Fire ants are not only a nuisance, but they can also be deadly for people who are allergic to a fire ant’s venom. Even for people who are not allergic, the sting of a fire ant will burn and can even cause a welt. Because fire ants attack in mass, if a person steps on a fire ant hill, they could easily be stung a dozen or more times. Young children and older adults are particularly at risk. Consequently, controlling the spread of fire ants in your yard is extremely important.
Fire ants were accidentally brought into the United States from South America via the port of Mobile, Alabama almost a hundred years ago. They have slowly spread out a few miles east and west every year since then. Like other ants, fire ants create colonies when a new queen leaves her birth mound and flies away to find a location to create a mound of her own. She will then burrow underground and begin laying 1,600 eggs daily. When you consider a fire ant Queen can live up to seven years, that’s a total of over 4,000,000 new fire ants during her lifetime. Additionally, many fire ant mounds have multiple Queens, and these mounds can be up to 2 feet high and several feet across.
Fire ants cannot be eradicated. They can just be controlled. Even if you destroy all the fire ant mounds in your yard, it won’t be long before a new fire ant Queen from a mound in your neighbor’s yard decides to make a nest on your property. Since a fire ant mound will send out a swarm of flying ants with a new Queen up to a half dozen times each summer, a single hidden mound can be responsible for several dozen new mounds by the end of the season.
The best way to control fire ants is by using a poison manufactured specifically for fire ants. But you need to use the poison in a safe way in order to insure you do not damage the environment or accidentally poison other types of ants. Experts do not recommend broadcast poisoning where the poison is spread over your entire yard. Besides being expensive, broadcast poisoning has the unintended effect of poisoning good ants and beetles that a well-balanced environment needs.
There are three primary types of fire ant poison; liquid, dry baits, and contact granular chemicals. The best time to use any of these types of poisons is during warm summer days when the fire ants are active. There is a proper way to use each of the fire ant poison types in order to insure the maximum effectiveness.
1) Liquid poison – Most liquid poisons require you to dilute the poison with water. Then using a watering can, slowly soak the area around the mound and allow the poison to seep into the ground. You should use a spiral motion to work your way onto the mound itself. You should soak the mound well. Use approximately 1 gallon of liquid for each 6 inches of diameter of the mound. The idea behind liquid poisons is to get the liquid down deep into the ground where the queen is located, which could be a couple of feet below the surface. Hopefully, either the poison contacts the queen, or the queen gets some of the poison on her from one of her subjects. Liquid poisons are very fast acting.
2) Contact granular chemicals – This type of poison is similar to liquid poisons except it is placed around and on the mound in dry form. You then use a water hose or watering can to soak the poison deep into the ground.
3) Dry baits – A dry bait poison is probably the easiest fire ant poison to use. A dry bait poison is just grains of poison with a scent and flavor that makes the fire ants believe the bait is a food source. Once you have identified a fire ant mound, just sprinkle the dry bait around the outside edges of the mound. Do not disturb the mound. If you sprinkle the bait directly on the mound, this could inadvertently make the fire ants believe they are under attack, and they might use escape tunnels to move the queen to a new location up to 120 feet away. Instead you want to keep the mound undisturbed so the fire ant workers take the bait into their mound and eventually feed it to their queen. Although fire ant bait type poisons are slower acting than liquid poisons, they are very effective since they eventually kill the queen when used correctly.
You should never pour gasoline, kerosene, or bleach onto a fire ant mound. Besides the fact they are more expensive than actual fire ant poisons, they are bad for the environment, and they can pollute the ground water in your area.
Because fire ants are so prolific, controlling fire ants works best when you can get your neighbors to also control their fire ants. Otherwise fire ants in your neighbor’s yard will soon be creating new mounds in your yard.
Fire ants are here to stay. They cannot be eradicated completely without destroying the environment so badly that nothing else could live there either. However, fire ants can be controlled with the proper and safe use of poisons. By using the fire ant control techniques discussed in this article, you can keep your yard a safe place for your children and pets to play.