We can do something about fire ants – Training Professionals and Developing Teaching Materials in Sustainable Fire Ant Management

2001 Annual Report for ES00-050

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2000: $40,155.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $31,775.00
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Kathy Flanders
Auburn University

We can do something about fire ants – Training Professionals and Developing Teaching Materials in Sustainable Fire Ant Management


The goal of this proposal is to provide training on sustainable, site specific management of imported fire ants. Site-specific fire ant management makes the most efficient use of on-farm and public resources. An in-service training session instructed Alabama Cooperative Extension System agents and key farmers in fire ant biology and sustainable fire ant management. These trainees, in cooperation with the project participants, have developed the following educational materials to promote sustainable fire ant management: A video, two PowerPoint presentations, four posters, two types of fire ant mound models, and an acrylic mount showing fire ant castes. In 2002, the major participants and twenty-five county Extension agents will use the materials to instruct other trainers and key stakeholders.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Conduct a hands-on in-service training session for 40 county agents and farmers on fire ant biology and sustainable management . Based on prior in-service sessions, we expect that pre-training and post-training tests will show that that we have increased by 20-25% the knowledge level of this first tier of trainers.

The major participants and first tier of trainees will work together to prepare fire ant teaching materials. We expect to develop a video, a slide set, an interactive CD-ROM, educational posters, preserved specimens of fire ants, and a model of a fire ant mound. This participatory training method will further increase the knowledge base of these trainers.

The major participants and tier 1 trainees will use the newly developed teaching materials to instruct a second tier of trainers and stakeholders, including additional county agents, farmers’ cooperative personnel, Master Gardeners, turfgrass managers, building industry personnel, and Christmas tree growers. We expect to hold approximately 30 training sessions.


In 2001, our team developed a set of four posters, two types of fire ant mound models, two Powerpoint presentations, and an acrylic mount showing different kinds of fire ants. This was in addition to the fire ant videotape, which was completed in 2000. Twenty-five county Cooperative Extension agents have volunteered to conduct training sessions for other trainers in 2002, using the SARE educational materials.

Powerpoint Presentations and Slide Sets

Powerpoint presentations are available at each county Cooperative Extension Office. These presentations are useful for civic clubs and similar organizations. They are also useful for middle school and high school-age students. There are extensive notes that provide background information for use in making the presentations. There are two different presentations:

Managing Imported Fire Ant Problems in Agricultural Areas (38 slides)
Managing Imported Fire Ant Problems in Urban Areas (37 slides)


Posters (36″ X 42″) are available at 14 county Extension Offices. There are four posters, each covering a different topic. These posters are useful for civic clubs and similar organizations. They are also useful for middle school and high school-age students. They work well as fair exhibits, because they are self explanatory. The four posters are:

Fire Ant Biology: Colony Establishment
Fire Ant Biology: Life in the Mound
Biological Control of Fire Ants Using Phorid Flies
Using Baits to Manage Fire Ants

Models of a Fire Ant Mound

The mound models are useful for various presentations and exhibits. They work extremely well in presentations to elementary school children. Felt models (27″ X 36″) are available at 8 county Extension Offices. Program participants can apply the appropriate labels to different parts of the mound, and position queen and worker ants in different spots around the mound. Three-dimensional models of a fire ant mound will be available at 7 county offices by Feb. 1, 2002. These models are made of clear plexiglass, so one can see underground, by peeling away the “dirt.”

Fire Ant Circles

Fire ant circles are 1.5 X 3″ acrylic mounts containing examples of the different kinds of adult fire ants. Five county Cooperative Extension offices have an ant circle.

In-Service Training Session

At the request of the county Cooperative Extension Agents, we conducted an In-Service training session in June 2001. The topic was how to conduct a fire ant demonstration. A makeup session was held in July 2001 for agents who were unable to attend the June training. Participants received hands on training on how to establish and evaluate field demonstrations in their county. The agenda for each training is attached. In total, 29 county agents attended the training sessions.

The Effect of the April 2000 Fire Ant In-Service Training Session: Results of the One Year Post-training Evaluation

County agents who attended the fire ant in-service training session in April 2000 went back to their counties and conducted fire ant education projects. They were guest speakers at meetings of civic clubs, AARP, the Christian Women’s Association, and an extended day program. Special programs organized by the county agents reached elementary school children, master gardeners, 4-H students, cattle producers, and the general public. These agents trained at least 4000 people about fire ants in the year following the in-service training session. Newspaper articles and radio spots reached an estimated 25,500 people. 16 of the 19 agents indicated that their fire ant educational activities had increased in the year following the in-service training. The county agents were given the same test that they took before and immediately after the April 2000 training session. After one year, the knowledge level of the county agents was 12% higher than before the April 2001 training.

Training Activities by the Project Participants

The project participants (Flanders, Graham, Ward, Ward, and Creel) conducted two In-Service training sessions for county Cooperative Extension agents (see above and Appendix).

