Learn powerful up to date methods from the experts that will stop Fire Ants in their tracks and get rid of them for good.
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How To Get Rid of Fire Ants In Your Yard
Recent recruits to southern states require an adjustment period when learning about our wildlife and pest insects. From alligators in freshwater and sharks in the salt water, and all manner of snakes in between, fire ants may not be on the minds of our new neighbors. The ferocity of fire ants often take recent transplants by surprise when first they are attacked. Fire ants are aggressive omnivorous ants which strike fear into other insect species. Fire ants easily kill and consume spiders, scorpions, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. As part of the decomposition cycle, they readily feed on carrion and help to pick skeletons clean of all flesh. Fire ants can even kill and consume chickens, rodents, and newborn fawns. With powerful weapons such as venom, stingers, and strong jaws at their ready, it is no wonder they terrorize the legs and feet of children tossing a ball or playing chase in front yards all across the South.
History of Fire Ants in the United States
The most common fire ant in the United States is the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, commonly referred to as RIFA for short. Prior to about 1930, fire ants were not an issue in the United States. These fire ants are native to South America where they have natural predators that keep their numbers in check. These natural biological controls which include pathogens, parasites, predators, and viruses, did not exist in the United States. Therefore, fire ants expanded unimpeded for many years. After much research and scientific development, we now have a greater understanding of fire ant communities and better products with which to fight these aggressive invasive ants.
Where do Fire Ants live?
Red imported fire ants, RIFA, were introduced into the port of Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida in 1933. Since this time, they have firmly established their dominance within the soil of the southern United States. Red imported fire ants are so powerful that they can dominate other ant species and eradicate them. RIFA currently infests approximately 300 million acres across the United States.
The vast majority of these infested lands are in the southern part of the United States and include:
Currently, researchers expect red imported fire ants to continue to spread across the United States and other countries if the climate is suitable. Traditionally, fire ants have thrived in warm tropical climates, but some scientists believe they are adjusting to cooler weather as they head north.
Species of Fire Ants
Although the red imported fire ant is the most common, problematic, and aggressive fire ant, there are other species of fire ants thriving in our southern soils. It should be noted that throughout this article, when the generic term fire ant is used, I will be referring to Solenopsis invicta, the red imported fire ant, or RIFA. The general behaviors of the 3 species of fire ants mentioned in this article are quite similar, and the control methods between the species of fire ants do not differ.
Native Fire Ants
Native to Florida are the native fire ants, Solenopsis geminata (Fabricius). These native fire ants, also called tropical fire ants, are present in tropical environments, but much less of a bother than the RIFA. Their stings are just as painful as the sting of the RIFA, they are simply less prevalent in the environment and slightly less aggressive. Distinctive to the native fire ant is a percentage of the worker ants with larger than proportional heads. These ants have a specific job of milling seeds for the colony. Imported fire ant colonies do not have worker ants with this larger head.
Black Imported Fire Ants
Black imported fire ants, Solenopsis richteri, were accidentally imported from South America into Mobile, Alabama around 1918. Although introduced first, the black imported fire ant has not established the domination that the red imported fire ant has. The black imported fire ant is still restricted to parts of Mississippi and Alabama.
Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA)
As mentioned above, the red imported fire ants, RIFA, are the most common fire ant found in our backyards, gardens, and ball parks. Red imported fire ants are usually red to brown in color with a black gaster, or rear end. This black gaster is accentuated with a needle-like stinger from which it can inject an alkaloid venom. This powerful venom can kill small insects, and paralyze prey much larger than the fire ant. When their nest is disturbed, thousands of red imported fire ants pour from their subterranean nest and violently attack. While most often, this attack is immediately painful, and causes white tipped blisters or pustules, some people experience severe anaphylactic reactions and even death. Every so often, a horror story will make the news of fire ants overpowering those in nursing homes and hospitals, and small children attacked in their beds or in the grass. Especially in heavily used yards with young children, fire ant prevention and control is a necessary part of protecting your family.
Red Ants vs Fire Ants
Many people mistakenly assume that all ants that have a vaguely reddish tinge are the red imported fire ant. Nature is rarely that black and white… or red. Even amongst red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, they are not always red. RIFA range from red to dark brown in color. They also range in size from 1/8” to ¼” in length. Additionally, some ants that do not tend to bite or sting, may be reddish in color. Diagnosing your ant problem is not as simple as making a color judgement. To further confuse the issue, some areas of the country colloquially use the term red ants when referring to fire ants. Unfortunately, the surest way to determine if you have fire ants, is to gauge the aggressiveness of the ants. If you have disrupted a fire ant mound, within seconds your foot, leg, or hand will be covered in fire ants. You will experience searing hot pain as they both bite and sting repeatedly. Even if the ant is reddish in color, a single ant bite is rarely that of a fire ant. For a definitive identification and treatment options, contact your Nextgen Pest Solutions technician.
Life Cycle and Fire Ant Nests
As with most social insects, the key to their control is to kill the queens. Despite your efforts, without matricide, the fire ant colony will likely rebound from its loss of workers and continue to plague your children, pets, and visitors to your yard. Fire ant colonies originally had 1 queen, but scientists have found multi-queen colonies taking over most areas. A brief explanation of the fire ant life cycle and the organization of their nests and colonies will help you choose the most appropriate fire ant treatment.
Fire ants prefer open sunny areas such as pastures, crop fields, athletic fields, golf courses, parks, and of course the suburban yard. Fire ants generally live underground, with mounds of dirt alerting us to their presence, but sometimes they nest in electrical boxes, under or beside sidewalks, in rotting logs, and even indoors. Fire ants may wander indoors while foraging for food and find a smorgasbord of offerings in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities. These situations often result in serious injury or death to patients who may not be able to respond to the painful bites. Fire ants indoors are relatively rare, but exceedingly dangerous.
After about 1 year of existence, fire ant colonies begin to produce alates, which are fire ants that are capable of reproduction. These specialized fire ants with the ability to reproduce, have wings and fly from the colony in great numbers. Between 6-8 times per year, nearly 5,000 alates take off on a nuptial or mating flight. The ants mate during flight and the males die off shortly thereafter. The females attempt to burrow in a protected area in hopes of survival. Once securely underground, the future queen lays her first brood of eggs within 24 hours of mating. This first brood is small, between 10-15 eggs. About 1 week after laying the eggs, they hatch and fire ant larvae emerge. The queen herself must nourish and take care of these ants until they are old enough to leave the nest and forage for food. Depending upon various factors, this may take between 2 weeks and one month. During this time she feeds the larvae various secretions from her body including her wing muscles which she will never need again.
These first fire ants of the colony are small, but as soon as they are able, they begin to forage for food, and the queen gets back to her business of laying eggs. As the food supply in the nest increases, the quantity and size of fire ants increase. Within 6 months, a red imported fire ant nest may contain approximately several thousand ants, and its mound is obvious in the lawn. At maximum efficiency, the queen may lay as many as 1,500 eggs per day. An average RIFA nest contains 80,000 fire ants, but an exceptionally large and mature fire ant nest may contain as many as 240,000 fire ants. Queen fire ants can live for about 7 years, and worker fire ants usually live for about 5 weeks.
In colonies that survive with one queen, the ants are territorial and often battle with other ant species and other fire ant colonies. However, in polygyne (multi-queen) fire ant colonies, the nests are more cooperative. From our above-ground perspective, the fire ant mounds in multiple queen colonies are closer together and more numerous per acre. The foraging fire ants wander freely between the mounds rather than constantly battling with one another. Although each queen in a polygyne fire ant colony produces fewer eggs in her lifetime, in aggregate more fire ants are produced per acre. Areas infested with single queen fire ant colonies usually have about 7 million fire ants per acre. However, areas infested with multi-queen fire ant colonies, may have as many as 200 fire ant mounds equating to 40 million fire ants per acre. This level of fire ant density drowns out other native wildlife in the area and may cause this land to be unfit for other purposes.
Sometimes fire ant queens will take a few workers, the eggs and larvae and move to a new location. Early in this segment, when I said it is imperative to kill the queen, this is the reason. A pest control application that causes a massive fire ant kill off, but does not reach the queen, will not solve your problem. Have you ever treated a fire ant mound just to notice a “new” one pop up a foot away? In heavy rains and flooding, as happens with some regularity in the south, fire ants may abandon their subterranean nest altogether and seek shelter inside your home. Without a pest control program that targets the queen, you will chase fire ants around your yard without actually solving the problem.
