BASF Corp., Research Triangle Park, N.C., plans a full-scale launch of its new ant bait, Altrevin, in California during the 2013 season.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation registered the product in June, too late for most uses in the state this season, said Daniel Waldstein, technical services representative based in Tulare.
But the company was able to distribute samples to some pest control advisers, particularly in the north part of the state where the crops mature slightly later.
In California and most other states, the product is labeled for use in tree nuts, grapes and citrus, according to the label. It also is registered for use on non-bearing field- or container-grown pome and stone fruit trees.
In California, the big market will be almonds, Waldstein said.
The native southern fire ant that lives on almond orchard floors feeds on almond kernels after they're shaken and are drying on the ground.
The feeding damages the kernel.
Depending on the almond handler, growers may earn premiums for low rejects, which include ant damage, or they may be penalized for high reject levels.
Altrevin is a bait built around corn grits and soybean oil as an attractant to protein-feeding ants, such as the southern fire ant and the red imported fire ant.
It is not attractive to sugar-feeding ants, such as the Argentine ant.
Altrevin is applied to an orchard or vineyard using a small spreader, such as those made by the Herd Seeder Co., mounted on the back of an all-terrain vehicle.
Worker ants are attracted to the material, pick it up and take it back to the colony, where it is consumed.
The active ingredient, metaflumizone, is a neurotoxin, quickly killing the ants that eat it, Waldstein said.
"What makes Altrevin different from the other products that are on the market right now is it's a fast-acting product," Waldstein said.
Some other products are insect growth regulators and typically take several weeks before growers notice a significant decrease in an ant population, he said.
With Altrevin, Waldstein said the results are noticeable within about a week.
Most University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisers and pest control advisers recommend putting out ant baits at least six weeks before you plan to shake almonds.
This gives the product time to work and reduce ant populations.
Altrevin's quick knock-down provides additional flexibility for growers, Waldstein said.
"It gives growers an opportunity to get an early application on in that six- to eight-week time frame when they're accustomed to putting on that ant bait," he said. "Maybe the ants reinfested or they didn't get the control they wanted, so they can put on a second application.
"I think almond is such a high-value crop and the prices are going up, it's the sort of thing that if these guys get even 1 to 2 percent damage on these almonds, they can get downgraded when it goes to the processor. So they're looking at potentially a pretty big financial hit when that happens."
Applications closer to harvest also tend to coincide with better weed or ground cover control.
The more product you can apply to the ground, the better the results will be, he said.
Altrevin has a five-day preharvest interval.
BASF plans to price it competitive with most of the other ant-control products on the market, Waldstein said.