Fire ant baits are considered safe for humans and most animals. The bait used to treat fire ants is specifically targeted to kill ants.
Fire ant baits are considered safe for bees. The bait used to treat fire ants is specifically targeted to kill ants.
We use 2 types of bait in our fight to eradicate fire ants.
Insect growth regulator (IGR) baits
Bees are adept at foraging for nectar and pollen from specific sources. Because bees feed on nectar and pollen, they are unlikely to choose to feed on the bait and are unlikely to mistake a bait grain for pollen. The bait uses soybean oil (a protein) as an attractant and does not contain sucrose or similar substances, meaning it would not be attractive to bees.
The structure of the bait grain makes it impossible for a bee to accidentally consume it—the bee’s mouthparts are shaped like a straw, and they are unable to remove the insect growth regulator (IGR) from the bait granule.
This bait contains either indoxacarb or a combination of hydramethylnon and pyriproxyfen.
Indoxacarb can be dangerous to foraging bees where liquid applications have been applied, such as to control insect pests on leafy crops and in orchards. Advion Fire Ant Bait is granular, not liquid, so bees cannot be directly exposed to the active ingredient compared to a spray formula.
Pyriproxyfen has low toxicity to bees and treatment is not a serious concern for beekeepers.
Bees are unlikely to be exposed to the active ingredients in the bait through drinking water. Pyriproxyfen has very low solubility and does not dissolve readily in water. Because of this, concentrations of the active ingredient over a treated area are so low that any pyriproxyfen which may become suspended in a water supply would be negligible.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that pyriproxyfen is practically non-toxic to bees (EPA environmental fate report, May 2000 ).
Fire ant threat to beehives
Fire ants pose a serious health risk to beehives. They raid honey beehives and rob them of stored honey, pollen, larvae and pupae. This has a devastating impact on the colony. Fire ants also compete with bees for nectar from flowers and extrafloral nectaries.
Study: Bee colonies and fire ant treatment in the United States (US)
In the US, beekeepers spend approximately A$16 per colony on control measures against fire ants (Wylie & Janssen, May 2016). The insecticides used to control fire ants in the US are much more toxic than the baits that we use in Australia.
Read more about the study on bumblebee colonies and feeding them with pyriproxyfen (De Wael et al. 1995)