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sarahbobarah_gw

fire ants! natural alternative?

sarahbobarah
15 years ago

hi everyone,

i hope someone has a solution...

being from the south, i'm sure you know the "fire ants" i'm referring to. the ones that pile a big mound for their nest, and pour out by the thousands if disturbed. i get them in my flower beds herb and veggie gardens.

i DESPISE harsh poisons. and i have to be careful with what i use because of my chickens, dogs and cats.

so does anyone have any natural ways to rid myself of these ants???

please help. i'm being over-run!

with thanks

Comments (51)

  • davidandkasie
    15 years ago

    if you just want them to move, flood the mound with water several times a day. i have had success by ramming a long stick in the mound, then running the hose in it for a few minutes. after a few days they move. the only problem is, you have no idea WHERE they will move. my great grandmother did this to a mound in her garden and they moved INTO her house. she lived in an old shotgun house on a farm, and they moved into the wall behind the couch. it took a little while for them to figure out where the ants were coming from, but once they found them they were eradicated quickly.

  • sarahbobarah
    Original Author
    15 years ago

    thank you so much for the advice. i'll definately put them to work. wish me luck!

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  • vancleaveterry
    15 years ago

    If you have a small yard, the flooding the nest plan will work. You will have to do it regularly though.

    They relocate but hopefully not on your property and many larvae die in the flood. The harrassment weakens the colony as they spend so much energy in the march and in the making of the new colony.

  • eddie1
    15 years ago

    I have heard of sprinkling black pepper on the mound which I tried with less than positive results. I have also placed grated citrus peels on the mound with same results. More home remedies at the site below:

    Here is a link that might be useful: Fire Ant Solutions

  • agnespuffin
    15 years ago

    If all you do is chase them over to the neighbor's yard, they will be back! You can bet money on that.

    We have found that Orthene (Othro's fire ant product) is very effective. Use as soon as you see the hill start. Don't wait to see if it's going to get worse. It Will! The stuff stinks to high heaven but it's not a bait that birds would be apt to pick up. Sprinkle it on top of the area. The vapors seem to go down into the hill and destroy everything. You can watch them boil up out of the hill and die in seconds.

  • brendazone9
    15 years ago

    cornmeal, just spread it over and around the mound, they will eat, then cornmeal swells and kills the ants. has to be dry when applied.

  • agnespuffin
    15 years ago

    It would be wonderful if cornmeal worked....we wouldn't see so many abandoned fields if it did.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    15 years ago

    agnuspuffin, our OP specified a 'natural', non toxic solution to these pesky critters. Orthene is one of the worst chemicals in use today...and cannot be used on vegetable gardens.

    The Spinosad ant bait is perfectly safe to use around birds, and anything else that may experiment with it....other than a few assorted insects who decide to eat it. This biological control works on (some) insects only.

    Brendazone, that darned cornmeal myth still hangs on, lol! Ants simply don't (can't) feed in the way that would make cornmeal do what it is reported to do. As agnuspuffin said. 'It would be wonderful...'

  • agnespuffin
    15 years ago

    rhizo is 100% correct about Orthene. It is dangerous. But if the infestation has reached a point where the ants are destroying everything around, it may be the only solution. It never ceases to amaze me how fast they can take over a field. And nothing is worse than having a small toddler stumble and fall into a bed of fireants.

    Oh, yeah....grits doesn't work any better than cornmeal for the same reason.

  • bspatial5
    15 years ago

    My two year old grand daughter fell hand first in a small bed. She was bitten about two dozen times before I could brush them all off. Effects still visible three weeks later. I too hate poisons. But after discovering at least a hundred small and large mounds on my 1.5 acre place, I used Orthene on the recommendation of our local Extension folks, as the most effective. It does indeed kill a mound in a day or two. It works via being tracked in and spread internally. However, I doubt it kills all because about half as many new mounds appear as I killed. Either that or they are new ants that blew in.

    I'm not an expert but I know the survival instinct of ants is extraordinary. I feel that when the nest begins to be stressed, unaffected ants move the queen to a nearby location. Anyone here an expert on fire ants?

    Will Spinosad bait kill an entire nest or do some escape it also?

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    15 years ago

    Spinosad is reported to kill the entire mound. One of the most effective baits that I have ever used is Amdro, though. It is, however, not an organic product and cannot be used IN vegetable gardens.

