Firing the Fire Ants - How To Get Rid Of Fire Ants

Having confessed that I am a roach killer, it probably surprises no one that I am also a mass murderer of the fire ant population. I don't believe anyone who has ever encountered these devils in disguise, is going to judge me. I simply hate fire ants!

What most people don't know (especially those living in colder climates where fire ants have not yet spread) -- Everyday, they kill armadillos, cattle, deer, fish, possums, raccoons, snakes, quail, lizards, songbirds, and occasionally very allergic humans (primarily children and the elderly).

Far worse, the fact is -- they cannot be eradicated completely by anything currently known to mankind. These insect pests aren't limited to rural agricultural areas, because they also invade urban areas and will infest your home if the conditions are right.

These aggressive and stinging little buggers, first appeared in the United States in the 1930s. It's believed that they arrived in Mobile, Alabama on board ships, having stowed away on ships in the soil used in ballasts. Ever since that time, they have been marching and increasing their territories -- from east to west across the south and inching north in warmer states.

Their increased presence isn't just a United States problem, they are also invading Mexico and other countries. As a species, ants have been around since the dinosaur days. Of the twelve thousand species of ants -- I nominate fire ants as our number one enemy.

Since they serve no useful purpose, meaning they are not a beneficial insect -- we need to fire the fire ants -- as they have no job skills that warrant their peaceful co-existance on our planet. Here in Florida, they are public enemy #1.

Red Fire Ants

Fire Ant Bites

As far as I am concerned, no other insect bite is as painful, or has such a long lasting that that of the fire ant. Remember once a nest is disturbed, hundreds of fire ants can swarm you in seconds. The first step in dealing with fire ant bites is prevention:

  1. Avoid getting stung in the first place by being alert to nests and mounds nearby;
  2. Do not disturb mounds;
  3. Teach children about the dangers of fire ants at an early age;
  4. If you have fire ants, you need to keep very young children away from the area infested with fire ants;
  5. Always wear protective clothing if you must work in an area where there are fire ants (i.e. boots, long pants, long sleeved shirts, etc.);
  6. Remember they can sting you repeatedly;
  7. Manage your fire ant population as best you can.

Secondly, if you are bit (stung) by fire ants:

  1. Immediately get them off of you by brushing them off;
  2. Remove any clothing that may be hiding more fire ants;
  3. Wash the affected area with soft and water;
  4. Disinfect the area with rubbing alcohol;
  5. Place an ice bag on the affected area for at least 15 minutes;
  6. Use Benadryl or other similar anti-itch creme;
  7. Consider using an oral antihistamine;
  8. Do not pop the pustules as this can lead to infection.

Fire ant bites
Fire ant bites | Source

Other Home Remedies for Fire Ant Bites

Some home remedies that may or may not work, but are worth trying:

  • Applying meat tenderizer
  • Aloe gel
  • Baking soda and water paste
  • Calamine lotion
  • Comfey
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Orange Oil
  • Vinegar

Some May Have Allergic Reactions

Some people may have highly allergic reactions to fire ant bites. This is particularly true of infants and the elderly. If the victim has any of the following (anaphylaxis) symptoms, you must seek immediately medical help:

  • Chest pains
  • Coma
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Hives
  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Shock
  • Swelling of tongue and throat

Note: Diabetics and individuals with other circulatory illnesses are at special risk and should consult their physician if stung by fire ants.

Part 1 - Fire Ant Attack On Baby

Part II - Fire Ant Attack on Baby

Not Just Our Problem

Fire ants are not just an American problem, fire ants have also invaded:

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Australia
  • China
  • Fiji
  • Hong Kong
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Paraguay
  • Philippines
  • Taipei
  • Taiwan
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

 

U.S. Areas With Fire Ant Populations

Locations where fire ants are a problem:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia

Types of Fire Ants

Many people don't know that there are four types of fire ants:

  • The Red Imported Fire Ant - Solenopsis invicta
  • The Black Imported Fire Ant - Solenopsis richteri
  • The Southern Fire Ant - Solenopsis xyloni
  • The Native Fire Ant - Solenopsis geminata (aka Tropical fire ant)

 

Outside of Killer Bees -- No Fiercer Enemy

Fire ants
Fire ants | Source

Fire Ant Warfare

The science of fire ant warfare, is complicated by the fact that they have no known natural predators. Your first line of defense, as it is with any insect invader, is to understand their habits.

