Control and Eradication of Red Imported Fire Ants

Solenopsis invicta

If you wish to control or exterminate red imported fire ants (RIFA) around or within your home, you can follow any of several approaches.

Questionable Approaches

You may hear that people have eradicated red fire ants by pouring a mix of grits and water, citrus juice and water, or hot water and lye soap onto the mounds, but such methods appear to have limited effectiveness. With these home remedies, the red fire ant colony may just move to a new location, near where the original mound was located.

Non-pesticide solutions

You can pour several gallons of very hot water into holes you have punched into a red fire ant mound, and if you can avoid getting stung or burned, it may be effective - provided most of the colony, including the queen or queens, happens to be in the upper and central chambers and tunnels of the nest, where the water will reach them.

Proven Approaches

You may find that the most effective way to eradicate the ants is a two-step approach suggested by Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project, published by the Department of Etomology at Texas A&M University.

First, this approach calls for broadcasting a specially formulated, low toxin fire ant bait over a large area, where foragers will collect it and carry it back to their colony. Second, it calls for applying a specially formulated insecticide to eliminate specific nuisance colonies. You can expect the first step to yield 80 to 90 percent control over the broadcast area with weeks or months. The second should eradicate a specific colony within a period of hours.

In the first step, repeated once or twice a year, during the spring and fall:

  • Use fresh bait, preferably from a newly-opened container.
  • Always read the directions on the product container
  • Using a hand-held seed spreader, broadcast the bait, unmixed with any seeds or fertilizer, over your yard when the lawn and soil are dry and when no rain is in the immediate forecast.
  • Spread the bait mid morning or late afternoon, when the ants are most likely to be foraging.
  • Re-applying bait and pesticides in the fall, August through October, helps to suppress ants by the following spring.

In the second step, repeated as needed, you can apply a dust, granular or liquid insecticide product directly onto and immediately around the nest mound. The dust requires no water but it leaves a residue. The granular product requires a gallon or two of water, applied carefully to cause it to soak into the nest soil without disturbing the mount, and it leaves little residue. The liquid, possibly the best choice for individual mounds, soaks into the soil and leaves little residue.

To keep ants out of your house, trim back vegetation and clear organic materials from outside walls. Repair leaks and seal voids. You might also apply an insecticide around the outside wall of your house to act as a obstruction to red fire ant invasion.

If the red fire ants still should enter your home and build a nest, you can still follow the two-step approach, using judicially placed bait for foragers to carry back to the nest and an insecticide to eradicate the colony.

In all cases, minimize risks of applying baits and insecticides by carefully following the instructions on the packaging labels. You may wish to consult a professional pest control service. The red imported fire ant ranks near the top of the list of pests that are difficult to control or eradicate.

Common Questions About Red Imported Fire Ants

 

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