How to Get Rid of Fire Ants
Fire ants rarely infest the inside of a home and are capable creating vast underground networks with many entances. They are a nuisance pest (also known as Red Imported Fire Ant) and can be found inhabiting lawns, sheltering themselves with tiny mounds of dirt. These mounds are networked in such a way that it can make controlling them seem like a never ending battle (one goes down, one pops up). They are much faster than your average ant and reddish-brown or black in color. Fire ants are particularly agressive - their bites burn and sting like fire, making them a potential risk to hypersensitive children or pets.
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While rare, it's not impossible to find fire ants infesting the inside of the house. This is more common on slab homes during hotter temperatures and the middle of summer. A select caste of the ant colony, known as foragers, will exit the nest in search of food and moisture, making their way into neighboring structures and lawns. Like all species, fire ants navigate by leaving invisible pheromone odors from the food source to the ant colony.
- Follow trails to the source. If you're having trouble locating a consistent trail, place a piece of meat nearby and wait for about 15 minutes to an hour. A new line of fire ants will slowly emerge and you can trace it to the nesting site.
- Don't spray the trails. A good tip is to avoid spraying or crushing the ants when they emerge, as this can eliminate the probability of finding the nest. Do not aggravate or put stress on any trails as this can also slow your progress.
- Granular products like Amdro are best. Granular products need to be watered before they work and are best applied before a short burst of rain. Follow each products labeled instructions carefully.
Fire ants are primarily eliminated with granular insecticides, but baits and insecticides are also available. Fire ants have drawn national attention in desert states like Texas, where they are responsible for short circuiting the wiring around air conditioning and other electrical components. Luckily, their nests are usually visible and easily traced back to the source. Integrating a granular product into routine lawn maintence is an effective means of controlling activty.
Purchasing a large bag of granules might be out of your budget. A quick and natural way to get rid of ant mounds is to boil a gallon of water or 2 and create a tiny opening with the end of a broom or stick in the top center of the mound. Carefully funnel as much water as you can into the nest. The goal is to flood the queen's chamber. This method also knocks out a large portion of the workers and is best applied before sunrise when most of the colony is at rest. Boric acid can also be directly injected into the ant mound for control. Boric acid is derived from a natural mineral and often used as the active ingredient in popular baits. In powdered form it's useful for treating voids, housing, conduit, and wiring.
Pest control companies are often asked if it's possible to keep fire ants out of the yard permanently - surprisingly, the answer is yes. Top Choice (a granular product) is used in commercial applications and can provide coverage up to as long as 1 year. It's mainly used around wide agricultual lots and a regular part of turf maintenence for golf ranges.
Does rain increase fire ant activity? Studies have shown that rain does not increase the amount of fire ants at a specific location, but it does encourage the surfacing of ants buried deeper within the colony as they attempt to escape flooding. For this reason, the presence of fire ants will rapidly increase, creating the perception that rain is a precursor to activity. The problem is readily countered through the use of appropriate moisture activated granular products like Amdro.