Of all the ants I’ve come into contact with in my life, fire ants are among the worst. Fortunately, they are relatively easy to get rid of if you know how to do it. In this article I explain why fire ants should be removed and what are the best ways to do it.
Should Fire Ants Be Left Alone?
The short answer is no. You don’t want to leave fire ants to take over even a small portion of your yard for two main reasons explained below.
Sometimes I feel bad about killing insects.
But I definitely feel a lot better about doing it when I know that the insect I am killing is an invasive species. Fire ants, conveniently fit into this category, at least if you live in the US. These insects are native to South America and were brought into the country around the 1920s or 30s, according to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC).
So if you have reservations about getting rid of an anthill on your property, don’t worry, you’re doing the ecosystem a favor. In fact, I tell myself this when I’m on the hunt for a particularly intimidating pest. Viewing myself as the hero gives me just a slight edge on my prey.
Fire ants are one of the more aggressive of the ant species and their bite is something worth writing home over. In fact, The bite of a fire ant is initially painful, but it also sometimes will leave behind a white pustule and an intense itchy spot. For some people, they can experience chest pain, nausea, swelling, or sweats after a bite, and they should seek medical care.
These aggressive insects will take up residence in your yard and can make life miserable for you, your kids, and your pets. They ruin picnics, stargazing in the grass, and running through the lawn barefoot. So basically, they are threatening all potential summer memories you could be making in your yard.
There is more than one way to skin a cat and more than one way to exterminate ants. Here are the most effective methods of getting rid of these pets.
One of my favorite methods to use on fire ants, because it is free, is the boiling water method.
Here are the steps:
- Fill a large pot with water.
- Heat water until boiling.
- Carefully carry water to the ant hill and pour it straight down into the hill.
- Repeat once or twice a day until you can’t see any more ants.
This method is simple and easy, but it does have its drawbacks, for example:
- Once you start walking with a pot full of water, you quickly realize that it can slosh out very easily and burn yourself before you even get to the ants.
- You have to stand very near or straddle the ant hill to douse it, which means you could become a victim to their bites
- It’s not a once and done method. More often than not, you will need to repeat this twice a day for up to a week. Fire ants have very deep tunnels and many of them will survive the initial dousings.
- You definitely should not use boiling water on or near electrical equipment, which fire ants tend to like to make their nests in.
One of the most effective insecticide products on the market is Bifen I/T. Many pest control companies will use this product themselves, though often they will slap their own label on it to make it look like a specialized chemical.
This product is very affordable, easy to use, and you get a lot for what you pay for. This insecticide is highly concentrated; you could potentially go through a few anthills with one bottle.
Here is how you can apply the chemical to the nest:
- Always make sure to follow the directions on the label of the specific product that you buy, but most of them suggest diluting one teaspoon into a gallon of water. You’ll probably want to use about two gallons total per application.
- Put the diluted chemical directly into a pump sprayer and spray the entire contents on and around the nest. Make sure you have a wide radius around the nest, probably about three feet in diameter.
- Keep soaking the hill until you are out of pesticide, even if it looks saturated enough. You want to make sure that the chemical penetrates deep within the inner tunnels.
- You can also skip the sprayer method and just dump the diluted chemical straight onto the hill.
Bifen L/P is basically the same product as Bifen I/T but in granule form. It is rare that you will put insecticide on a nest that has all the members of the colony present. So, even though Bifen I/T is a very effective product, it might not completely eliminate the fire ants in one go.
Bifen L/P is something that you can use throughout your entire lawn to wipe out any of the fire ants that were out scavenging while you applied the insecticide to the nest. You can apply this using a push spreader or a handheld spreader.
Once you’ve spread the granules evenly over your turf, water your lawn so that the chemical sets in and kills all the pests in there. This product will not only kill fire ants but any other bad insects for your lawn.
Another option that you can use is a bait type option. This method is specifically targeted to ants and will not affect other insects in the turf.
Extinguish Plus is also in a granule type form, but you don’t need to spread it throughout the entire lawn; just spread it near the nest. The fire ants will bring the bait to their nest and the rest of the workers and queen will eat it. This will then cause the queen to become sterile and stop producing eggs. Eventually the nest will die out, however probably not as quickly as with the insecticide or boiling water treatments.
If you have fire ants in your home, here are some products you will definitely want to use.
The first is a foam insecticide. The foam will expand in the cracks and will prevent ants, termites, and carpenter bees from coming into your home. You can apply this to poorly sealed windows and anywhere where you might see a crack.
You can also just caulk the cracks where you can and this provides a great barrier against the insects.
Another product you can use is a dust insecticide. You can use this behind and under appliances.
Extra Pieces of Advice
Though fire ants are relatively easy to get rid of, there are some things that many people end up doing that makes the process longer or ineffective. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind when you are getting rid of fire ants.
Try One Method at a Time
Are you just so frustrated about having fire ants that you want to bombard them with every method listed?
I feel you. I’ve been there.
However, you really shouldn’t do everything on this list at the exact same time. For example, if you set out a bait and then apply insecticide to the yard, a fire ant will come along and not want to bring the contaminated bait home to the queen. The insecticide might still be effective, but you’ll just be wasting money on bait if you do this.
So just try one method at a time. If one doesn’t work well for your situation, then use one of the others.
Do Not Kick The Nest
Many online sites will suggest that you kick the nest to make it move. Though that is effective–the nest does end up moving– it doesn’t get rid of this invasive species and they might just move somewhere else on your property.
The best methods are the ones where you have control of the situation and you can effectively get rid of these pests once and for all.
Don’t Encourage Them
Fire ants are attracted to pet foods and greasy foods, so many people will find them near pet bowls or garbage cans. To make sure you don’t get an infestation, try to maintain clean habits and close your garbage can tightly.
You may also want to clean and put pet bowls away immediately after your pet eats, especially if you are in the middle of an infestation.
Reapply Bifen L/P Regularly
Even if you don’t notice a fire ant infestation on your property, it’s still a great idea to apply the Bifen L/P granules throughout your property every few months. This will deter the fire ants and all other destructive insects from coming into your yard and ultimately your home.
So there you have it. If you have tried all of these methods and the fire ants still live on, then you might just have some kind of alien species on your property. But really, these chemicals and methods are what the professionals use, so it should definitely wipe them out.
If you have an infestation in an area than needs special care and attention, you may want to hire a professional to help you out.