 

Know The Habits of Thy Enemy

As with any insect pest, you should first know their habits in order to control the level of their infestation:

  1. Fire ants primarily feed on young plants, seeds, and other insects;
  2. Fire ants will attack small animals and amphibians;
  3. Fire ants will work as a unit to kill, both by biting and squirting their alkaloid venom (piperidine) on the bite;
  4. They prefer to locate their nests in moist and hidden soil (logs, rocks, brick, landscape material, concrete, etc.);
  5. Additionally, we humans are our own worst enemy, as we are the primary transporters of migrating fire ants;
  6. They are also spread by natural disasters, such as flooding;
  7. They destroy many crops;
  8. They will infest electrical equipment;
  9. They will infest insulation;
  10. They will infest compost piles;
  11. Their mounds can be as deep as six feet;
  12. They are attracted to electrical motors;

 

Crops That Fire Ants Do The Most Damage To

  • Blueberries
  • Citrus trees
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Fruits of many plants
  • Okra
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Sunflowers
  • Trees (bark)
  • Watermelons

Controlling Fire Ants

The best that we can hope for is to control fire ants. There are a number of options to accomplish this:

  • Organic Fire Ant Control
  • Pesticide Fire Ant Control
  • Combinations of Fire Ant Control, such as a dual step or two-step approach

Actually, the best you can hope for is to:

  1. Reduce the population;
  2. Control the population;
  3. Move the population off your property.

Remember: Regardless of what method you use, you are going to have on-going problems with these pests. They are apparently here to stay, although there is some hope that parasitic Phorid fly extremely deadly to the Red Imported Fire Ant. Experiments are being conducted to see if this provides a solution to the problem of fire ants.

Fire Ant Poison

Fire ant poisons or insecticides include:

  1. Maxforce
  2. Amdro
  3. Precise
  4. Raid Fire Ant Killer
  5. Ascend
  6. Logic
  7. Seige

It is recommended products containing Hydramethylnon are the most effective and fastest acting for ridding yourself of fire ants.

Also, the two-step method of control is preferred -- meaning use the insecticide and follow up later with boiling water and drenching of the mound.

Organic Fire Ant Killing Methods

The least toxic organic fire ant killing methods that work are:

  1. Green Light Organic Fire Killer
  2. Orange Guard Fire Ant Killer
  3. Safer Fire Ant Bait
  4. Garden-ville Fire Ant Control
  5. Green-Sense Soil Drench
  6. Citrus Oil

Lesser known and home remedies:

  1. Artificial sweeteners poured on the mounds;
  2. Grits poured on the mounds;
  3. Boiling water in large amounts poured on the mounds;

Do not pour gasoline and burn them out. This method is extremely dangerous and not recommended.

Rumor Has It

Reports are that fire ants are now known to be capable of playing dead. Ants from an attacking colony will find the young fire ants curled up, as those they are dead, while the older fire ants will fight to the death. Once the invaders leave, the young fire ants will uncurl and come back to life.

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What Insect Do You Hate the Most? 23 comments

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Hi

Thanks for sharing. I am always looking for more information on this topic. I am linking this to an article on fire ants that I am publishing. If you would prefer that I do not link it please advise and I will remove it.

Angels are on the way to you this morning. ps


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks toddwertz! I guess it depends on where you live, they are a huge problem in the South.


toddwertz profile image

toddwertz 5 years ago

I never heard about fire ants before. Thanks for this information.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Cheryl J! Glad to be of some help.


Cheryl J. profile image

Cheryl J. 5 years ago from Houston, TX

Jerilee,

Thanks for the useful information on firing the fire ants. I will use your information, because i see them building mounds in my yard periodically. A great hub.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Pest Inspection Gold Coast! That's a good reminder for pet owners.


Pest Inspection Gold Coast 5 years ago

Fire ants are a nuisance to pets especially dogs as they have a special liking for the fur and the attack can be quite severe.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Tim Blackstone! Many kinds of ants are attracted to electrical motors. However, we now have an invasion here of a kind of ant that moves into and takes over electrical objects such as computers.


