How to Get Rid of Fire Ants: 4 Methods That Work
Ants of all kinds can become a problem, but fire ants are a threat, unlike any other pest. One wrong step into fire ant territory will leave anyone in pain as the tiny terrors can deliver dozens of painful stings in seconds. When they set up a mound in your yard, it can make a whole section of your property off limits.
Fire ants shouldn’t make you feel unwelcome in your own backyard. If you’re ready to reclaim your lawn, we’ll explain how to get rid of fire ants in garden and backyard settings.
Identifying Fire Ants
Fire ants live primarily in the southern United States but can reside almost anywhere in mild or warm climates. Their reddish-brown bodies grow between 1/16” and ¼” in length. They feature three segments:
- A large head with prominent bent antennae
- A narrow thorax
- A bulbous abdomen (sometimes black) containing the painful stinger and venom
Mounds can appear in sunny, warm spots, like open yards and fields or near sidewalks and driveways. The piles of dirt that fire ants create can grow 6–18 inches tall and up to 24 inches wide. Look for mounds around your landscaping, gardens, and lawn, checking for activity early in the morning or later in the evening when the ants go foraging.
The 4 Methods to Get Rid of Fire Ants
1. Bait the Mound
Granular baits such as Amdro Fire Ant Bait spread around the mound can kill fire ants on contact or act as a growth regulator to prevent queens from giving birth.
Baits work best when you put them on dry ground. Apply it when there is no expected rain over the next 48 hours. Carefully follow the product label for application directions, and keep pets and children away from the area.
Apply baits around the outside of the mound and not directly on top of it. Wait until the evening, when ants are foraging, and the ground is dry to spread your bait.
- Effective on single mounds
- Kills queens to keep colonies from growing back
- Growth regulators work slower than other treatments
- Doesn’t kill ants away from the mound
2. Broadcast Granular Insecticide
Fire ant colonies spread frequently. It may only take a day or two for multiple nests to pop up around the lawn. While foraging, ants can also build tunnels up to 30 feet long, giving them plenty of opportunities to take over a yard in no time.
If you have a sizable infestation, treating individual mounds may not touch all the hidden colonies and paths that fire ants follow. A broadcast bait application is ideal. Spreading baits across the yard will ensure you can account for every nest. Fire ants will collect the bait granules and take them to their respective mound, where they will slowly kill the nest from the inside out.
Broadcast products like Ortho Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules can cover extensive areas and provide long-term protection from fire ants. It’s time-consuming but well worth the effort if you have recurring fire ant problems. To make life easier, use a broadcast spreader for evenly and quickly dispensing the bait.
- Kills interconnected colonies across the entire yard
- Broadcast solutions can last several months
- More time-intensive than other solutions
- Requires broadcast spreader for even applications
3. Drench the Mound with Insecticide
Drenching a mound with a liquid insecticide such as Bifen IT is a fast and effective way to kill a fire ant mound. You typically need only about one teaspoon of insecticide per gallon of water to make an effective spray. Spray around the ant hill and over it with a pump sprayer, or carefully pour the solution on the mound.
Insecticides are often safe to use around pets and children when you follow the product directions. You’ll need to let the product dry before allowing anyone in the area. These solutions generally work for 3–6 months or even longer. They can make an effective perimeter spray if you’re worried about fire ants coming indoors.
- Fast-acting and effective at killing fire ants
- Works on a variety of pests
- Uses toxic chemicals
4. Use Pure Orange Oil
Another fire ant drench option that takes a greener approach than most commercial insecticides is orange oil. Buy a pure orange oil product for convenience, or extract it yourself from old orange peels. The liquid contains d-Limonene, a compound found in citrus fruits that breaks down a fire ant’s protective bodily coating, causing it to die almost instantly.
To make an effective mound drench, combine 1.5 ounces of orange oil with 1 gallon of water. Poke a few holes into the mound to open up cavities and allow the orange oil to penetrate the colony. Pour a generous amount of orange oil solution over the mound, and within a few hours, it can kill off the entire nest.
It takes a decent amount of solution to destroy it, but the results are fast and permanent for an individual mound. The approach is all-natural and generally safer for your family, pets, and garden than commercial chemical insecticides.
- Fast-acting results on individual mounds
- All-natural formula is safer than chemical treatments
- Requires a few gallons to be effective
- Only practical for individual mounds
Preventing Fire Ants in the House
Keeping fire ants out of the house is often as easy as eliminating reasons for them to enter. Remove any food or water sources for ants by keeping your kitchen clean of crumbs and liquid spills. Seal up food, including pet food, so ants don’t have access.
Look for access points around the home, and seal cracks and gaps in the walls with silicone caulk. Fill weep holes and cavities with products like Delta Dust, or use a perimeter spray to keep foraging ants from finding their way inside. Eliminate any sources of standing water around the yard.
There are plenty of easy and safe DIY methods to remove fire ants in the home and around the yard. Some people stick to pouring boiling water down ant hills, and others lay out diatomaceous earth to shred up kitchen invaders. They all have their advantages and work to some degree.
While you may see immediate results, most of these are hardly a permanent solution, even for individual mounds. Spare yourself the wasted effort the next time you find an infestation in your yard, and use one of these effective and long-lasting methods for getting rid of fire ants instead!
Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock