spreader’s own mechanical shut-off or electrical switch eas­ily and with no modification.


Fine-tuning fire ant control with broadcast baits

When applied as directed, all bait products work. But there are several ways to make them work better, faster, longer and/or at a lower cost.

Application timing

Fast-acting baits kill not only the queens, but also worker ants that consume enough bait. The fast­est baits (fipronil, hydramethylnon, indoxacarb, metaflumizone, spinosad, and hydramethylnon + s-methoprene) work in 2 to 4 weeks. With the advent of baits containing indoxacarb or metaflumizone, the time has been reduced to about 3 days.

Slow-acting insect growth regulator baits (s-methoprene and pyriproxy­fen) depend on natural mortality factors—particu­larly old age, heat, drought and freezing cold—to kill the work­ers. Most slow-acting baits applied in the spring will eliminate colonies in 3 to 4 months. If applied in the fall, these same baits may not fully eliminate treated colonies until late spring the following year.

Bait combinations (hopper-blend treatments)

Research has shown that combining a fast-acting bait with a slow-acting bait as a hopper blend offers the best characteristics of both types of bait: fast action, thoroughness and forgiveness in coverage. The fire ant bait Extinguish Plus® is a blend of hydramethylnon + s-methoprene baits.  Be aware that in some states blending must be mentioned on the label in order for it to be legal.  Currently, the hopper blend combination of AmdroPro® (hydramethylnon) with Extinguish® (s-me­thoprene) or Esteem (pyriproxyfen) is on the labels for these bait products.   

The real benefit of the hopper blend is that you use one-half of each product and apply the mixture at the full rate of one. Therefore, you get the benefits of both at no extra cost.

Reduced rate and alternative method applications (skip-swath treatments)

Bait applications generally cost about $12 to $18 per acre per application. Although quite reasonable for home yards and high-value sites such as golf courses, this cost may be prohibitive for large ranches and wildlife management areas.

To reduce costs, baits can be applied at reduced rates and/or coverages, but the results are inconsis­tent. Generally, fast-acting baits should be applied at full rates and complete coverage. Slow-acting (IGR) baits can be applied at reduced rates and even in alternat­ing swaths (skip swath).

Tests have shown that products containing methoprene or pyriproxyfen can be applied in alternating 30-foot swaths with the spreader set to apply the normal 1½ pounds per acre. Results indicate that fire ant control is almost identical to full-rate, full-cover­age application, but half the material is used.

These applications are practical only on large, open areas, but they can result in major cost savings in both products and application. 

Products containing fipronil

Fipronil is one of the few active ingredients labeled for fire ant control both as a bait (MaxForce FC®) and as a granu­lar contact insecticide: TopChoice®, Taurus® G, Quali-Pro® Fipronil 0.0143G, and Taurus® Trio G.

The characteristics of the bait form of fipronil are like those of the other fast-acting baits.

There is a common misconception, even among pro­fessionals, that the fipronil granules are baits. These products are not baits. They are contact insecticide granules. However, their speed of control is much like a fast-acting bait—about a month, though Taurus® Trio G may also deliver a quick knockdown of fire ants especially foragers, due to added quick acting pyrethroids in formulation. Granular formulations are not consumed by ants. A granular formulation is one in which the insecticide, a contact insecticide, is coated onto a granule of clay or other material. Fertilizers, for instance, are often formulated as granulars. Following application, the contact insecticide must be released from the granule by allowing water to dissolve and disperse the clay, leaving behind a insecticide residual that kills insect when they come in contact with it. Watering in a granular formulation is necessary, but watering in a bait granule will ruin the bait.

Unlike fipronil baits, fipronil contact granules show true residual fire ant control for up to a year in many cases. Colonies moving into a treated area will contact the toxicant and die as if they had been treated. 

High-volume baits

In recent years, several products have emerged that allow homeowners to use common, push-type fertil­izer spreaders to apply fire ant bait. These products contain the same active ingredient as their parent product, but you apply much more actual bait for the same amount of active ingredient. These products may give more convenient and accurate applications for typical homeowners, but be aware that they cost considerably more than their parent products to treat the same amount of area. The effectiveness is similar.