    It takes a very small amount of Amdro to kill a large colony of fire ants. A small sprinkling is rapidly taken into the nest by the workers, where it is fed to all of the larvae, queen (s), and eventually all of the ants as they share the food source.

    When using a bait to treat fire ants, it is important that you do not disturb the nest. Baited products must be ingested in order to work effectively, so routine ant activity needs to go on as usual. If they consider the substance a problem, they will close down that part of the nest and move to another chamber.

    Mature fire ant nests can be very deep and with many different channels. That 'new' mound you see pop up is likely part of the same nest system.

  • lucky_p
    15 years ago

    I've moved away from my native state(AL), home to fire ants and kudzu, though I do have a baby-food jar full of that good red dirt, scooped - ants and all - from a fire ant bed, on a shelf here in my office.

    It is a small world, 'cuz the brother of my most recent next door neighbor, is Dr. J.T. Vogt, one of the foremost fire ant researchers - who did his doctoral research at my alma mater, Auburn University. I was familiar with him from various articles I'd read in Southern Living, Progressive Farmer, etc. - so when she told me her brother was 'the fire-ant guy', I'm like, "You mean J.T.Vogt?", and she's like, "Yeah, how did you know?"

    In an email exchange about 'alternative treatments' a while back, JT sent me the following:
    " Re: fire ants...here are a few samples of weird control methods I've managed to gather over time (actual products):
    Ant E-Vacuator (vacuum device with an impellor to crush the ants as they pass through it).
    Yaardvark (electric shock device).
    McCoy Ant Stomper (windmill driven device to disturb the mound and crush the ants with a roller).
    Grits (the uninformed don't realize that worker ants don't eat solid food, thus they won't blow up if you put grits on the mound).
    The "Solar Ant Charmer" (look it up on the internet, they'll send you a free video).
    Various explosive devices.
    The "Queen Stomper" (kind of like a 5-footed cane you smush down into the mound).
    Injectors (I forget the names).
    Gas & gasoline (of course)--the kicker is I have a couple news articles about people burning the porches off their houses trying this.
    Various other mechanical devices."

  • agnespuffin
    15 years ago

    The problem with using "natural" alternatives is that they seldom work. Fire Ants can cause a great deal of trouble. The trick for best success is to treat the mound early before it gets to be a good size. There is that chance that you could kill the queen. Even boiling hot water will sometimes work.

    It's almost like asking for a "natural" cure for termites. Termites can ruin your home, so you use what it takes to get rid of them. Fire Ants have reached a point in some areas where the property owner simply has two choices....live with them and watch them get worse, or use chemical means.

    Researchers have found a natuaral enemy....some kind of little mite that feeds on the ants. Hopefully that will be the answer. Let's also hope that the mites don't prove to be an additional problem

    So, good luck!!! Patrol your grounds daily and get those mounds early!

  • sylviatexas1
    15 years ago

    I've had excellent results with orange oil:

    Add 1 ounce of orange oil to a gallon of water,
    add a dash of liquid dish soap such as Joy or Ivory Liquid if you have it handy,
    & pour the entire gallon over the undisturbed mound.

    (If you disturb the mound, workers will carry off enough eggs to start more mounds.)

    That mound will be dead within a few hours.

    Be sure you use the orange *oil* (d-limonene), not an "orange oil product", which will have been diluted already.

    The last time I bought some, I think it was about $13 for a pint, but, using it one ounce at a time, it lasts quite a while.

    Best luck!

  • vancleaveterry
    15 years ago

    A virus caught the attention of U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers in Florida in 2002. The agency is now seeking commercial partners to develop the virus into a pesticide to control fire ants.

    The virus was found in about 20 percent of fire ant fields, where it appears to cause the slow death of infected colonies.

    "Certainly, we are excited about it," said Bob Vander Meer, the leader of the USDA research team in Gainesville, Fla. "I think the virus has great potential. No question about it."

    With no natural predators to keep them in check, fire ants have spread across the U.S., where their numbers are now 10 times greater than in their native South America. They thrive in open sunny areas such as cropland, pastures, and urban lawns, and they like moisture.

    "Sustained control is what we're trying to achieve," said Steve Valles, an entomologist in the Gainesville research lab. "Eradication is not going to happen."

    Fire ants have been detected in 13 states, covering 320 million acres, and are spreading northward. The pest has been found as far north as Virginia and along parts of the California coastline.

    In the laboratory, the virus, SINV-1, has proven to be self-sustaining and transmissible. Once introduced, it can eliminate a colony within three months.

