The Easiest Way To Get Rid Of Fire Ants

  • Written By: Phil Hawes
  • Time to read: 10 min.

Ants can be annoying in and around your home. But fire ants in particular are much more than that simply because of the threat that they pose to not only you but your pets and anybody else that may be on your property because of their aggressive nature. And because of the toxin they produce, when they sting you.

In this article, I’m gonna show you not only how to get immediate control, but also how to eliminate fire ants on your property.

What attracts fire ants to your yard?

Fire ants need the same essential things in their ideal habitat as any other species of ant. This includes a food and water source, along with a place to nest. What makes fire ants different however is that they don’t seek out shaded and secluded locations for their nests.

Fire ants are most likely to be found in open sunny areas, such as parks and fields. This is because they need the warmth to help incubate their eggs and keep their brood alive.

In your yard, fire ants are attracted to any food source that you may have. This includes pet food, bird seed, fruits and vegetables from your garden, or even crumbs that have fallen from a picnic.

Water is also essential for fire ants, as they use it to keep their bodies hydrated and to dissolve the food that they eat.

To fire ants, your yard is the perfect place to set up a new colony as it provides everything that they need.

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How to identify fire ants

First, you want to make sure that you actually do have a fire ant infestation, because they do require a special type of treatment compared to other ants. If you aren’t a myrmecologist (a person who studies ants) then it could be simple to mix up two different ant species. This could mean that you have to treat your infestation twice or worse, that the issue continues much longer than was necessary.

You want to start your inspection by looking for an ant activity around your property. This is especially true when you only have a hunch that you have fire ants due to a child or pet’s itchy bite marks. Have a look in particular for ant mounds in the flower beds and also in grassy areas.

Keep in mind, that fire ants can be found anywhere from the mid to the Southern part of the United States. That being said, they can also be found anywhere in the world where we have mild to warmer temperatures.

To positively identify fire ants, first, you can look at the length of the body. This species of ant can be anywhere from a 16th of an inch (1.5 mm) up to a quarter inch (6.35 mm). This is because there are three different types of fire ants. The red imported fire ant, the black imported fire ant, and the native fire ant. Also, not all worker fire ants will be the same size depending on their species and role.

Another way to tell a fire ant from another ant is its body shape. It has three body segments ahead, thorax, and abdomen that can very easily be distinguished. They’re also kind of a reddish brown in color.

As I mentioned before, the best way to find fire ants is to look directly for their mound. These are fairly large piles of dirt that are up on the surface of the ground. A fire ant’s mound can appear either flat or dome-shaped and is usually made up of multiple entrances.

If you look closely at the top of the mound, you’ll see that it’s actually pretty smooth. Also, there isn’t the classic volcanic opening in a fire ant mound that you see with other species.

If it’s just rained then this mound will soon start to grow as the ants clamor to gain access to the life-giving moisture from a fresh shower.

Oddly though, you aren’t going to see many fire ants actually out on the surface of their mound. They don’t enter and exit through the top of the mound, but rather through the sides.

The only time you’re likely to see many fire ants on the surface is when their mound has been disturbed. Otherwise, they stay hidden away inside where it’s safe and protected from predators and the elements.

If you disturb the mound, you will alert thousands of workers that actually will then come to the surface and they will be in an attack mode, actually wanting to sting you and deliver their toxins. This is mainly because the fire ant mounds themselves are where the live young are housed and is the beating heart of their society.

To catch the fire ants foragers out in the open, make sure to carry out your inspection early in the morning or late in the evening. This will tell you two things, that they’re out actively forging and also where they are coming or going from. This will help you pin down the location of their mound.

However, if you want to get a really good idea of where the mound is, you’re going to have to do some tracking. This means that you need to follow the line of foraging fire ants back to their base. It will take some patience, but it’s well worth it in the end as this will help you to target your treatment directly at the mound.

The best time to actually treat fire ants is when they are out foraging.

Controlling fire ant populations

When you have positively identified fire ants, then your first line of defense should be chemical control. First, let’s start by treating those mounds that you know, are active. Be sure not to kick or disturb them. Otherwise, you could possibly relocate the mounds, which would make it a lot more difficult to get control.

The best course of action is to use a drench method using Bifen IT (Amazon). This is a powerful insecticide that will help you get immediate control of the ant colony. Mix Bifen IT with water, using either a pump sprayer or a hose-in sprayer. You’ll want to really drench the area around the mound. And so that you get really good deep penetration down in the soil where the queen is.

It is likely that there were fire ants out forging while you were doing your Bifen IT treatment. If that’s the case, then we’ll want to use a product called Bifen IT. This is a granular insecticide that you can broadcast and will help you to effectively take care of any other ants that may not have come in contact with your Bifen IT at the time of treatment.

Bifen IT is a very simple product to use. You’ll want to apply using either a push spreader (Amazon) or some sort of handheld spreader (Amazon). Just make sure that you follow label directions on how much product to apply per square foot. Bifen IT will not only kill fire ants, but many other insects that may destroy your turf.

Spread the Bifen IT evenly over the entire yard and water the granules in when you are finished, so that you get good penetration into the soil with the active ingredient.