Other Impacts of Fire Ants
If you have stuck with me this far, you are probably familiar with the intense flaming hot pain of a fire ant attack. As troublesome and dangerous as fire ants are on human health, they have a direct economic impact on many facets of the economy. It is estimated that red imported fire ants directly cause a loss of $6.7 billion dollars in losses every year.
Fire ants are responsible for electrical shorts and damage to electrical equipment. They seem to have an attraction to nesting inside utility boxes. They bring in large amounts of soil, and as the colony grows in number, the ants themselves can cause electrical malfunctions.
Agriculture is negatively affected by fire ants in the fields. Large fire ant mounds can damage farming equipment. Fire ant infested fields are generally less productive and healthy than fields that are not supporting a large fire ant population. Although fire ants do eat certain insects, they do not aggressively eat sucking insects that produce honeydew. Fire ants enjoy honeydew and bring this sweet liquid substance back to the colony. Therefore, they do not help farmers battle aphids and mealybugs, which causes more pesticides to be used on the crops.
Because of their imperialistic mindset, red imported fire ants take an enormous toll on the native wildlife populations in the areas in which they infest. Native insects and other ant species are especially susceptible, but their insatiable appetites also reduce the number of birds. They have been observed climbing trees, entering bird nests, and feasting upon the young. Larger mammals are also reduced indirectly by fire ants as they eat the insects upon which other wildlife relies. Fire ants are even known to attack newborn fawns as they lay in the grass waiting for their mothers.
In fire ant infested areas of the south, about 40% of people are stung every year. These attacks are painful, swift, and severe. The brutality of fire ant attacks are best realized through the terror in your child’s eyes as they run to you with the searing pain of fire ants biting, stinging, and injecting poison into their little systems. I write this as my own child is currently covered in fire ant bites across his legs and arms. When something as pure and innocent as playing catch in the backyard can cause this level of enduring pain, the quest to eradicate these beasts from your yard may become an obsession. However, these ferocious fire ants are in it to win. Fire ants are by nature survivors. Thanks to the scientific study of RIFA or the red imported fire ant, we now have effective weapons against fire ants in our pest control arsenal.
As noted above, about 40% of the population in fire ant infested areas will be stung each year. When people use the term “ant bite” that is technically less than accurate. Fire ants are unique little terrors in that they use their strong jaws to grab hold of our skin and hold on tightly. This is the bite portion of the fire ant bite. The real pain is inflicted in the sting. Fire ants have a stinger attached to their abdomen which they are not reluctant to use. Anchoring themselves to you with their strong jaws, they raise their abdomen and forcefully pierce your skin with their stinger. They tirelessly continue this attack in a circular pattern until they are brushed off. Each fire ant can sting a person multiple times, introducing a toxic poison into your body with every injection.
Fire ant poison consists mainly of an alkaline chemical known as piperidine or solenopsin. Fire ants foraging for food use their stinger and venom combination to paralyze, kill, and drag food back to the fire ant colony. Combining their hostile disposition and their deadly venom, many animals in the ecosystem have no defense against a horde of hungry fire ants and succumb to their appetites. However, humans are not typically considered a potential food source for fire ants, rather a dangerous intruder which must be destroyed. When we disturb the fire ant mound, a call goes out to all the fire ants that they are under attack. To the fire ants, they view our feet as threatening the very existence of their colony and queen. Often thousands of ants come pouring out of the nest and attach themselves and repeatedly sting. The fire ants show no mercy; the reprieve only comes when the ants are brushed off, squished, or killed.
Fire Ant Blister
Fire ant bites and/or stings, although excruciatingly painful, can usually be handled with over the counter treatments. Within a few hours, the stings will swell to a small red bump. These red bumps continue to be painful and itchy for days to come. When the visual evidence of the attack develops, you’ll realize the determined violence of fire ants. A very brief encounter, meaning one small step on the mound followed by 30 seconds of brushing the ants off, can result in swelling and bumps over the majority of the affected leg, foot, or arm. An average fire ant attack will yield several hundred stings, but reports of thousands of stings are not uncommon, especially for the elderly or small children that cannot run away.