Mixing bait with fertilizer

Buying a special spreader or mixing bait and fertil­izer to save a trip across the field are not suggested practices. However, recent field research and grower practice have shown good results if the bait and fertil­izer are mixed in the field and applied immediately. The longer a bait is in contact with fertilizer, the greater the chance of it not working because of salt contamination and unpalatability to the ants.

If you choose to mix bait and fertilizer, start with a small area and see if the bait works before risking the cost of a large treatment.

The latest news

Fire ant product availability and labeling commonly change several times each year. There is no practical way to keep such information current in a printed document, but there is a great need to keep it avail­able. The most up-to-date information on available fire ant bait products can be found in the publication The Latest Broadcast on Fire Ant Control.


The products listed have been found to reduce the number of fire ant colonies compared to those in untreated plots in repli­cated scientific tests conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and agencies in other states. Specific products are listed as a service to the reader. The lists of products here and on the companion Web site are not comprehensive. Neither eXtension, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center nor other cooperating organizations endorse or discourage the use of any product mentioned. Product brand names are the registered trademarks of their respective companies.



Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Paul R. Nester, Extension Program Specialist, 

Robert T. Puckett, Assistant Professor and Extension Entomologist

Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Kathy Flanders, Extension Entomologist and Professor,

Kelly Palmer, Animal Sciences and Forages Regional Extension Agent

Fudd Graham, Research Fellow IV

University of Georgia and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service

Dan Suiter, Professor

Tim Davis, Ph.D.,  Chatham County Extenson Coordinator

Karen Vail
Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist,
University of Tennessee Extension

University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service

John Hopkins, Associate Professor and Extension Entomologist

Kelly Loftin, Extension Entomologist

Louisiana State University AgCenter

Dennis Ring, Entomologist, Extension Specialist, Professor


This content was originally published as E-268 by the Southern Region IPM Center. Funding for this publication was originally provided by the Southern Region IPM Center and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.


Fire Ant Control (Management)

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 19:33

Hand held bait spreader How to Kill Fire Ants

Find out where fire ants came from, where you find them now, and whether fire ants are good or bad. Then we'll show you how to get rid of fire ants using safe pest management practices and science-backed methods for fire ant control.  Learn how understanding the biology of fire ants leads to cost effective, safe ways to kill fire ants that are far more effective than home remedies.    Read More >>

    Key Fire Ant Control Publications


Fire Ant Control Terminology

Learn what the professionals mean when they use fire ant control terms such as management, eradication, integrated pest management (IPM), natural products, fermentation products, organics, and active ingredients.    Read More  >>

IPM for Managing Fire Ants

Integrated Pest Management is a systems approach to managing insect, mite, disease and weed pests. It uses a combination of the most compatible and ecologically sound pest suppression tactics to keep pest populations below levels that cause problems. IPM uses cultural, biological and chemical methods. The goal of IPM strategies for fire ants is to prevent or eliminate problems caused by unacceptably high numbers of fire ants, rather than eliminating all ants from the ecosystem.    Read more >>

The Two-Step Method and Other Approaches

The Two-Step Method of fire ant control is likely to be the most cost-effective and environmentally sound approach to treating medium to large landscape areas. The bait you apply determines how quickly ants will be controlled and how long the effect will last.    Read More  >>

Broadcast Bait Application

Watch these two videos to help you outsmart fire ants, whether in the home landscape or in larger areas. You will find you can save time and money and still get better fire ant control by using broadcast application.   Read More  >>


Dung Beetles: How to Identify and Benefit from Nature’s Pooper Scoopers

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 20:14

eOrganic authors:

Matthew S. Jones, Washington State University

William E. Snyder, Wasnington State University


Many organic vegetable farmers apply composted manure to enhance soil fertility, and some include livestock in their farming operations. All farms are visited by birds, deer, or other wildlife—all of which represent routes for animal feces to come in contact with fresh produce. This poses a risk to food safety in the rare cases that these feces are contaminated with human pathogens such as harmful strains of Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, or Escherichia coli (Behling, 2010; Rasmussen and Casey, 2001). In turn, outbreaks of foodborne pathogens endanger human health and bring financial and legal risks to growers (Beretti and Stuart, 2008).

