If you’ve had more-than-preferable experiences with fire ants, you might know that their bites can really pack a punch. They are very aggressive foragers, have exceedingly high reproduction rates, and build unsightly mounds around the yard. Their painful poison and aggressive nature make their presence a danger especially to children playing in the yard. As a common sight and problem in homeowner’s lawns and yards, there are many urban legends and old wives tales surrounding the issue of dealing with and getting rid of fire ant mounds. Well, we’ve tested them all, and here are the sure-fire methods of controlling fire ant populations in your lawn:
Dig up the mound and dump it into large buckets. Once “bucketed,” you can proceed to drown the ants or move them somewhere else, where they won’t bother you or your property. Tips: before you dig up the mound, cover the sides of the bucket with baby powder or cornstarch to prevent the ants from crawling out of the bucket; dig up the mounds quickly; tuck your pants into your socks; if drowning the ants, add dish soap to the water to drown them faster.
This is one of the most common ways of dealing with fire ant mounds. The water doesn’t actually need to be boiling, just scalding hot. It might take three or four applications to totally kill the mound. Tips: use about four gallons of hot water per application; be careful about your application, as hot water can kill surrounding grass and plants.
This option may be preferable if your lawn has a large number of fire ant mounds. These baits contain small amounts of insecticide that release slowly enough to get to the queen without the workers discovering that it’s poison. Spread these throughout your yard with a spreader, and you should see results in, typically, around five weeks (depending on the bait you use). Tips: slower acting insecticides typically provide longer control; you only need two pounds per acre; use a handheld spreader and not a lawn fertilizer, which would apply way too much.
Individual Mound Treatments
These insecticides are also available for treating single mounds. Unlike the baits, these contain fast acting insecticides (since they don’t rely on the workers to carry them home to the mound). For controlling fire ants specifically, the treatments are typically in dry form rather than liquid. Liquid treatments, however, are typically faster, though they require more work and are more expensive. Tips: don’t disturb the mounds before application, as the workers might evacuate the queen to a safer location; use a watering can when mixing and applying treatments; first apply the treatment around the outside of the mound to trap any escapees and then proceed to drench the mound in it.
Fire Ant Stings
If you get stung by fire ants, stay calm. Elevate the infected areas, clean the area with soap and water, and apply antihistamine or use a hydrocortisone cream. Don’t pop the blisters and be patient as the stings heal. Unless you have an allergic reaction, fire ant stings should not pose a threat to your health or life. If you find yourself having trouble breathing or feeling your throat tightening up, seek professional medical care immediately.
Mike Piwonka is the CEO of The Grass Outlet, a Texas sod provider. He and his family-run business are dedicated to making Texas green, one lawn at a time, and providing top quality grass in a time-efficient manner.