How To Kill Fire Ants

Imported fire ants are not native to the United States. Therefore, even though I usually don't recommend killing insects, the fire ant is one pain-inflicting, biting critter that makes my "must exterminate list." Fire ants don’t intentionally go looking for people or pets to attack, but disturb their mound and they will defend it aggressively. Even one sting hurts but, more often than not, you'll get lots of stings.

Fire ants first entered the country around 1918 near Mobile, Alabama, and have since spread throughout most of the southeastern United States. Their distinctive dome-shaped mounds in our lawns and gardens are unsightly and interfere with mowing and other activities, but it’s their painful stings that cause the most problems.

Some stinging or biting native insects, such as wasps and bees, serve a much needed purpose: they pollinate our gardens and crops, and without their work, we'd all be long gone from starvation. But fire ants don't seem to do much...well, maybe they naturally till the soil? But we or earthworms can do that! 

What would happen if we didn't take steps to control fire ants? Would our land and gardens in the South become nothing more than one never-ending fire ant bed?

Actually, when not controlled, mound densities can reach 50 to more than 200 mounds per acre!

Fire Ant Control

Fortunately, there are effective treatments to control fire ants that are relatively inexpensive and easy to apply, but successful fire ant control has to be a preventive, ongoing effort. Fire ant control recommendations vary slightly, depending on the particular situation. Be sure to choose products that are labeled for the particular site where you plan to apply them.

Can you ever eliminate all the fire ants on your property? Yes, and no. Yes, you can kill every fire ant on your property when a treatment or combination of treatments are properly applied. However, even if you kill every fire ant on your property, new queens will soon be landing after their mating flights and starting new colonies. Fire ants are persistent. But if you treat regularly and/or preventatively, you can keep most of these new colonies from surviving to become big mounds.

Keep in mind that your location: urban or rural, and the size of your property may determine the method(s) you use for controlling fire ants.

Got a pet anteater? If not...there are three main ways to control fire ants:

  • Individual mound treatments
  • Broadcast insecticide treatments
  • Granular baits

Individual Mound Treatment

This is the method I've found to be most effective and always use. Treating mounds individually may be all that is necessary for small properties or any property where only a few mounds show up from time to time. 

Insecticidal dusts containing Acephate, such as Hi-Yield Fire Ant Killer and Surrender, are the most effective and economical products to get the job done. Acephate dust kills ants on contact. Avoid the use of baits, such as Amdro, that worker ants have to carry deep inside the mound to feed to the many queens that can be in a mound. As soon as the worker ants see other ants in the mound dying they stop eating the granules and go to rescuing the queens; carrying them outside the mound to create new colonies all over your yard! Not good.

Apply Acephate dust only on dry mounds in the late afternoon, when the temperatures are cooler and the ants are more active. Lightly spread about a teaspoon of the dust in a circle around the mound and a little on top. Do not disturb the mound and do not water in. The first few ants to come into contact with the acephate dust will die. Then the survivors will go into action attempting to save the queen(s)....but they have to drag the queens and themselves right through the ring of acephate dust you put around the mound. The End.

Note: Whenever using any chemical, always make sure to follow instructions on the product label for application rates and personal protection.