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GWAA

The Garden Writers Association


Last Update 06/03/08
Ecological Fire Ant Control

 Get even with the nasty little things.  Burn them back!

Fire Ant Mound in SandSolenopsis invicta, the Imported Red Fire Ant is a native of southern Brazil.  It has now taken up residence in at least 9 southern states.  The impact on us here in Florida is at least three-fold -- their nests are large and unsightly, when the ants are disturbed they immediately attack the intruder (whether at the nest or yards away from it), and they are spreading like wildfire.

Fire ants are carnivores -- they are fond of meat, fats and grease.   Fire ants feed on insects and other animals unlucky enough to cross their paths as well as grease drippings both outside (i.e. around the barbecue) and inside of buildings.   Fire ants are also no longer confined to the great outdoors as they have been known to invade and build nests inside of structures (both residential and commercial).   Control is difficult due to the ability of ant to become immune to the poisons used to battle them.

 

Fire ants have become quite adept at avoiding our attempts to control them.  First the nest's architecture allows them numerous exits and dumping insecticide on the nest usually results in their simply relocating the nest.  Second, the ants sense vibrations around their nest in enough time for the workers to bundle up the queen and her brood and move them to a safe part of the mound away from the direction in which the vibrations are approaching.  Third, fire ant mounds now contain multiple queens which quickly develop resistance to the current commonly used poisons.  You may kill a queen and a few thousand workers, but the rest will survive much wiser and better prepared for the next attack.

If you have ever been stung by a fire ant you know they are painful. Within 24 hours after a person is stung, a pustule-like sore forms at each sting site, which usually itches intensively. Scratching the pustule may rupture the skin, leading to secondary infection and scarring. A small proportion of people stung are highly allergic to fire ant stings and require immediate medical attention.

But there is an efficient and ecologically safe way to rid your yard of these pests (and get some measure of revenge at the same time).  Here is how:

  1. Locate the nest you are interested in eradicating being careful not to get to close to it or disturb it.

  2. Get a number of large pots and fill them with at least three gallons of water.

  3. Put the pots full of water on your stove and bring the water to a boil.

  4. Carefully remove the pots from the stove (being careful not to spill the water on yourself or your pets or children) and begin dumping the water in a radius two feet out from the nest and working your way in towards the center of the mound.

  5. This method is successful in destroying approximately 60 percent of the fire ant mounds you have in your garden and prevents the mean and nasty things living in them from relocating to a different part of your yard. BE WARNED though that the boiling hot water will kill not only the ants, but most likely the grass and plants that you dump it on.

 
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