How to Sustainably Control
Red Imported Fire Ants—
Do the “Texas Two-Step!”

Gradient Line

In sustainable landscape practice the least harmful method is the best way to go.  When it comes to sustainability and controlling imported red fire ants (RIFA), serious science is the only way to go.  Since elimination is difficult because of the invasive and mobile nature of red imported fire ants, current recommendations for sustainability are for control. 

What is the Texas Two-Step?

The most effective control for red imported fire ants in use today is termed “The Texas Two-Step.” This method is ideal for homeowners, and even better for neighborhood programs. This article outlines the process and you can view the video section on controlling red imported fire ants at the end.

At Texas A & M University (TAMU) researchers have found a sustainable approach to integrated pest management plan that requires two steps for effective, long term control of your red imported fire ant problems—

1) Bait for slow-acting, long term control, and
2) Contact insecticides for immediate reduction of the colony. 

There are many approved insecticides, including organic products (OMRI Listed®) that are considered effective.  Since most of us who are interested in sustainability don’t like chemical treatments very much, read the label carefully before you purchase any treatment insecticides.  If you have concerns about the effectiveness or toxicity of any product, consult your local cooperative extension agent for more information.

Using the “Texas Two Step” for Red Imported Fire Ant Control

Red Imported Fire Ant Queen Brood Workers

Red Imported Fire Ant Queen with Workers and Brood
Photo Credit: Sanford D. Porter, USDA, Gainesville, FL

Broadcasting bait over the entire yard is step one.   Bait is a slow, low dose insecticide that will provide red imported fire ant control for up to one year.  This slow action reduces the rate of re-invasion, which is a problem with contact insecticide alone.

Because the fire ant bait has to be ingested, it acts on the fire ants, and not beneficial insects.  The lower rates of active ingredients in bait reduces the release of toxins that harm the environment.

How you spread the bait isn’t important.  Just be sure to cover the entire area with the recommended application of bait.  You can use a hand held broadcaster, push your fertilizer spreader or mount a broadcaster on your riding mower.

Individual mound treatment with contact insecticide is step two.  High priority areas are those next to the house foundation and all well-traveled routes to and around the house.  You can use organic methods such as drenching each mound with a minimum of 3 gallons of boiling water, or chemical control. 

It is important to be precise in applying chemical contact insecticides because they are considerably more toxic than baits.    These chemicals are designed to kill insects on contact, or almost all the insects that come into contact with an area that has been treated with a contact insecticide, whether beneficial or harmful.   Follow all instructions carefully.

Chemical contact insecticides come on liquid, granular and powdered form.  To increase the effectiveness of granular chemical contact insecticides, sprinkle 1-2 gallons of water after application, without disturbing the mound.  The powdered form is effective without additional water.

Controlling Red Imported Fire Ants?
Sustainability Means “Remember Our Environment!”


Texas A & M-  

Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project
Have you two-stepped with fire ants lately?

Interesting and informative videos—

Don’t miss this red imported fire ant instruction!  We cannot imbed the videos here, but they are a goldmine of information. Use this link to find definitive university research videos on the Red Imported Fire Ants.

Fire Ants in the Landscape – Texas Agri Life 
A quickie on baits

USDA Agricultural Research Service – Future control hopes being tested

Trap and Kill  - How to kill fire ant beds naturally
We haven’t tested this yet, (it’s winter) but maybe it really works.  It’s certainly not toxic.

Selected Internet Resources:

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Red Imported Fire Ants—An Electric Personality?
Eliminate Red Imported Fire Ants?
Getting Rid of Fire Ants—What Really Works?
What is Biointensive Integrated Pest Management?
Getting Started with Biointensive Integrated Pest Management

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