Treating Fire Ants
Treating fire ants is a common concern in Central Texas. It seems those little buggers become active and take over our yards right when we’re ready to get out there and use it. You don’t have to forfeit your yard to fire ants. You just need a plan of attack so you can take back your yard.
Identify the Culprit
The first thing you need to do is make sure that you are actually dealing with fire ants. Certain types of ants are actually predators of fire ants. We don’t want to kill those! Also, different types of ants and pests require different treatments. Using the wrong treatment can not only waste time and money, but may harm the good bugs you want to keep around.
To identify fire ants, you want to look at three things:
- Appearance: fire ants are reddish brown to reddish black with a stinger on their abdomen.
- Location: Fire ants like to set up their homes in a bright sunny location, and create mounds that can be as much as 18″ tall.
- Behavior: Fire ants are inactive during the hottest part of the day, and appear mostly in the spring and fall. They feed on living insects and dead animals, as well as sweet and fatty foods.
Attack: Chemical Free Approach
If you are looking for natural, chemical free solutions there are a few you can try.
- Pour boiling water on each mound (3 gallons). Most of the time this kills the mound. It’s always best to do this right after it rains.
- In early spring add beneficial nematodes to your soil. These nematodes not only kill ant larvae, but other soil-dwelling critters such as grubs. Add them at to moist soil right at dusk for best results.
Attack: Go for the Kill
As much as we love all natural methods, they don’t always do the trick, especially if you’re dealing with a large, prevalent infestation. You don’t have to pull out the blowtorch nor do you have to douse your entire yard with chemicals. Instead do the following:
- Choose a bait product that is formulated specifically for fire ants. Baits are safer and more effective than contact sprays. Always use fresh bait, as the product can go stale and lose its efficacy over time.
- Apply baits when ants are on the hunt for food. A popular method for testing this is what I like to call the picnic method. Place a potato chip near the mound. Once they start swarming the chip, its time to apply the bait.
- Never apply bait before a rain. It won’t stick around long enough to do its job.
Another thing to consider is to get your neighbors on board. Just like with weeds, a problem in your neighbor’s yard can quickly become yours. If you all treat at the same time, you can eradicate the problem and do a better job of keeping it from coming back.
As always, whenever using chemical applications, read the directions carefully. Follow the instructions and don’t use more than is recommended and be sure to wear protection. Keep all chemicals away from pets and children and store properly to avoid spillage and contamination.