Fortunately, nature has provided a poop removal crew that can quickly remove fresh feces before it has a chance to contaminate produce. These creatures can also speed the release of plant-available nutrients contained in animal manure. Key among these are the dung beetles (families Scarabaeidae and Geotrupidae), who specialize in consuming fresh feces as larvae and adults. These insects play an important role in manure processing by consuming, burying, and breaking up the waste that both livestock and wildlife may deposit on farms (Doube, 1990; Menéndez et al., 2016). Here we focus on the benefits of dung beetles to vegetable and pasture production, the beetles’ feeding behaviors, and how to recognize a few key species likely to be seen on West Coast farms. Additionally, we make suggestions for how farmers can conserve dung beetles to maximize the many benefits that they offer. 

Benefits of Dung Beetles

Dung beetles offer numerous benefits, including:

Suppression of human and livestock pathogens: By feeding on fresh feces and using it to provision their nests, dung beetles suppress dung-dwelling human and livestock parasites and pathogens (Nichols et al., 2008). Indeed, calves grazing on pasture with healthy dung beetle populations can have 75% fewer parasites (Fincher, 1975). Likewise, dung beetles can also kill pathogenic E. coli when they bury dung (Jones et al., 2015), making it less likely for these pathogens to contaminate produce. By eating both parasites and human pathogens, dung beetles can greatly improve human and livestock health. It should be noted that dung beetles feed on fresh feces, so pathogens found in improperly composted manure may be less likely to be consumed by dung beetles.

Improved soil hydrological properties: Many dung beetle species bury dung under the soil as food for their larvae (see Feeding Behavior below). This digging activity creates holes in the soil that increases permeability, aerating the soil (Bang et al., 2005) and allowing water to soak in instead of running off the surface (Brown et al., 2010).

Enhanced soil nutrient cycling: By burying freshly-deposited feces, dung beetles move nutrient-rich organic material to where plant roots can reach it and where it can feed other beneficial soil organisms (Bang et al., 2005; Manning et al., 2016). This also instigates micro-organismal and chemical changes in the upper soil layers, which accelerates ammonification, nitrification, denitrification, and nitrogen (N2) fixation (Yokoyama et al., 1991).

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: By aerating and burying cattle dung pats on pasture, Slade et al. (2016) found that dung beetles could lower emission of the important greenhouse gas methane by up to 12%. Unfortunately, this same study found that conventional feedlots had few dung beetles, minimally reducing greenhouse gas by as little as 0.05%.

Reduced populations of pest flies: Some dung-breeding flies are pests of cattle, feeding on blood or around the cows’ eyes, mouth, and nostrils (Haufe, 1987). These pests retard cattle growth and are expensive to control (Byford et al., 1992). Fortunately, dung beetles can bury feces before fly eggs and larvae have a chance to develop (Bishop et al., 2005). This means that dung beetles are important natural controls of pest flies.

Feeding Behavior

Dung beetles have three different lifestyles: rollers (telecoprids), tunnelers (paracoprids), and dwellers (endocoprids) (Fig. 1). Rollers form the pat into balls that are rolled to a suitable site and buried. Tunnelers consume the dung pat and burrow into the soil beneath the pat. Manure dwellers consume the manure pat and deposit their eggs either in the same place or in the soil adjacent to the pat.

Figure 1. Cross section of a dung pat showing the three dung beetle nesting types: dwellers, tunnelers, or rollers. Photo Credit: Kevin Floate, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, 2011.

Figure 2. The tumblebug (Canthon imitator) is a good example of a roller (telecoprid) species. Photo Credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org.