Tim Blackstone profile image

Tim Blackstone 6 years ago

Fire ants seem to be nasty little devils but obviously very successful. I'm intrigued that they are "attracted to electrical motors". Do you mean they climb inside electrical equipment or is it the vibrations that attract their attention like a lawnmower would?


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Squidmom! I think they are horrible horrible ones.


Squidmom profile image

Squidmom 6 years ago from Texas

I live in Texas and get stung at least once every time I'm out hanging laundry-you are right they are very very painful. My last experience with this involved one that hiked a ride up my pant leg and bit me later on my top rib repeatedly. When I tried to swat it off it bit my hand! I'm not very sympathic towards them at all. The bites are painful when you first get them but continue to sting hours later, horrible,horrible things.(Sorry for the rant)


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks LVM! Drowning them will sometimes (but not always) move them.


LVM profile image

LVM 7 years ago

Those ants once pestered me by building their nests on my plant box. I didn't want to use a pesticide so I simply drowned them by saturating the plant box with water.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Alvin! Never knew that, doesn't surprise me.


Alvin 7 years ago

They are also known to introduce bacteria that could cause swelling of the foot and could cause death or amputation when they bite by the hundreds disabled patients' toes for example.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks melissa! How terrible, nothing worse than getting stung by fire ants to me.


melissa 7 years ago

I live in SE Oklahoma and we started having a problem with fire ants the summer 2008. I first noticed them while push mowing my yard, after disturbing their mound (which was hidden by the grass) they were ALL over my legs stinging me before I even knew it. I washed them off ASAP and went inside, my husband confirmed that they were fire ants. I was very sick that night but much better by the next morning.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 8 years ago from United States Author

I save my bare feet for inside and I hate wearing shoes in the summer. However, I hate fire ant bites more. Can't get rid of them here in Florida.


Dottie1 profile image

Dottie1 8 years ago from MA, USA

That was frightening watching the baby have an allergic reaction to the fire ants. When I visit my parents in FL my foot is always covered. No bare feet or sandals for me unless I'm inside.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 8 years ago from United States Author

Fleas can definitely be terrible once infested in a house. Thanks!


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 8 years ago

Well, I'm sure glad to hear that! Other insects that I find to be completely useless are fleas, flies, and green flies. The green ones bite, and are found a lot at beaches.

I'll be keeping an eye out for those nasty fire ants though!

Thanks for sharing,

Trish


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 8 years ago from United States Author

Bees, yellow jackets, wasps, and fire ants all get my vote on scariest. I felt your pain. Fire ants have been found in New Jersey but haven't gotten a foot hold as they have here in the south. Thanks!


trish1048 profile image

trish1048 8 years ago

Hi Jerilee,

This is frightening!  I live in NJ, and I've never seen a fire ant here, but that's not to say NJ doesn't have them.  Two summers ago I was mowing my grass, made a right turn, and all of a sudden felt what felt like pins all over my legs.  Well, I had disturbed a nest of yellow jackets.  I had noticed a deep hole in the ground and thought nothing of it, thinking perhaps it was a home for a mole or snake or something.  Little did I know, the vibration of the mower made the bees go on the attack.  I started screaming and was losing my breath as I ran to my steps, thinking my God, am I gonna pass out?  I made it inside and called 911.  They arrived quickly, and thankfully, after what seemed like hours, I was breathing normally.  I had been hyperventilating.  I kept swatting my hair and they assured me there were no bees in my hair, but I couldn't escape that creepy feeling.  The paramedic gave me an ice pack and told me to hold it on the spots that hurt, and that did help.  They stayed with me for a good 30 minutes and offered to take me to the hospital, but I declined as I was calmed down and didn't suffer an allergic reaction.  They told me if I was allergic, it would have happened quickly, that's why they stayed with me to make sure.  The pain lasted for over a week, and it was a most frightening experience to say the least.  I had no idea that bees made holes in the ground and nested there.  I now hire someone to cut my grass or have a neighbor cut it, and I tell them to be on the lookout for a nest.  That is not an experience I want to go through ever again.

After viewing these videos, I don't know what's worse!  Bees or ants,,,

Thanks for a very informative hub,

Trish

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