In addition, Dr. Kathy Flanders used the SARE felt mound model to train approximately 60 supervisors and continuing education coordinators from nursing homes in southeastern Alabama. She used the PowerPoint presentations to teach fifty Certified Crop Advisers (CCA’s) about fire ants. Copies of the presentations and the SARE fire ant videotape available to those CCA’s who wanted them. The mound model was used at a training session at the Alabama Association of Urban Foresters, which was attended by 10-15 Urban Foresters. The SARE posters and the SARE felt mound model were also used at the Winfield Agorama, attended by 300 members of the general public, and at the Ogletree Elementary School’s Bug-Out, attended by 300 elementary school children.

Since the beginning of the SARE project in June 2000, Dr. Lawrence Graham has been invited to teach the following groups of trainers and leaders about fire ants: Natural Resources Conservation Service Research Committee, the Alabama Pest Control Association, the Alabama Vector Management Society, the Alabama Turfgrass Association, the Small Cemetery and Funeral Management Association, and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. He has also made presentations at the Progressive Farmer Farm Safety Day Camp in Lineville, Alabama, the Montgomery Co. Natural Resources Planning Committee Annual Natural Resource Tour and Fish Fry, the Auburn University Turf Unit field day, the Auburn Rhododendron Club, and at fire ant education meetings held in Limestone, Morgan, and Marshall Counties. More details on these training activities and how the SARE materials were used are provided in the Appendix. The SARE posters and the ant circles were part of a fire ant exhibit used at the Alabama National Fair, the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo (see photo 1), and the Auburn University College of Agriculture Ag Roundup.

Selected Examples of How SARE Training Materials Were Used by County Agents in 2001

The fire ant video was used by County Extension Agent Jimmy Jones in Henry County, to make presentations to the Extension Homemakers, two groups of senior citizens, and a neighborhood association.

The Powerpoint presentations were modified by County Extension Agent Henry Dorough in Talladega County for use in teaching high school students and Kiwanis Club members about fire ants. As more county agents have access to computer projectors, they are able to customize materials for their particular audiences. We plan to provide county agents with 35 mm slides for each presentation, if they request it. But we anticipate many agents will be like Mr. Dorough, and create their own PowerPoint presentations based on the materials we have provided.

County Extension Agent Jay Conway in Cullman Co. used the fire ant posters and the felt mound model for presentations to 2,300 4-H members in 68 club meetings.

County Extension Agent Marla Faver in Baldwin Co., assisted by her Master Gardener volunteers, created an exhibit booth at the county fair (see photo 2) and at two coastal living seminars. She used the ant circle, the posters, and the felt mound model in the display.

Interstate Cooperation

We distributed the fire ant video to fire ant researchers and educators at the 2001 Imported Fire Ant meeting in San Antonio, Texas, in February, 2001. The meeting was attended by representatives of all the fire ant infested states. The Texas Imported Fire Ant Management Plan adapted our videotape for Texas, and issued it to all the county Cooperative Extension offices in Texas. The Texas Imported Fire Ant Management Plan also intends to produce the video in Spanish. We have provided extra raw footage from our video that will be needed to complete this videotape. The SARE materials were presented at the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America in December, 2001. At that meeting, the PowerPoint presentations and electronic copies of the poster were provided to fire ant educators and researchers from Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Hawaii. In spring 2002, the SARE fire ant materials will be presented at the 2002 Imported Fire Ant meeting in Athens, Georgia, in March 2002. Electronic copies of the PowerPoint presentations and the posters will be distributed to representatives from each red imported fire ant-infested state.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The tiered training system, where project participants train level one trainers, who then train more trainers (level two) will maximize the impact of this project. We know that something can be done about fire ants. We have the tools to make fire ants easier to live with. As a result of this project, the quality of life of farmers and of society as a whole will be enhanced by reducing the impact of fire ants on humans, livestock, and wildlife.

We expect the multi-institutional partnership to endure beyond the life of the project, and that the general level of knowledge about fire ants and their management will increase as a result of this project.


Rufina Navasero Ward

Research Assistant Professor
Alabama A & M University
Department of Plant and Soil Sciences
P. O. Box 1208
Normal, AL 35806
Office Phone: 2568584244
Kenneth Creel

County Extension Agent, Madison County
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Charles Stone Agricultural Service Center
819 Cook Avenue
Huntsville, AL 35801
Office Phone: 2565321578
Lawrence (Fudd) Graham

Alabama Fire Ant Management Program Coordinator
Auburn University
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology
301 Funchess Hall
Auburn University, AL 36849-5413
Office Phone: 3348442563
Kenneth Ward

Associate Professor of Forest IPM
Alabama A & M University
Department of Plant and Soil Sciences
P. O. Box 1208
Normal, AL 35762
Office Phone: 2568584249