Getting Rid of Fire Ants—
What Really Works?

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Floating Fire Ants During Flood

A lot of folks have turned to home remedies for help in eradicating red imported fire ant(RIFA) problems in the landscape.  Unfortunately, most reported home remedies are not effective at destroying the entire colony of red imported fire ants, which means you will always hear the little singsong voice from this horror flick saying “We’re baaack.” 

While some of the fire ants may be killed, completely eliminating the nest (which means killing the egg laying queen) is rarely accomplished with home methods. This allows the colony to rebuild and continue operating as usual.  In fact it often increases the number of RIFA colonies.

Instant grits are a popular folk remedy for fire ants, but they are totally useless.  Other methods, such as pouring gasoline or bleach into the mound are dangerous to people, pets and the environment.  Even floods have not gotten rid of the pesky red imported fire ant.  They just float away to another location. 

The chart below, courtesy of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, outlines various home remedies and their university-tested effectiveness in controlling home fire ant infestation.

 

 Home remedy

Impact on Ant

 

Impact on environment

 

Instant grits

none

none

Orange peels

some repellent action

none

Gasoline

kills a few ants

potential movement into groundwater

Vinegar

none

none

Bleach

kills few ants

potential movement into groundwater

Diatomaceous earth

kills a few ants

none

Ammonia

kills a few ants

potential movement into groundwater

Urine

kills a few ants

potential phytotoxicity

Gasoline + match

kills a few ants

potential personal injury

Hot water

kills a few ants

potential personal injury


What has been shown to be effective in controlling fire ants is Integrated Pest Management or IPM for short.  The homeowner can attain about a year’s worth of control with an integrated pest management program based on either synthetic or organic chemical compounds formulated to reduce the red imported fire ant population.  The latest research indicates a two step approach of a long acting and an immediate acting pesticide will produce the best results.

Presently, pesticide applications, organic and otherwise, are the only proven effective method for control.  Many of us are leery of chemical intervention, generally with good reason, but the danger of leaving fire ants unmanaged far outweighs the danger from the pesticide applications necessary to eliminate the nests and queens. 

Check out our article on How Sustainably Control Red Imported Fire Ants invading your landscape.

Sources:
University of Arkansas Extension Service - Twenty Questions About Fire Ants - FSA-7052

Fascinating Research Video Report
Fire Ants Impacting Texas Agriculture - America's Heartland

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