It’s that time of year. Time to begin controlling fire ants, or what I call our annual “Fire Ant Dance.”

In South Carolina, we don’t just think, we know we can dance. However, many think the shag and the Charleston are the only original South Carolina dances, forgetting other state classics like the S.C. Shuffle. It’s similar to the hustle but can be done individually or in mass, varies in form from one person to the next, and most important, prevents one from standing too long on a fire ant mound. Next, we shouldn’t forget the simple but effective South Carolina Jig, widely used by folks of all ages who have yet to learn the Shuffle. And I’d be remiss to mention the somewhat embarrassing but still performed South Carolina Strip.

Rounding out the list is the South Carolina Trot which is much faster than the fox trot and is seen when folks are too embarrassed to do the South Carolina Strip in public.

When it comes to fire ant control, we South Carolinians need to learn a few more dances. First, my favorite, and the one I use on my own yard, the South Carolina Two-Step. It is a simple but effective technique of managing fire ants. I use the word “manage” instead of “control” because many, especially new transplants to South Carolina, may misinterpret it and think we can in some magical way totally control fire ants and the problem is solved.

It is sad but true that when living in South Carolina fire ant management must be done on a continual basis. As the name implies the South Carolina Two-Step consists of two basic maneuvers. The first step, which I began in my own yard this past week since I saw the first fire ant mound of the season, is the broadcast application of a bait-type fire ant formula in the spring and again in the fall. These bait formulations are available in many brand names from many companies including Amdro, Spectracide, Extinquish, Enforcer, Esteem, Hi-Yield, Scotts, and Ortho. The important thing is to make sure you are buying a “BAIT” formulation.

Two weeks after the application of the broadcast bait treatment we begin employing the second step, which is individual mound treatments with direct applications of a quick-kill product. In other words, we allow the bait treatments to work and then start treating mounds that escaped the bait treatment. Individual quick-kill mound treatments also come in many brand names.

Next, many prefer to use the South Carolina One-Step. The One-Step is a relatively new dance in which a control product is applied to the entire property and usually watered in to control ants that are present and others that will move into the area. These products, which are usually more expensive, are usually applied at much higher rates and in a more uniform pattern. Many people choose these products because many are guaranteed to control all fire ants for a certain length of time if applied correctly.

Many folks allow a professional to complete these techniques by going straight to the South Carolina Easy. In this dance the owner allows a certified pesticide applicator to cut-in and handle the fire ant control on his property. An important step with this dance is to make sure the company you hire has a commercial pesticide applicator license, insurance, and the proper city/county license.

Finally, farmers usually must do the Farmer Hoedown in crop fields. I guess it is called this because they must drop their hoes and get-down (ha). Farmers have an added wrinkle because they can only apply products labeled for the crop within the labeled application window. Many label insecticides will also control fire ants if applied by the label. Also, baits like Extinquish and Esteem are labeled to use in certain crops.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer. Email Melton at amelton@clemson.edu.