If you dwell in one of the southern states it’s likely you’ve encountered the annoying and painful fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). Reddish is color and native to South America, imported fire ants inhabit all or parts of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. While it’s impossible to number the amount of ants in the United States, it isn’t impossible to estimate the damaging impact they have in certain areas. In Texas alone, the impact of these ants is estimated to be $1.2 billion a year, posing serious health threats to plants and animals.
Just the thought of dealing with these pesky intruders makes many people cringe, and while it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be completely eliminated, it is possible to work at controlling them in your yard.
Fire Ant Treatments
There are four main methods of treatments that can be used to control fire ants in your lawn: granular baits, mound treatments, broadcast insecticide treatments, and organic treatments. Since fire ants are extremely persistent, it is imperative that your control remains rigorous.
- Granular baits have a few advantages: they aren’t as expensive, they are safe to pets and wildlife and they are very easy to apply. Although slow acting, they are effective. Treatments contain food and attractants, which get the worker ants to bring them back to the rest of the colony. Once inside, the insecticides and growth disruptors used spread through the mound, which kills more ants overall. Granular baits are most successful when used regularly as a preventative treatment. In other words, they should be used on smaller mounds before they become bigger ones.
- Mound treatments are available in both dry and liquid form and contain fast-acting contact insecticides, which are to be directly applied to the mound. Mound treatments are a quick and convenient way to deal with mounds that need attention in between granular bait treatments. Avoid disturbing mounds before applying.
- Broadcast insecticide treatments are the most common among homeowners. Because they come in granular form, they are easily confused with baits. However, since they only carry the insecticides and not the food or attractant, they are not the same. A spreader is needed to broadcast granules over the affected area, and most treatments will last anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks (sometimes longer), based on the product. Because this method can be more expensive, most homeowners save this method for the most sensitive areas of the lawn.
- Organic treatments are another alternative for those concerned about the safety of their family and the environment. While many organic methods aren’t effective, there are two good options might do the trick: dousing the mound in scalding water (usually 3 to 4 applications) or digging it up and covering it with baby powder, cornstarch, or soapy water after it’s dumped into a bucket. Be sure to dig the mound up in the morning since that’s when most of the ants will be present.
It’s important to remember that it’s virtually impossible to rid your lawn of fire ants forever. Once you figure out the best method for control however, it will be easier to at least minimize their impact.