The normal progression of fire ant bite/stings is after a day or 2, the red bumps change into a white pustule. This white fluid filled blister remains painful days after the encounter with the fire ants. A common question is whether this white fluid filled blister should be popped. These pustules are a normal human reaction to the venom of fire ants. Popping this white fire ant blister is not recommended. The best treatment for these painful white fire ant blisters is to keep them clean and dry. Especially for small children, consider keeping them covered lightly with gauze to prevent scratching, popping, and breaking of the skin. Once the skin is broken, the risk of infection becomes a very real danger. Although the pain is severe and allergic reactions can cause death, the most common risk of fire ant bites remains the risk of infection. Do not intentionally pop these white fire ant blisters; doing so may prolong the healing process and cause you unnecessary pain and suffering.
If these fire ant pustules or blisters are protected and permitted to heal on their own, they usually resolve themselves within 7-10 days.
Fire Ant Allergy
Approximately 1% of the population are severely allergic to the venom injected by fire ants. Considering the high percentage of people in fire ant areas will experience a fire ant bite/sting, this allergy is a significant problem. People who work, play, and recreate outdoors have a greater chance of encountering this devilish ant. During a sustained attack, a large amount of fire ant venom is injected into a person. The normal, or non-allergic reaction is described above. A small, red, painful bump appears. This red bump develops a white head on it after a day or two. Ultimately, this normal reaction resolves itself and you move on with a new respect for the red imported fire ant.
However, in people with allergies to fire ant venom, taking one wrong step in the great outdoors can have severe repercussions. Allergic reactions to fire ant venom can range from a more broadly distributed skin reaction to death from anaphylactic reaction. Large local reactions are indicative of an allergic reaction. This simply means that in addition to the small red or white bumps and blisters, the underlying skin becomes swollen, red, and irritated. These minor fire ant allergies may be successfully treated with antihistamines and creams in the short term, but you should follow up with an allergist. Often, if you experience a minor allergic reaction to a venom, the next time your system is exposed to that venom, you may experience a more severe allergic reaction. It is believed that around half of the people stung by fire ants will react in this manner.
The more severe form of fire ant allergic reaction is an anaphylactic reaction. We have all heard that people can die of bee, wasp, or hornet stings. Ants, bees, and wasps are all of the order Hymenoptera, therefore it’s no wonder human allergic reactions can be similar. A severe fire ant attack may result in thousands of fire ant stings. Each sting injects a powerful venom into the human body. Approximately 1% of people stung by fire ants will experience a whole-body allergic reaction.
The symptoms range due to the severity of the allergy and the number of stings, but some common symptoms of a fire ant allergy are as follows:
Itching and redness over the whole body, not just areas that sustained fire ant stings
Hives, redness, and swelling over a large area
Runny nose and/or itchy eyes
Swelling of the lips, throat, or tongue
Difficulty breathing and/or shortness of breath
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Low blood pressure
Lightheadedness and/or passing out
If you experience any of these symptoms after a fire ant confrontation, seek medical attention immediately. Although rare, humans have died from allergic reactions to fire ant venom. One figure suggests that about 30 people die from fire ants in the United States every year. While this number is not overwhelming, if you have a known allergy to the venom of fire ants, you should consult with an allergist and be prepared for the next encounter with fire ants.
Pictures of fire ant bites can be hard to look at. Knowing the pain sustained by the people, often children or the elderly, in the most egregious fire ant bite pictures, makes most people want to avert their eyes. However, a typical or normal physical reaction to fire ant bites can be visually alarming. It is important to compare your painful and possibly shocking physical reaction to what is considered a normal fire ant bite reaction.
Below are pictures of non-allergic fire ant bite reactions. As unpleasant as it is, a large quantity of small red raised bumps followed by white liquid filled pustules is a normal fire ant reaction.
Fire Ant Bite Treatment
The first and most important step in treating fire ant bites is to get them off of you! Fire ants will continue to bite so long as they are attached. Remember, they are holding on to your skin with their strong jaws. Running, lightly waving your hand over them, or other gentle tactics will not disarm fire ants from your skin. You must aggressively swat and brush them off your skin. Teach your children that their first priority is to get out of the fire ant mound, and then brush them off! Much pain and venom is injected if your child spends precious seconds running to find mom or dad. As a side note, as much as flip flops are an established part of culture in the south, especially in Florida, if your children are playing in the grass or other potentially fire ant infested areas, make sure they are wearing socks and sneakers!
Assuming your reaction to a fire ant offensive is typical and not allergic, these bites can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications. Remember, do NOT pop the fire ant blisters.
Wash the affected areas with soap and water
Apply hydrocortisone cream on the fire ant pustules
If necessary, take an oral antihistamine medication
Ice packs to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation
Keep the pustules clean and dry; cover with gauze if necessary to prevent the scratching and breaking of skin
Especially, if the skin breaks, apply antibiotic cream to the areas susceptible to infection
Ibuprofen may help to reduce inflammation and pain
Doctors may prescribe a corticosteroid, or steroid creams or ointments
If any of your symptoms are overly concerning, do not hesitate to seek medical treatment. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a cream to alleviate your symptoms and treat any allergic reaction. If blisters pop red streaks appear, additional redness and pain to the area, or fever develops, seek medical treatment. If the area becomes infected, you will likely require a prescription antibiotic.
If you experience any symptoms of anaphylaxis, seek medical treatment immediately. The treatment is similar to that of a bee sting allergy. A dose of epinephrine, rapidly administered through an EpiPen, can save your life and halt the allergic reaction in its tracks.
Typically, the bumps and pustules from fire ants will be visible for about 7 to 10 days. During this time, pain and discomfort is normal, but great care should be taken to avoid scratching the bumps. With luck, you will emerge from the battle with fire ants with no lasting consequences save for a newfound respect for this fierce fighter.
Getting Rid of Fire Ants Naturally
In the United States, red imported fire ants have no real natural enemies that keep their numbers in check as is present in their native South America. Therefore, as they invaded our land desperate southerners tried many different natural fire ant remedies. They observed the foraging nature of fire ants and threw what they had at them. From grits, cayenne pepper, gasoline, lemon, and boiling water, people have tried everything to eradicate these fierce assassins from their yards, fields, and pastures. Remember, though, if you don’t kill the queen, the fire ant colony will resurrect. Thankfully, we now have effective and environmentally sound methods of killing fire ants and making your yard, soccer field, and golf course a safe place to enjoy your friends and family.
Fire Ant Home Remedies
The fire ant home remedies that your grandma swore by, most often do not kill the entire fire ant colony. Unless the queen is eliminated, the fire ant colony will continue. The worker fire ants are extremely protective of their queen. The queen resides in a chamber deep within the nest where she lays up to 1,500 eggs per day. Her workers construct an elaborate nest with tunnels and chambers. At the slightest sense of danger, the workers carry their queen through underground tunnels to a new chamber and the colony relocates. Have you ever kicked at an ant pile only to observe it again in a few days. It now appears vacant, but another ant pile popped up a few feet away. The fire ants moved to what they believe to be a safer location. This is what often happens with home remedies.
Fire ant home remedies are often chosen because they are believed to be safe and more environmentally friendly. However, many of desperate actions taken against fire ants in generations past carried inherent risks to both people and the environment. While carrying a pot of boiling hot water outside to the pile, you may burn yourself or others. You will certainly aggravate many fire ants, and you may even kill a few, but you will likely not scald the queen to death. Pouring gasoline or diesel fuel onto the ant mounds again will likely kill a few frontline worker fire ants but will not be lethal to the queen. Not to mention the obvious environmental hazard this approach carries.
To kill the queen, you must trick the workers to bring her food that they believe to be safe. My favorite of the fire ant home remedies is the idea that grits or cornmeal will kill the fire ant colony by the grits or cornmeal swelling in their bellies causing them to explode. After having sat down to many delicious southern meals heavy on grits and cornbread, one can understand where the idea of physically exploding comes from. Ant scientists have actually done research with plots of land cultivated with fire ants and determined that this home remedy does not work. Most fire ants do not eat solid food. The oldest fire ant larvae (4th instar) are the only fire ants that can digest solid food. These specific fire ants digest the solids and turn it into a liquid which is subsequently fed to all the other ants of the colony including the queen.
Pouring large amounts of salt, vinegar, baking soda, bleach and other chemicals commonly found in the home on fire ant mounds is not generally successful. You may feel like you’ve won a temporary victory when that ant mound appears to go dormant, but underground they are rebuilding the nest and will pop up nearby in short order.
Biological Controls, Pathagens, and Viruses to Control Fire Ants
Fire ants are so atrocious in the United States because they do not have natural predators as they do in South America. Research is ongoing regarding releasing some of these fire ant predators to try to reduce the fire ant population in the United States. Introducing non-native biological controls of this nature are a risky proposition. It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the full ecological repercussions of introducing a non-native species until it is done. Although some of these fire ant predator species may indeed slow the spread of fire ants, what impact will they have on native and beneficial insects and wildlife?
Many species of phorid flies are here in the United States. One particular genus of phorid fly, Pseudacteon phorid fly is a parasite to fire ants. They dive bomb worker fire ants and deposit their eggs into the fire ant’s body. If a robust population of these phorid flies is established, it stands to reason the fire ant population will diminish. Studies are ongoing and these phorid flies are not commercially available currently. Even if these phorid flies are released and become well established, they will not eliminate fire ants; the best hope is to suppress the fire ant’s dominance within the landscape allowing native species to safely forage for food and establish colonies.
A specific pathogen, Kneallhazia solenopsae, is known to infect the colonies of red imported fire ants. In 1996 it was discovered in fire ant colonies in the United States. It is believed that this germ is spread in polygyne fire ant colonies as the ants freely go from colony to colony. This pathogen does not wipe out the colony entirely, but it greatly effects the health and vitality of the fire ant colonies. Fire ant colonies with this pathogen are believed to be more susceptible to insecticides and infected ants have shorter life spans. Infected queens lay fewer eggs resulting in smaller fire ant colonies and up to 63% reductions in populations.
Several viruses are known to infect colonies of fire ants in South America. Solenopsis invicta virus 3 (SINV-3) shows great promise for use as a biopesticide. This RNA virus specifically attacks fire ant colonies, causes significant mortality, is easily transferred between fire ants, and can be formulated as a bait. It seems as though this virus disrupts the worker ant’s foraging behaviors. When the colony is not fed, it dies.
By researching these biological controls, pathogens, and viruses that negatively affect fire ants, we can use this knowledge to suppress fire ants, reduce their effect on native species, and limit losses from their activity. While many of these natural control measures are not yet ready for the market, brilliant researchers are tirelessly working to expand our understanding of fire ants and how best to battle the scourge.
How To Kill Fire Ants
In the south we believe in pool parties, BBQs, football, and church picnics. Unfortunately, fire ants freely invite themselves to these, and many other outdoor gatherings. In order to fully enjoy your yard and your free time with friends and family, fire ant control is a necessary toll we pay for living south of the Mason-Dixon line. Accepting the fact that fire ants are a fact of life in the south and proactively treating your yard, will yield greater results than chasing around individual fire ant mounds throughout the summer.
Fire ant control products are available in different formulations, different active ingredients, and different treatment methods. Depending upon your chosen product, read and follow the label precisely. Any product that you purchase designed for fire ant control is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. If you do not follow the label on the product, you are violating federal law. Pesticides approved for use against fire ants fall into either the category of a contact pesticide or a bait. These may be in the form of a dust, granule, liquid drenches, or bait. Many traditional pesticides are contact insecticides which affect the nervous system of the ants. Baiting for fire ants is a highly effective way of ensuring the queen consumes a lethal dose of poison. By combining a pesticide with a food grade attractant, the bait is happily carried into the nest and disbursed to all the inhabitants. Depending upon the product, some of these insecticides kill fire ants quickly, while others may take 4-6 weeks to kill the colonies. There are different treatment options for different fire ant scenarios, but remember, you must kill the queen.
In situations where a yard is small with a single or just a few fire ant mounds, individual mound treatments may be sufficient. Individual mounds may be treated with a bait product or with liquid trenches. If you choose to treat a fire ant mound with a liquid treatment, recall that the treatment must contact the queen. Liquid fire ant mound treatments are most successful when the ants are close to the surface in mild weather. Proper application of the fire ant treatment is essential. Read and follow the label for fire ants on your selected product. You may also treat individual mounds with a granular bait product. Some fire ant baits kill within 24 hours, some products take a week to kill fire ants. The fire ant products found at your local home improvement store, will require more patience than the products we use here at Nextgen Pest Solutions.
Fire ant bait should be applied as described on the label of the product. The goal is to entice the fire ants to eat the bait, bring it back to their fellow colony mates, and ultimately kill the queen. Fire ant bait must be fresh. Just as we toss a bag of stale potato chips or sour milk, fire ants will not drag back stale bait to the nest. Additionally, it is easy to think that by applying a large amount of bait to the top of their mound will ensure their acceptance of an “easy meal.” It is quite the opposite. They recognize it as unnatural to have their home disturbed by food falling from the sky. Rather, a gentle sprinkling as per label instructions is sufficient for the ants to locate the delicious smelling meal and haul it back home.
For ultimate fire ant control, a two-step approach is encouraged. The first step is a general broadcast insecticide spread throughout the entire yard. This proactive approach ensures that 80%-90% of fire ants are prevented from establishing domicile in your yard. Again, these broadcast products vary in the time it takes to kill fire ants and how long they last. By preventing the majority of fire ant mounds from appearing, you save time, effort, money, and painful bites by not having to treat the vast majority of them. Carefully calculate the amount of product that you need to apply for your yard size. You can use a simple hand spreader or for a large yard a push spreader. The most common mistake is to overapply the product. It takes less than you would think to kill these beasts.
The second step for ultimate fire ant control is to individually treat the few fire ant mounds that do appear in the yard. Just as with an individual mound treatment described above, simply sprinkle your chosen bait and your done. Sometimes even after a broadcast treatment, individual baiting fire ant mounds at the base of trees, underneath sidewalks, and in flower beds is required. Depending upon the products you are using, be sure to set a schedule, or go ahead and put a reminder in your phone when it is time to reapply. By remaining vigilant throughout the year and proactive, you can save yourself and your children a whole lot of pain and irritation from fire ants.
Grazing lands, hay fields, and pasture lands should be treated only with fire ant products that are specifically EPA approved for these purposes.
Fire Ant Bites and Dogs
Just as we instantly react in pain when we accidentally step into a fire ant mound, our dogs are susceptible to fire ant bites as well. Running through the yard, playing a game of catch with his family, your pup can step into a fire ant nest. Or worse, if he’s taking a nap in the sunshine on a warm summer’s day, fire ants can accost him in his sleep. Your dog experiences similar pain and risks from fire ants as we humans.
Often dogs will develop red bumps and white pustules at the site of the fire ant bites and stings. Depending upon the thickness of your dog’s fur, these blisters may be difficult to see. If you notice him scratching, pawing, or biting at a particular area, inspect it thoroughly. As with people, dogs most likely get bit by fire ants on their feet and legs. It is important to keep these afflicted areas clean and dry. Prevent your dog from scratching these fire ant blisters. A cone shaped recovery collar may prevent your pup from biting, licking, and scratching the fire ant bites. To alleviate pain, you can apply an ice pack or apply a calming salve to their skin. Do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you are concerned about fire ant symptoms on your dog.
After a fire ant incident with your dog, remain vigilant looking for signs of an allergic reaction. A fire ant allergic reaction by your dog requires medical treatment. Signs of anaphylactic reaction in dogs may include facial swelling, trouble breathing, vomiting, and collapse. Especially if you have a dog with sensitive skin or allergies, fire ants in your yard can cause pain and suffering to our canine family members as well.
Nextgen Fire Ant Service
When dealing with fire ants, or any pest insect for that matter, you should not seek to annihilate every fire ant within a 5-mile radius of your home. By taking care of your yard and home, you will establish a buffer or safe zone for your family and friends to enjoy the great outdoors. Optimal fire ant control requires proactive planning rather than reacting to every fire ant mound that appears during the summer. The easiest and most cost-effective way to thoroughly enjoy your yard is to include Nextgen’s Fire Ant Service with your regular preventative pest control. Never again have another family football game end in tears and fire ant blisters. We only use premium fast-acting fire ant products to ensure that the fire ants disappear quickly and completely from your yard. Call Nextgen Pest Solutions today to schedule mosquito, fire ant, or roach control service.