Fire Ant

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants (Red Imported Fire Ant Control)

Learn time-tested, natural and organic remedies to get rid of fire ants FAST and save BIG money doing it yourself!.

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Red imported fire ants were accidentally introduced from South America in the early 1900s and are currently found in 13 Southern states and Puerto Rico. They are well-known for their venomous sting and will aggressively attack anything that disturbs their mound.

Fire ants can sting repeatedly and cause medical and agricultural problems to people, pets, livestock, and wildlife. They will also wreak havoc on local ecosystems.

Studies show that populations of ground-nesting animals (song birds, snakes, rodents, toads, and lizards) are reduced by more than half shortly after their arrival.

In this article, learn exactly what fire ants are, as well as how to identify and control them effectively.

What are Fire Ants?

Fire ants are invasive pests that are known for their venomous sting. The Solenopsis invicta Buren, also known as the red imported fire ant (RIFA), is the most notorious, followed by the much less prevalent Solenopsis geminata (Fabricius), also known as the tropical or native fire ant.

They are known for their painful bites and stings, which is how they got their common name. When provoked, fire ants emerge aggressively, climb vertical surfaces, and bite and sting simultaneously.

Their venom, which contains alkaloids, is very irritating to humans and causes red bumps and white pustules, which can eventually turn into scars.

Some victims have described the pain of a fire ant bite as ‘stinging’ and ‘intense burning,’ and these insects are notorious for attacking in large numbers.

Unfortunately, a fire ant colony can have anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 insects, which makes the possibility of having multiple stings even higher.

The southern fire ant (Solenopsis xyloni McCook), the western fire ant (Solenopsis aurea Wheeler), and the black imported fire ant (Solenopsis richteri Forel) are three other common species of this genus in the United States.

How to Identify Fire Ants?

Imported fire ants (1/8 – 1/4 inch long) are reddish brown to black in color and look very much like ordinary ants.

They are social insects and build mounds of loose soil, resembling gopher diggings, rarely larger than 18 inches in diameter.

Fire ant mounds are often numerous and can quickly spread over an entire yard. Each mound may contain up to 500,000 ants.

Note: Fire ants are attracted to electricity and have been known to damage air conditioners, heat pumps, transformers, and more.

Life Cycle of a Fire Ant

Fire ants are social insects and live in colonies with three distinct types of adults, called castes.

Queens are larger than other ants and are responsible for egg laying. Some colonies have only one queen, whereas others have many.

Males are responsible for mating with the queens; they do not participate in any other activities.

Worker fire ants are sterile wingless females. They make up the bulk of the colony and these worker ants responsible for not only building and defending the nest but also caring for the young and foraging for food.

During the spring and summer, winged males and females leave the mound and mate in the air. Fertilized females (queens) shed their wings, burrow into the ground and lay eggs to begin a new colony.

After about 30 days, the eggs hatch into ‘maggot-like’ larvae. These are cared for by the queen until they pupate approximately 1-2 months later.

Within three weeks, the pupae transform into adult “worker” ants which begin collecting food for themselves, the queen, and for future generations of larvae. In the late fall, numerous small colonies appear, many of which will not survive the winter unless the weather is mild.

Damage Caused by Fire Ants

Since its introduction to the southeastern United States, the imported red fire ant has become a major agricultural and urban pest. Plus, fire ants are harmful to both humans and the environment.

Their painful, venomous stings can cause a burning sensation and leave welts that last for weeks. Red imported fire ants frequently attack soybean crops in agriculture, and severe infestations always result in lower yields.

Plant pests like aphids, white flies, and scale insects are encouraged by fire ants because they secrete plant sap that the ants consume. In return, the ants defend these insects against parasites and natural predators.

These ants can also infest houses, furniture, bed, ad even food. At times, their stings have blinded pets such as cats and dogs.

Even a ‘minor’ fire ant infestation can cause quite a lot of economic and agricultural damage, and so it’s important to understand how to control their population.

Nowadays, the United States has five times more ants per acre than their South America, where they originally came from.

The fire ants that were brought to the United States were able to evade their natural enemies and flourish in the new environment of the southern United States.

Are Fire Ant Stings Dangerous?