Figure 3. Holes like this in cattle manure indicate dung beetle feeding. Photo Credit: Debra Murphy, realagriculture.com.


Many of the same chemicals used to kill internal parasites of conventional livestock also harm or kill dung beetles (O'Hea et al., 2010; Beynon et al., 2012; Floate et al., 2005; Verdú et al., 2015). This means that producers trying to kill harmful livestock parasites with chemicals may also be accidentally killing beneficial dung beetles (Wall and Strong, 1987). While organic farmers are allowed to vaccinate livestock, the routine use of antibiotics, harmful to dung beetles, is prohibited. Eliminating these chemicals by farming organically is a great way to conserve dung beetles and maximize the benefits these beetles offer.

For organic farmers wanting to maximize the benefits of dung beetles, a few guidelines are:

  • Take care not to overgraze pastures, which may reduce vegetation cover and increase soil exposure, and has been shown to result in high soil loss and compaction (Negro et al., 2011). This may directly disturb dung beetles, modify their habitat, or influence microhabitat requirements for larval development of the different functional groups—especially telecoprids and paracoprids—which require specific soil characteristics for burying dung and building nests (Bertone et al., 2006; Negro et al., 2011).
  • If possible, maintain a diversity of ungulate species, which will increase dung beetle diversity and improve dung decomposition (Hutton and Giller, 2003).

For conventional farmers contemplating a transition to organic production and conventional farmers interested in reducing their impact on dung beetles, a few guidelines are:

  • Rotate stock around fields and allow fields to fallow three weeks between grazing of the same animal species to help break parasite cycles in fields without using chemicals.
  • Treat only livestock known to have parasites, rather than using preventative antibiotic treatments.
  • Use chemicals less toxic to dung beetles, especially when cattle are out on pasture. See Beynon (2016) for more guidance on how to do this.
  • Do not under-dose animals. Parasiticides are not effective unless the right dose is applied.
  • Do not move treated animals onto fresh pasture immediately after treatment, and always ensure there is some untreated dung for beetles to eat.
Identification of Common Species

Figure 4. Canthon simplex (LeConte, 1857), commonly known as a “Tumblebug,” is a roller (telecoprid) species that is 5-9mm long. This species is plain black and very smooth. Also look for the serrated edge on the front of its head (as seen in the photo). This species can be found during the spring and summer throughout most of the U.S. West Coast. More info can be found at: http://www.americaninsects.net/b/canthon-simplex.html. Photo Credit: Gary Griswold, bugguide.net.

Figure 5. Onthophagus taurus (Schreber 1759), commonly known as the “Bull Headed Dung Beetle,” is a tunneler (paracoprid) species that is 6.0-11.5mm long. This species is all black, sometimes with a greenish sheen. Males often have a pair of long horns sweeping back off their head (like a bull). This species can be found from spring through autumn throughout the United States. More information about this species can be found at: http://bugguide.net/node/view/23972. Photo Credit: Frank Guarnieri, bugguide.net.

Figure 6. Onthophagus nuchicornis (Linnaeus 1758) is a tunneler (paracoprid) species that is 6-8mm long. This species has a gold back speckled with black dots. Males often have a single spine-like horn and females have a ridge across the base of their head. This species can be found from early spring until late autumn from southern Oregon (United States) to Canada, as well as in northern latitudes across the United States. More information can be found at: http://bugguide.net/node/view/29475. Photo Credit: Emmy Engasser, Hawaiian Scarab ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org.

Figure 7. Aphodius fimetarius (Linnaeus, 1758) is a dweller (endocoprid) species that is 5-8mm in length. This species has ribbed, bright orange-red outer wings with a black head and thorax. This species is most likely to be found in the spring and autumn throughout the United States. More information can be found at: http://www.thewcg.org.uk/scarabaeidae/0003G.htm. Photo Credit: Emmy Engasser, Hawaiian Scarab ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org.

