|Fire ants and other ants are attracted to the warmth and electrical fields associated with outdoor electrical equipment. This electrical insulation has been chewed and wires bared by fire ants.|
One of the oft-forgotten benefits of having a professional service controlling fire ant is the protection of such sensitive equipment. By providing fire ant control in lawns and landscapes, PMPs provide an important first line of defense for electrical equipment. And control of ants in the equipment itself is a useful, and sometimes critical, second line of defense. Fortunately, there effective products for this second approach.
|Pad-mounted electrical transformers (box in foreground) are |
common in residential areas throughout Texas and the
Unfortunately, we're still looking for the perfect product or long-term treatment for fire ant control in electrical equipment. But this doesn't mean that there aren't some helpful products out there. In my research, we found that granular formulations of bifenthrin, tefluthrin and even chlorpyrifos would keep fire ants out of electrical equipment for a year or more. Depending on the label directions of specific products, you should be able to apply a light layer of these insecticides into the base of many types of electrical equipment to suppress fire ant activity for at least a year.
More recently, Molly Keck, our extension IPM program specialist in San Antonio, looked at an additional, novel treatment to keep fire ants out of transformers. In her study, she evaluated an easy-to-apply permethrin-impregnated plastic tape strip that could be placed around the concrete openings inside these (locked) transformer boxes, and found that they worked well to exclude fire ants for 16 months. These tests, I can attest, are difficult to set up and conduct; but despite their relatively small sample sizes, these products do work.
Keck and extension entomologist Bart Drees also published a fact sheet on the subject of different methods to exclude fire ants from electrical equipment. In it they mention a variety of different products and list manufacturers of these materials if you want to obtain samples for your own use or testing.
I encourage you to be aware of the different fire ant control options for protecting electrical equipment. I suspect that this is a service that few of you are offering right now; but it seems to me that treatment of electrical equipment would be a great way to distinguish yourselves from your competition while saving your customers significant money. It may also save you a customer.
If you want to bring out the revolutionary fiery spirit of a Texan, let the air conditioner break down in hundred-degree weather due to fire ants. And I for one wouldn't want to be in that line of fire.