Around 1% of the population of the United States is hypersensitive to ant venom and is susceptible to life-threatening allergic reactions.

Those that are more likely to react severely to one or more of the things include those with suppressed immune systems, kids, and older people.

However, even healthy people can have severe reactions such as anaphylactic shock if they are stung multiple times.

What Do Fire Ants Consume?

Due to their omnivorous nature, fire ants can consume both animal and plant matter.

Diet of the worker fire ant consists of insects, earthworms, ticks, spiders, arthropod eggs, honeydew, and other sugary substances. Food sources from plants include seeds.

The larvae and newborn stages of vertebrate animals, such as birds, rodents, and calves, are consumed by fire ants. In most cases, fire ants will happily eat carrion, i.e., dead animals, regardless of whether they were directly responsible for the animal’s death.

Fire ant larvae are fed by worker adults and consume only a liquid diet until they reach the third larval instar. Larvae in their fourth instar can digest solid foods.

Can Fire Ants Be Eradicated Completely?

In large infestation areas like the southeastern United States, red imported fire ants cannot be completely eradicated using methods currently in use. However, by using appropriate control methods, their population can be reduced or even temporarily eradicated from certain areas.

Because of how they live and spread, it is not possible to get rid of them in larger areas from an economic, technical, or ecological point of view.

Recent efforts, though, have been made to get rid of small groups of this species of ant in Southern California. These efforts have yet to be proven successful, but researchers are working hard to find a solution.

For the time being, small-scale control is essential until more long-term solutions can be discovered.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants

To effectively control imported fire ants, two methods are available. Red imported fire ant populations are typically controlled by single mound treatments or widespread broadcast applications.

Individual mounds can be treated in a variety of ways. The primary benefit of this method is the vast number of options available to homeowners, although few may actually eradicate the colony.

The biggest drawback is that each mound must be located separately in order to be treated.

When there are both native ants and imported fire ants in the same area, treating each mound separately is the best way to get rid of both kinds of ants. Any area that has been treated, whether through broadcast treatment or targeted single-mound treatment, is vulnerable to reinfestation.

Let’s look at each of the options available to homeowners to get rid of fire ants:

Mound Drenches

Mound drenches involve pouring large volumes of liquid over individual mounds. Liquids can be either gallon of hot or soapy water, to even insecticides mixed with water.

The issue with this individual mound treatment method is that you might not be able to reach the queen, who may be deep in the best. In most cases, the colony will just relocate.

To try this method, use a sprinkler can and mix 2 oz Monterey Garden Insect Spray (spinosad) per gallon of water. Apply to individual mounds as a drench.

Use about 10% of prepared solution around the perimeter of the mound and the remainder directly over the mound. Apply slowly, like a gentle rain, and don’t disturb the colony. For best results, apply when the weather is cool or in early morning or evening.

Least-toxic botanical insecticides, containing liquid pyrethrin, can be used to drench the mound but should be used only as a last resort.

Derived from plants, these natural pesticides have fewer harmful side effects than synthetic chemicals and break down more quickly in the environment.

Surface Dusts

This technique is similar to mound drenches. A dust or granular insecticide is sprinkled on top of the mound and then sometimes watered in.

According to the University of Florida Extension, organic diatomaceous earth will eliminate individual ants, but its effectiveness to kill the entire colony is questionable.

Baits

Baits can be used on individual mounds as well as in broadcast applications. The bait is scattered sparingly around the mound, where the ants forage and then bring it back to the colony to eat.

This method takes longer to work, but it is more effective than spraying or dusting a mound because the workers will feed the bait to the queen and brood, helping to eliminate the colony.

Fire ant baits are attractive to workers who take it back to the mound, and feed it to the entire colony including the queen. This leads to the decline and eventual elimination of the colony. Extremely large mounds may require a repeat application.

Labeled for use in and around homes, Ascend contains a naturally occurring soil fungus — Abamectin — that will eliminate problem colonies and prevent queen egg production. Broadcast after dew or rainfall at a rate of 1 lb per acre (2lb container treats 36 mounds).

Tip: Apply baits when ants are active (above 60°F). The best time to apply is in the morning and late evening when foraging is at its peak.

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