Additional Resources

Team Scarab at the University of Nebraska State Museum is the absolute taxonomic guru for help identifying obscure and interesting dung beetles. They maintain a large portion of the Smithsonian Museum’s dung beetle collection and can be found at: http://museum.unl.edu/research/entomology/index.htm.

Information regarding other (non-dung-feeding) beneficial beetles can be found at: http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/ground-beetles.

References and Citations 
  • Arnett, R. H., M. C. Thomas, P. E. Skelley, and J. H. Frank (eds.). 2002. American beetles. Volume 2: Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
  • Bang H. S., J-H. Lee, O. S. Kwon, Y. E. Na, Y. S. Janga, and W. H. Kim. 2005. Effects of paracoprid dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) on the growth of pasture herbage and on the underlying soil. Applied Soil Ecology 29: 165—171. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apsoil.2004.11.001 (verified 2 Oct 2017).
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  • Floate, K. D. 2011. Arthropods in cattle dung on Canada's grasslands. p. 71—88. In K. D. Floate (ed.) Arthropods of Canadian grasslands (Volume 2): Inhabitants of a changing landscape. Biological Survey of Canada. (Available online at: http://biologicalsurvey.ca/monographs/read/17 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Floate, K. D., K. G. Wardhaugh, A.B.A. Boxall, and T. N. Sherratt. 2005. Fecal residues of veterinary parasiticides: Nontarget effects in the pasture environment. Annual Review of Entomology 50: 153–79. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.ento.50.071803.130341 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Haufe, W. O. 1987. Host–parasite interaction of blood feeding dipterans in health and productivity of mammals. International Journal of Parasitology 17: 607–614. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1016/0020-7519(87)90137-8 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Hutton, S. A., and P. S. Giller. 2003. The effects of the intensification of agriculture on northern temperate dung beetle communities. Journal of Applied Ecology 40:994–1007. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2003.00863.x (verified 3 Oct 2017)
  • Jones, M. S., S. Tadepalli, D. F. Bridges, V.C.H. Wu, and F. A. Drummond. 2015. Suppression of Escherichia coli O157:H7 by dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) using the lowbush blueberry agroecosystem as a model system. PLoS ONE 10: e0120904. (Available online at:
  • Manning, P., E. M. Slade, S. A. Beynon, and O. T. Lewis. 2016. Functionally rich dung beetle assemblages are required to provide multiple ecosystem services. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment: 218: 87–94. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2015.11.007 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Menéndez, R., P. Webb, and K. H. Orwin. 2016. Complementarity of dung beetle species with different functional behaviours influence dung–soil carbon cycling. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 92: 142–148. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soilbio.2015.10.004 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Negro, M., A. Rolando, and C. Palestrini. 2011. The impact of overgrazing on dung beetle diversity in the Italian Maritime Alps. Environmental Entomology 40: 1081–1092. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1603/EN11105 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Nichols, E., S. Spector, J. Louzada, T. Larsen, S. Amezquita, and M. E. Favila. 2008. Ecological functions and ecosystem services provided by Scarabaeinae dung beetles. Biological Conservation 141: 1461–1474. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2008.04.011 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • O'Hea, N. M., L. Kirwan, P. S. Giller, and J. A. Finn. 2010. Lethal and sublethal effects of ivermectin on north temperate dung beetles, Aphodius ater and Aphodius rufipes (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Insect Conservation and Diversity 3: 24–33. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-4598.2009.00068.x (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Rasmussen, M. A. and T. A. Casey. 2001. Environmental and food safety aspects of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections in cattle. Critical Reviews in Microbiology 27:57–73. (Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/20014091096701 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Slade, E. M., T. Riutta, T. Roslin, and H. L. Tuomisto. 2016. The role of dung beetles in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cattle farming. Scientific Reports 6: 18140. (Available online at: 10.1038/srep18140 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Verdú, J. R., V. Cortez, A. J. Ortiz, E. González-Rodríguez, J. Martinez-Pinna, J.-P. Lumaret. 2015. Low doses of ivermectin cause sensory and locomotor disorders in dung beetles. Scientific Reports 5: 13912. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1038/srep13912 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Wall, R. and L. Strong. 1987. Environmental consequences of treating cattle with the antiparasitic drug ivermectin. Nature 327: 418–421. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1038/327418a0 (verified 3 Oct 2017).
  • Yokoyama, K., K. Hideaki, and T. Hirofumi. 1991. Paracoprid dung beetles and gaseous loss of nitrogen from cow dung. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 23: 643–647. (Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1016/0038-0717(91)90077-W (verified 3 Oct 2017).


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 23262

Live Broadcast: Organic Soil Health Research Special Session at the Tri-Societies Conference

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 16:12

eOrganic is partnering with the Organic Farming Research Foundation to bring you a live online broadcast of the Special Session on Organic Soil Health Research at the Tri-Societies (ASA, CSSA and SSSA) Annual Meeting on October 25, 2017. The session lasts 2.5 hours, and takes place on Wednesday, October 25, 2017: 9:30 AM-11:35 AM Eastern Time (830AM Central, 730AM Mountain, 630AM Pacific Time).

The session will also be recorded and archived at eXtension.org and on the eOrganic YouTube channel. The online broadcast is free and open to the public, and advance registration is required. Because this takes place at an in-person conference, the exact program, speakers and start times may be subject to change! 

Register for the online broadcast at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3992871364361428227

Organic Soil Health Research Special Session Program

Interest in and research results related to understanding soil health and management has been identified by researchers and farmers as the highest priority by the OFRF and other surveys conducted in the last two years. (National Organic Research Agenda, 2016) Soil erosion costs $400 billion/year globally and decreases productivity by $37.6 billion/year in the U.S. Excessive tillage and use of synthetic materials can destroy soil structure and interfere with microbial and root exudates. Nutrient retention and soil carbon improves soil organic matter and plant growth. There is a critical need to improve soil health in all agricultural systems and at a minimum maintain and decrease soil loss and increase ecosystem services provided by healthy soils. This symposium will bring together researchers, extension, farmers and other organic agriculture stakeholders to provide current information on applicable research results. Nine issues have been identified ranging from effects of cover corps, compost and rotation, insect and disease management interactions with soil biology, urban environments, to influence of soil management practices on economic returns and best ways to disseminate information to producers. Research results are applicable to organic and conventional production systems to improve sustainability and profit. This Special Session is being organized by Diana Jerkins of the OFRF, and will be presented in conjunction with co-sponsors Organic Management Systems Community and Soil Health Community, and co-project leaders, Danielle Treadwell, University of Florida and Marty Mesh, Florida Organic Growers.

930AM (Note: all times listed here are Eastern Time)
Introductory Remarks

9:35 AM
Setting and Exceeding Benchmarks for Soil Health on Diversified Organic Vegetable Farms. Abstract
John Franklin Egan, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture; Helen Kollar-McArthur, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture; Dan Dalton, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture; Kristy Borrelli, The Pennsylvania State University; Charlie White, Pennsylvania State University

9:50 AM
Comparison of Reduced Tillage Practices for Small-Scale Organic Vegetable Production. Abstract
Ryan Maher, Cornell University; Anu Rangarajan, Cornell University; Mark Hutton, University of Maine Cooperative Extension; Brian Caldwell, Cornell University; Mark L. Hutchinson, University of Maine Cooperative Extension; Nicholas Rowley, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

10:05 AM
Using Mycorrhizal Fungi to Improve Soil Health and Increase Yield in Organic Vegetable Farms. Abstract
Pushpa Soti, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Alexis Racelis, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

10:20 AM
Effects of Soil Balancing Treatments on Soils, Crops and Pests in Organically Managed Farms. Abstract
Andrea Leiva Soto, The Ohio State University; Steve Culman, Ohio State University; Warren A Dick, Ohio State University; Matthew Kleinhenz, The Ohio State University; Catherine Herms, The Ohio State University; Douglas Doohan, The Ohio State University