As an alternative to Bifen IT, you could use a product called extinguished Plus This is a granular bait that you will use more locally than the total broadcast method for something like Bifen IT.

Put down small bait placements throughout the yard, where you have noticed fire ant activity. The worker fire ants, then pick this bait up before taking it back to the colony, which then feeds on it.

The bait is designed to hit an ant colony at its source, the queen. When the bait works itself into the colony the queen actually becomes sterile. So she can’t produce any more eggs. Therefore, the colony dies.

For me, the biggest benefit of using Bifen IT is that you actually can control more than just fire ants. It gives you the added bonus of killing off any type of turf pest that may be out there. Whereas with Extinguished Plus (Amazon), it is really just targeted towards fire ants.

Another thing to remember is that with Extinguished Plus you can’t use any type of contact insecticide alongside it. If you use a product that kills ants too quickly, they won’t be able to assist you in bringing poisoned bait right into the heart of their colony.

Unfortunately, fire ants at times can actually enter into the home. If they do you’ll want to use a product called aerosol foam, this product contains an active chemical and is delivered as a foam to fill all voids, cracks, and crevices. This is an excellent perimeter treatment to keep ants from coming indoors.

You can also use a product called D-Fense (Amazon). This product can be injected through the weep holes on the exterior of the brick veneer and on the inside up underneath appliances and behind appliances.

After following this process. You will begin to see a noticeable difference within a couple of days. Remember every three months, apply your Bifen IT that will help prevent reinfestation in the property and prevent them from actually entering the home. 

Tools for spreading Insecticide outdoors

Battery Powered Sprayer

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What will kill fire ants instantly?

One of the best products to kill fire ants instantly is called Ortho Fire Ant Killer. Due to its design, it is able to kill the fire ants quickly and efficiently and starts to take effect within minutes.

These types of “kill on contact” insecticides are best used on the ant nests or mounds that you see in your yard. This is because the fire ants will be killed instantly when they come into contact with the Ortho Fire Ant Killer.

However, it may not entirely eradicate an ant colony as a queen could still be alive and produce more eggs.

To ensure that you get rid of an entire fire ant colony, you’ll want to use a bait that will slowly poison the entire population and render the queen sterile.

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Liquid insecticides are excellent for building a perimeter around your property and keeping ant colonies in check.

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How do you stop fire ants from spreading?

The best way to stop fire ants from spreading is to treat them before they have an opportunity to swarm.

Like other ant species, when a fire ant colony is reaching its capacity new novice ant queen will be born. It’s their job to mate with male ants and then find new locations for new nests. This is what is happening during those summer evenings full of swarming fire ants.

So the best method to stop fire ants from spreading is to identify their presence during spring and early summer and then target the existing queen. If you can kill off the workers and sterilize the queen with the right product, you won’t see those new ant colonies spring up as quickly.

What time of day are fire ants most active?

Fire ants are most active during the early morning or evening, as this is when they are able to forage for food.

Fire ants are less active at night, as this is when the temperature drops and they retreat back into their nests to keep warm.

During the day, fire ants will avoid the heat of the sun as much as possible and will only come out to forage for food if it is absolutely necessary.

Do fire ants go away in the winter?

Fire ants, despite their toasty name, do not naturally die off in the winter months. While the cold weather may kill some fire ants, the queens will simply burrow deeper into the ground where it is warmer and continue to lay eggs.

In fact, winter is actually a good time for fire ant colonies to grow, as the cool weather kills off many of their predators and competitors. The only time that you are likely to see a decrease in fire ant activity is during a severe drought, as this will limit their access to food and water.

This means that if you had a fire ant issue before the snow came, you’re likely to have the same problem when spring arrives.

The best way to get rid of fire ants is to prevent them from taking up residence in your yard in the first place.

How deep are fire ant nests?

Despite their small size, fire ants can build impressive nests which can nearly be as wide as they are deep. Their nests have be found to descend as far as twenty feet into the earth and extent up to eight feet in all directions. You can also find some fire ant mounds as high as two feet.

However, you aren’t likely to find such an extensive fire ant colony in a residential area. Still if left untreated these fire ants can really establish themselves in your yard, so it’s important to act fast.

Do fire ants have a natural enemy?

Like most insects, fire ants are not at the top of their food chain. In fact, they are regularly preyed upon by armadillos, antlions, spiders, birds, and horned lizards.

While these types of predators may gorge themselves on fire ants from time to time, they are not enough to put a significant dent in the fire ant population. This is why it’s important for humans to take action against these pests.

So if you were thinking of trying to coax an armadillo or two into your yard, it’s not going to be as effective as good old-fashioned pest control.

How much does it cost to treat for fire ants?

The average cost of a fire ant treatment is between $100 and $300. This will depend on the size of your yard, the severity of the infestation, and the type of treatment that you choose.

For a small yard, you may be able to treat the problem yourself with an over-the-counter fire ant killer. These products typically cost between $10 and $20.

For a larger infestation, you may need to hire a professional pest control company. This can be expensive, but it will ensure that the problem is taken care of quickly and effectively.

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