Fire ants are a serious problem. Their painful stings cause a burning sensation, hence their name. While these bites may cause minor discomfort for most, for people with a fire ant allergy, stings may cause a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, making the need for professional treatment that much more critical.
While there are a few species of fire ants native to the United States, the most troublesome ants are typically red imported fire ants (RIFA), black imported fire ants (BIFA) or a hybrid of these two species.
It is important to understand that regardless of which type of fire ant you're dealing with, methods of eliminating them in your yard versus your home are going to be different. Specifically, some methods that can be used outdoors are not safe indoors, so keep that in mind as you learn how to eliminate them from your yard.
How to Get Rid of Fire Ants
There are a few different methods of getting rid of fire ants that you should look into before deciding which is right for you. These ants are most active during the late spring through the summer months and into early fall, so this is the best time to consider treatment.
The list of things that kill fire ants is a long one, but outside of calling a professional, there is no "best way to kill fire ants." In fact, DIY ant treatment is often ineffective and, especially in the case where individuals have an allergy to fire ants, professional treatment is the best route to take in order to control these insects. However, there are still some steps you can take to help prevent and minimize the presence of colonies, but you'll need to weigh the pros and cons of each.
Of course, when attempting any DIY pest control treatment, you should always follow all manufacturer instructions and take care to avoid getting substances on your skin or in your eyes.
How to Bait a Fire Ant Colony
Bait is one popular way to get rid of fire ants. When used effectively, bait is sprinkled around the ant mound, where it's gathered by worker ants. The bait smells and tastes like food, so the worker ants eat this bait and take it back to the queen, who feeds on it as well. Most baits are made from corn grits treated with pesticides. Some cause infertility in the queen, while others kill her and the colony. Using baits for fire ant management is a low impact option, as the baits are spread over a wide area.
The issue with baits is that they are slow-acting compared to other treatment methods, and they can take months to achieve the desired result. Conversely, if the bait works too quickly, it might kill the worker ants before they can get some back to the queen, and she'll simply create more worker ants, which perpetuates your problem.
Related: How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Kitchen
How to Drench a Fire Ant Colony
Mound drenches involve pouring a liquid pesticide directly onto the fire ant hill. The liquid penetrates the below-ground levels of the mound, killing the ants inside after a few hours. Once applied, these products leave only traces of residue on the surface. Remember, though, that when dealing with pesticides, professional application is always recommended for safety reasons. When attempting to treat fire ants, you should take extra care to avoid their painful bites and stings.
Dust or granular insecticide control methods vary slightly in how they get rid of fire ants. Dusts, which leave a surface residue, should only be applied in accessible voids and left to work their magic. Granular insecticides, on the other hand, require water to become activated. Once granular insecticides have been applied on or around the mound, it's important to follow the precise watering instructions on the label, as improper watering can cause the materials to horizontally transfer off the targeted application site.
Mound drenches work quickly and are often quite effective at killing fire ants. However, you can only drench the mounds you can see. There are likely many smaller colonies that don't have noticeable mounds, which is one reason why drenching won't always take care of your infestation. Never apply a liquid pesticide on top of a bait application; use one or the other per targeted treatment.
How to Get Rid of Fire Ants Naturally
Understandably, many homeowners may seek out an all-natural solution to kill fire ants. One such method is the use of diatomaceous earth. This substance is made from small crystals of fossilized phytoplankton and can cut open insects' exoskeletons. This causes bugs like ants to dry out quickly and die.
While this method may be a more natural (albeit not necessarily safer) way to kill fire ants, no method will work if it's not used properly and according to directions. Even so, it can still be notoriously difficult to kill the queen ant, so a combination of a few different fire ant prevention and control methods will likely work best.
Fire Ant Prevention and Control
To help prevent fire ant infestations in the first place, keep your yard tidy. Trim grass, rake back mulch and eliminate potential food and water sources as soon as you are able. This creates a less desirable area for fire ants to build their homes, and as a result, they may look for better areas to nest. Even the neatest yards can struggle with fire ants, though, which is why consumer-grade pest control products often seem like a good option.
It's important to remember, however, that many of the products available to homeowners are different, and they're often less effective than products available to pest control professionals.
If you have a severe fire ant infestation, the methods listed above will likely help to some extent, but you may be fighting your infestation all season long. If you've battled fire ants before, you know it isn't an easy problem to take care of on your own.
Count on Terminix® to Help
If you have a fire ant problem, you may have found the products above to be ineffective or have safety concerns about DIY methods. Or perhaps you don't even want to deal with trying to treat them at all. We get it – fire ants are a headache that many homeowners just don't want to have to struggle with. That's why you can count on Terminix to help take care of your fire ant problem quickly and effectively. With Terminix, you can get back to enjoying your yard without having to worry about these stinging pests.
To learn more about the fire ant control methods Terminix offers, contact us.