Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Right Way and Wrong Way to Kill Fire Ants

Randy R. Cox

Who wants to know the right way to kill fire ants? There are lots of fun ways and green ways and old wives tales to kill fire ants. Some work; some don’t work at all. http://www.earthpress.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-not-to-kill-fire-ants.html

Don’t bother with the corn meal or grits. The story goes the worker ants will carry the meal or grits deep to the queen, feed it to her, and then it will swell in her stomach and she will die. The only thing that will happen if you feed the fire ants is they might get a little more fat than they would have otherwise. It doesn’t work.

There is a right way and wrong way to kill fire ants. Boiling water will kill them
and the grass around their mound, but this is only a little more effective than stomping on them. You won’t kill all of them; they’ll be back!
If you do this repeatedly, they will move somewhere harder for you to reach with a real method. The fire ant just keeps coming and coming.

A few years ago, a few authority sites promoted a wonderful green way to kill fire ants. Club Soda or carbonated water poured directly into the center of the mound was supposed to push out the oxygen and replace it with carbon dioxide and suffocate the ants.

It sounded great; but it didn’t work.

Other ways widely reported but also ineffective are baking soda, winegar, molasses, plaster of Paris, and aspartame.

One of the new ways that might have some use, but not yet proven involve totally drenching the ant mound in a solution of dishwashing liquid and citrus oil.

Bait treatments work. They are designed to be taken deep into the mound and fed to the community over time. The good news about bait is it doesn’t require dangerous poison to be sprayed everywhere over a general area. The bad news is if it is stored in a garage or storeroom anywhere around petroleum products, the ants won’t touch it.

Some places sell worm castings or worm feces. It is supposed to be a good organic repellant, but it sounds more like fertilizer to me. It is probably better for the grass than bad for the ants.

Researchers have introduced various varieties of Phorid flies to certain Texas counties and reports are they are spreading to more. http://www.uts.cc.utexas.edu/~gilbert/research/fireants/fireant.html The fly dive bombs the fire ant and injects an egg into the fire ant. The egg hatches and eats the ant from the inside out.

You can’t purchase these flies or acquire them in any practical way. All we can do is hope they work in the long haul and hope they don’t introduce new problems to the delicate ecosystem. http://www.sbs.utexas.edu/fireant/index.html

Chemicals, especially orthene kills fire ants. If you use this method, be careful to not kill any of the native ants like the black sugar ant or especially the large relatively peaceful red ant. They are natural enemies of the fire ant. If you kill them, you’ll have a bigger problem when new fire ant invaders come later. You won’t have the allies that you had before.

Remember the horned frog, or the horny toad as they were called in North Texas when I was a boy. They used to be everywhere, but we don’t see many of these anymore. Some say the poison set out for the fire ants killed them, but other sources say the horned toad is inclined to feed on the ants, but are overwhelmed by the aggressive nature of this species. It is said the ants smaller than the red ant, but extremely aggressive will swarm over the horn toad and enter the nostril. Once inside they sting the toad and clog up his breathing tubes until he dies.

New exotic solutions will continue to emerge in the future. We’ll all continue to try them and be disappointed for the most part. We can always hope. When we’ve had all we can stand we can turn to materials that do work and finally win the battle if not the war


  1. very well written article thanks for the post

  2. Jeez, what did those poor ants do to you?

    In the UK I use a product called Nippon, like your bait treatment. It's a white powder that you sprinkle around the nest and the worker ants trample it back inside where it does the business.

    I've found boiling water works but only if you unearth the nest beforehand.

  3. I live in the Southeast US and always have problems with fire ants. Thanks for the great information!

  4. I live in the country but I avoid fire ants and they don't usually bother me.

  5. Man... I've gotten bit by fire ants... not fun!