10:35 AM
Organic Agriculture's Ongoing Contribution to Soil Health and the Oeconomy. Abstract
Michelle Wander, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

10:50 AM
Optimizing Nitrogen Management on Organic and Biologically-Intensive Farms. Abstract
Douglas P. Collins, Washington State University; Andy Bary, Washington State University

11:05 AM
Soil Health and Organic: Lessons Learned. Abstract
Ben Bowell, Oregon Tilth; Jennifer Kucera, USDA-NRCS

11:20 AM
Influence of Long-Term Organic Cropping Systems on Soil Microbial Population Size and Structure. Abstract
Lea Vereecke, UW Madison; Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Josephine Peigne, ISARA-Lyon

11:35 AM

If you would like to attend the Tri-Societies Annual Meeting in person, find out more and register here.

Funding for this live broadcast is provided by USDA NIFA OREI.

System Requirements

View detailed system requirements here. Please connect to the webinar 10 minutes in advance, as the webinar program will require you to download software. To test your connection in advance, go here. You can either listen via your computer speakers or call in by phone (toll call). Java needs to be installed and working on your computer to join the webinar. If you are running Mac OSU with Safari, please test your Java at http://java.com/en/download/testjava.jsp prior to joining the webinar, and if it isn't working, try Firefox or Chrome.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 23624

Vaccination against Staphylococcus aureus Mastitis in Dairy Cattle

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 20:13

This article is part of our series of original articles on emerging featured topics. Please check here to see other articles in this series.

Staphylococcus aureus Mastitis

Staphylococcus aureus is a major mastitis pathogen because it can be highly contagious and have a significant impact on farm income. S. aureus primarily causes subclinical intramammary infections (IMI) that often become chronic. It also has a negative economic impact from increased milk somatic cell counts (SCC) and decreased milk production. However, there are regional and herd differences, and in some instances, S. aureus may cause a high rate of clinical mastitis.

Please check this link first if you are interested in organic or specialty dairy production.

As early as the 1960s, numerous researchers established the standards for contagious mastitis control on dairy farms (Davidson, 1961; Wilson and Davidson, 1961; Neave et al., 1966; Dodd et al., 1969; Neave et al., 1969). From this work came the five-point mastitis control program. Implementation of the five-point plan, which was later developed into the National Mastitis Council 10-point mastitis control plan, successfully reduced the prevalence of contagious mastitis on many farms. However, S. aureus can still plague individual farms and significantly impact milk quality (Smith et al., 1998). 

Vaccination against S. aureus mastitis has been studied for many years, but none of the vaccines studied to date have consistently prevented S. aureus infections. The goal of an S. aureus mastitis vaccine should be to prevent new IMI or facilitate clearance of new IMI as soon as possible after infection, thus minimizing cow-to-cow transmission. 


Currently, there are two commercially available S. aureus mastitis bacterins (vaccines) labeled for bovine mastitis. Lysigin® (Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc.) is available in the United States, and Startvac® (Hipra) is available in Europe and Canada. 

Lysigin Lysigin: Early Studies

Lysigin is a multivalent whole cell lysed S. aureus bacterin (a mixture of numerous strains of S. aureus bacteria that have been disintegrated into smaller parts) that contains common varieties of S. aureus that cause mastitis in the United States. Initial studies with Lysigin in experimental infections seemed to help lower clinical mastitis effects, SCC, and the occurrence of infections that became chronic (Williams et al., 1966; 1975).  Nickerson and co-workers (1999) vaccinated heifers with commercially available Lysigin at 6 months of age followed by a booster 2 weeks later and subsequent booster vaccinations every 6 months until calving. Vaccinates had a 45% reduction in both new S. aureus IMI during pregnancy and new S. aureus IMI at calving relative to controls. In addition, vaccinates had a 30% reduction in new coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) IMI which became chronic and a 31% reduction in new CNS IMI at calving relative to controls, providing evidence that Lysigin may be of use in reducing staphylococcal mastitis in heifers vaccinated early in life with frequent follow-up vaccinations.

Lysigin: Recent Studies

More recently, the efficacy of Lysigin was studied in experimental S. aureus infections in heifers (Middleton et al., 2006). All cattle became infected with S. aureus after challenge. Cattle vaccinated with Lysigin had clinical mastitis symptoms that were milder and cleared faster than unvaccinated animals. However, the vaccinated animals did not have lower SCC or greater milk yields than unvaccinated animals. Furthermore, anti-S. aureus antibody levels in milk were not different from control animals, suggesting that vaccination provided minimal immune protection (Luby et al., 2007). In a follow-up field study in milking cows in a herd with 5% of cows infected with S. aureus and 40% of the cows infected with CNS, the vaccine did not reduce the new staphylococcal intramammary infection rate, and the vaccine failed to provide sufficient antibodies in milk to help leukocytes (white blood cells) eliminate staphylococcal bacteria from the mammary gland (Middleton et al., 2009). 

Lysigin: As an Adjunct to Antimicrobial Therapy

Lysigin has also been studied as an adjunct to antimicrobial therapy. In one study, cattle vaccinated with Lysigin and treated with extended intramammary pirlimycin had a higher cure rate than non-treated controls (Smith et al., 2006). However, to determine whether the ability to eliminate S. aureus IMI was the effect of the antimicrobial therapy or vaccine, two other studies evaluated Lysigin in conjunction with extended pirlimycin therapy versus extended pirlimycin therapy alone and showed no differences in cure rates between groups (Luby and Middleton, 2005; Middleton et al., 2007). Thus, cure rates of S. aureus IMI following antimicrobial therapy do not benefit from vaccination with Lysigin. 


Startvac is a multivalent vaccine marketed by Hipra in Europe and Canada (not the United States) that contains inactivated Escherichia coli (J5) and inactivated S. aureus (CP8) SP140 strain expressing slime associated antigenic complex (SAAC). The label indication is to reduce the incidence of subclinical mastitis and decrease the clinical severity of mastitis caused by S. aureus, coliforms, and coagulase-negative staphylococci. Similar to other S. aureus bacterins, Startvac has been shown to stimulate antibody production in blood and decrease inflammation in the mammary gland following experimental challenge with an inactivated strain of S. aureus (Piepers et al., 2012). While vaccination does not completely prevent intramammary infection, results of a recent field trial demonstrate a decreased duration of IMI and decreased transmissibility of infection (Schukken et al., 2014).


Vaccination is not a substitute for excellent milking time hygiene and implementation of the National Mastitis Council 10-point mastitis control program. The vast majority of herds have been able to control contagious mastitis from consistent application of fundamental prevention practices such as milking hygiene, post-milking teat dipping, and dry cow therapy. 

Managing S. aureus mastitis depends on:

  • Following good mastitis prevention protocols
  • The level of infection in a herd
  • The type of strain(s) of S. aureus in the herd:
    • how likely the bacteria can spread from one cow to another
    • whether the strain is able to create chronic infections, and
    • whether the strain is virulent enough to frequently cause clinical mastitis

Use of herd records to determine new infection rates (from DHIA SCC) and response to therapy will be valuable tools in making management decisions. If the S. aureus infections in a herd usually become chronic and don’t respond to treatment, culling or drying off quarters may be the best way to maintain milk quality in the bulk tank. Alternatively, sporadic cases of S. aureus caused by isolates that have no consistent pattern of infection may not have herd-wide implications, and management strategies can be applied at the level of the individually infected cow. Vaccination against S. aureus mastitis often does not prevent IMI but may help reduce the cow-to-cow transmission within a herd, especially if a high number of cows are infected. Repeated vaccination of heifers prior to calving may lower the incidence of staphylococcal IMI, although the impact of this approach will vary greatly depending on the infection level within a herd and must be weighed in terms of labor, risk of antimicrobial residues, and other means of control, including in some areas, control of biting flies. 

Author Information

John R. Middleton, DVM, PhD, DACVIM
University of Missouri


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