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

2004 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

Summary

This project was designed to teach the principles of sustainable, site specific management of imported fire ants. Site-specific management makes the most efficient use of on-farm and public resources. Fire ants affect nearly everyone in Alabama. They can adversely affect our health, our agriculture, our wildlife, and our environment. It has been estimated that fire ants cost Alabamians $175,000,000 per year. Fire ant management is frequently crisis oriented, relying on the use of harsh chemical insecticides. As a rule, people spend too much money, too much time, and use too many pesticides trying to control fire ants. Environmentally safe fire ant products are currently available for use. However, they are often applied improperly. A sustainable approach to fire ant management can make fire ants easier to live with, while reducing social, economic, and environmental costs.
The goal of this project is to increase the general level of knowledge about fire ant management by 20-25%. A tiered training approach has been used. In 2000, forty county agents were trained in fire ant management. In 2001, educational publications and teaching materials were developed with input from these county agents (www.aces.edu/dept/fireants). For 2002, we trained the next tier of trainers, who we are calling fire ant management advisors. By teaching those who are likely to pass on their knowledge, we multiply our training efforts and dollars. In 2003, we continued our education efforts in fire ant management. In 2004, SARE project participants and level one trainers continued to conduct fire ant education programs. In addition, they shifted their emphasis toward hands-on, field demonstrations of bait-baised fire ant management programs.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  • Complete PowerPoint Presentations on fire ant management and ant identification.

    Provide updates on fire ant management to participants of previous training sessions.

    Train new fire ant advisers.

Accomplishments/Milestones

In 2004, the final year of the project, principal investigators and county Extension agents continued to train new fire ant advisers. Educational programs were conducted for master gardeners, cattlemen, garden club members, civic clubs, youth, and other Extension agents. Fire ant management was also discussed at some restricted-use pesticide training sessions.

A new fact sheet, Fire Ant Management in Cattle Operations, was published as a joint publication of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Texas Cooperative Extension Service. Results of a March 2004 survey of retail stores were published in April, “2004 Fire Ant Control Materials for Homeowners.”

Fire ant educational materials, including current versions of all the circulars, are available on the web page www.aces.edu/dept/fireants. Streaming video versions of fire ants videos produced in Alabama, as well as from other states, were added to the web site this year.
PowerPoint Presentations on fire ant biology, and on ant identification, were produced in cooperation with Alabama A&M University. They were sent to all county Extension offices, and to stakeholders at other southeastern Universities. These presentations have been used by the county Extension agents in fire ant education meetings, along with those produced in previous years.
Information packets on fire ants were sent to 690 stakeholders who had attended our fire ant train-the-trainer meetings in FY2002 and FY 2003. These stakeholders included master gardeners, certified crop advisers, cattlemen, and pesticide dealers. These packets provided the latest updates of our fire ant fact sheets.

On July 19-20, 20 Alabama Cooperative Extension System agents and five other stakeholders attended an In-Service Training that emphasized a bait-based approach to fire ant management. The workshop provided updates on new fire ant control materials, and information on how to set up a fire ant management demonstration. Most of the time was spent on getting the most out of a fire ant bait – application timing, choosing the right product, and most importantly, how to calibrate the bait spreader to deliver the correct amount of bait. David Herd, President, Herd Seeder Co., trained the attendees on how to set up and use a Herd Seeder to spread fire ant bait. Eighteen seeders are now available in Alabama for Extension agents and other stakeholders to use in applying fire ant bait.

Youth programs that featured fire ants and their management were conducted in Bullock and Baldwin, counties. Field demonstrations were conducted (Cleburne Co, Tallaposa Co., Etowah Co., Houston Co. (2), Henry Co. (2), Lee Co. (2), and Calhoun Co.) at sites such as nurseries, festival grounds, botanical gardens, pecan orchards, home lawns, and cattle ranches. All of these demonstrations used a sustainable, bait-based, approach. Agents prepared newspaper articles and conducted radio spots on fire ant management

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The tiered-training system, where project participants train level one trainers, who will then train more trainers(level 2) has been very successful. Our level one trainers take on more responsibility each year, and are finding new ways to use the materials developed in the course of this project. For example, in 2005, several of trainers are organizing a regional fire ant management workshop. 32 Alabama Cooperative Extension Ssytem agents are planning fire ant education programs for 2005.

The materials have been so successful that we are continuing to use them, well past the original planned dates of the grant (2001-2002). We are in the process of updating the fire ant video and the PowerPoint demonstrations.

We documented that our projects increased the general level of knowledge of fire ant management by 29%, exceeding our goal of 20-25%. We estimate that stakeholders save about $1 million each year, by adopting sustainable fire ant management practices. The quality of life for farmers and for society as a whole has been enhanced by reducing the impact of fire ants on humans, livestock, and wildlife.

Collaborators:

Rufina Navasero Ward

rward@aamu.edu
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

kcreel@aces.edu
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

fgraham@acesag.auburn.edu
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

aamkew01@asnaam.aamu.edu
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