Fire ants aren’t just annoying. Anybody who has stepped on a fire ant mount by mistake will tell you that there is nothing more painful than a fire ant’s sting. If you have ever tried to get rid of fire ants, you will know that this is no easy feat. But does that mean you should use toxic chemicals? Well, no.
There are plenty of natural ways to control pests like fire ants. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways of getting rid of fire ants as well as some of the methods you should never try or that don’t work. Here you can read 3 DIY Tips to Keep Pests at Bay When Temperatures Drop. Also, I think you should read this article about 6 Gardening Hacks to Keep Pest Away.
Pouring scalding water on fire ant mounts is an environmentally friendly and effective way to kill fire ants, but you may need to repeat the process a few times for the entire colony to be eradicated. Ensure that the water is scalding hot if not boiling. You should use at least 3 gallons of water each time for this method to be effective. Take note that the hot water will kill your plants and grass, so avoid contact as much as possible.
This process is one of the simplest ways of controlling smaller colonies. The process is to quickly dig up the mound and roughly a foot of soil from under the mound and throw it into a large bucket. Sprinkle the shovel and bucket with cornstarch or baby powder before starting means the fire ants can’t climb out.
Remember to tuck your pants into your socks so the ants can’t climb up your legs. Also, keep the ant bucket where you can see it.
Make sure that you dig up the mound when most of the ants are with the colony. In summer, early morning is ideal, and in spring, late morning is the best time to strike.
Once you have placed the mound in the bucket, you can either drown the fire ants or release them somewhere that they won’t be a problem. If you drown them, add dish soap to the bucket, then fill the bucket with water and stir the solution throughout the bucket.
Be sure not to fill the bucket too high with the mound and ants so you can add water soap and water solution. Use extra buckets if needed. The soap helps to drown the ants faster, and they are usually all dead within 12 – 24 hours. If you are doing this process in summer, the ants will drown more quickly. In the spring, it may take longer.
These little silica crystals are said to scratch the cuticles of fire ants so that they dehydrate and die. This natural method is typically ineffective if you only place it on the mound, as the ants will find ways to avoid it. However, if you take an ant colony and shake them in a bag of diatomaceous earth, around half die, making it a relatively useful and natural way of killing pests. You can read more information and get a good overview here.
These machines work very efficiently against fire ants and other pests. However, bear in mind that they use hot water which kills plants and grass so you will need to be extra cautious.
This will Get You Mixed Results
Straw Itch Mites
Studies show that there are benefits to releasing straw itch mites into pest colonies, but others have found that they do not affect the colonies at all. They do have an impact on people though, causing big rashes on those who came in contact with the mites.
Any mechanical device that chops, cuts, mixes, pounds, or grinds fire ants are efficient at the times when the majority of the colony is inside the mound. These devices are beneficial as they do not use any chemicals. The problem with them is that they are costly to buy, labor-intensive to use, and can’t be used on colonies with mounds under roads, rocks, shrubbery, or sidewalks.
This method works well if you have older kids who want to get involved. It is quite simple – place an ant on a block and smash with another block. It is a useful method as it kills 100% of the ants you squash, but it is very time-consuming.
These Things Won’t Work on Fire Ants
The thought with this one is that the pest will eat the corn grits then drink some water causing the grits to expand and kill them. This is an excellent solution, except that most pests, including fire ants, don’t eat solid foods, only drinking liquids. Fire ant larvae can eat solids, but they chew it before swallowing, just like humans, so corn grits do not work.
This works (or doesn’t work) very similar to the corn grits theory.
Despite what their name says, giant anteaters from South America don’t eat ants, but they love termites. Plus, who wants a large 200 pound wild animal with arms and claws like a bear just strolling around their neighborhood. North America’s native anteater – the armadillo – is already a big enough problem.
The idea with this one is smart but very flawed. Typically, the fire ants will build a mound around the sonic vibrator as it emits heat – the perfect solution for cold winters in the mound.
Electric Bug Zapping Grids
These machines kill all ants and mosquitoes that come into contact with them, but fire ants are no common insects. Most of the colony retreat from the zapper while just a few remain to fight the grid.
The concept is that the ants from the two colonies will fight and kill each other. While the works from two colonies with single queens will fight when put together, it rarely results in either colony being killed. In fact, you may just be creating a bigger problem than what you had in the first place. The idea of mixing colonies has been widely debunked.
House Cleaning Products
Most of these products don’t work at all. Some may act as a repellant, forcing the colony to move and build a new mound, but this is usually just a few feet from the old one. Any cleaning products that do work will likely be costly and bad for your health, your garden, and the environment.
You can pump the exhaust fumes from a lawnmower or car into a fire ant mound and after around 15 minutes, you’ll find that most of the ants are dead… but not really. About 30 minutes later they all wake up and return to their tasks. To kill the ants, you would need about 40 minutes of pumping the fumes into the mount, but that is a long time to run a motor with those fumes near your home.
Methods You Should Never EVER Use
Definitely, do not use gasoline on pests. It is harmful to your health and the environment to use gasoline for killing pests. Using it can also affect the purity and quality of your groundwater. Igniting gasoline, whether intentional or accidental does not make it more efficient, but can be a severe threat to your wellbeing and the safety of your property.
If you have considered any of the above to get rid of pests or fire ants, ensure that the method you choose is on the effective list; otherwise you may just end up dealing with the problem over and over again. And remember – never EVER use gasoline on a fire ant mound.