    That's why researchers believe the virus has potential as a viable biopesticide to control fire ants, known to scientists as Solenopsis invicta.

    Although it occurs naturally in fire ants, the virus needs a stressor before it becomes deadly and begins replicating within a colony, Valles said.

    Integrating the virus into ant baits could offer a tool to the pest-control industry, agricultural producers and harvesters, consumers and others for whom fire ants are a persistent problem.

    The virus isn't alone in the fight against the fire ant. In South America, they have dozens of natural enemies. But researchers don't know whether those predators could be introduced here.

    Among them is the small phorid fly, which seeks out fire ants and lays its eggs on them. The eggs hatch into tiny maggots that bore into the heads of their host and feed on its brains.

    "The problem is we really don't know how effective these phorid flies are going to be in North America," Merchant said.

    Some Texans may have thought the fire ant problem was improving. Drought conditions across much of the state in recent years have only driven them deeper under ground.

    "One thing you can thank the dry weather for is it keeps the fire ants down," said Mike Merchant, an extension entomologist in the cooperative's Dallas office.

    This year, wet conditions have returned and that will increase pests' visibility.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Fire Ants virus

  • phonelady61
    15 years ago

    yes there are two natural alternatives to fire ants cornmeal and grits . pour either one on the mound and let them eat it . they will die and so will the mound and queen they cannot digest the cornmeal or the grits and they up and die. I hope this helps

  • Susan Garrison
    15 years ago

    You're not going to believe this story, but it is absolutely true. I've not had fire ant in over 13 years. The company I worked for was responsible for groundskeeping on a Naval base. We had a fireant researcher come in from the University of Florida and he told us about a product that they had developed and was being marketed at that time as Logic. It worked by making the fireants unable to reproduce. You apply it by broadcasting in early spring and then following up a month or two later. It got rid of my fireants and I've never had anymore. However.....now I have some other kind of tropical ant that lives under rocks, pots, in oak trees, and any dry spot they can find, including sometimes between the walls of my house. They're about 1/2 the size of a fireant and only bite occasionally. When they do bite, it doesn't hurt but a minute. The main nuisance is that you have to keep all food including crackers & cereal in sealed containers. They mainly come in the house during the rainy summer months. Nothing seems to work in getting rid of them, because they are so widespread throughout our 18 acres and neighboring property. I have found a bait called Terro (sp?) that seems to work fairly well when they get in the house or car. If anyone is familiar with these and what works I would be interested.

  • matarue
    15 years ago

    We are just getting the lovely fire ants here in Tennessee and I would LOVE to find something that would get rid of them altogether. We also have animals that I don't want to expose to anything harmful. In the meantime, does anyone know of any product that actually helps the pain of their stings? I've tried just about everything on the market and I'm sure I've missed something. Any suggestions?

  • sylviatexas1
    15 years ago

    I keep baking soda & vinegar outside in the garden area:

    As soon as you're stung (fireants, wasps, whatever), dampen some baking soda & dab it on the sting.

    Then dab undiluted household vinegar on the stings whenever they start to itch.

    These remedies work for many kinds of stings & bites, & I use vinegar on sunburn as well.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    15 years ago

    Many years ago, I learned the benefits of Adolph's meat tenderizer granules for insect stings. When applied (as a paste) to fire ant stings promptly, they not only help with the itchiness, but prevents the swelling and pustiles. It also works on mosquito bites, etc.

    Again, it must be used right after the 'attack'.

    'Logic' is one of the Spinosad baits, as I mentioned earlier. Very safe and very effective.

    It's worth mentioning that grits or cornmeal do not kill fire ants. ;-(

  • kellykn4
    14 years ago

    I am new to Florida and suddenly have mounds all over the yard. My concern is for my dogs. What can I use that will get rid of the ants so the dogs won't get bitten AND won't hurt the dogs?

  • PRO
    Nell Jean
    14 years ago

    I've noticed that armadillos frequently dig into fire ant mounds and feast on the larvae and ants. When next I trap an armadillo, who wants one? They're very, very natural despite the rumors that they carry Hansen's disease.

  • debbiefmc
    14 years ago

    I use Ortho Over N Out for the fireants in my yard. I did alot of checking on stuff because I also have dogs and didn't want to put anything on there that would hurt them. The Over N Out has fipronil, the same ingredient that is in Frontline, so it is safe to use with the dogs. It doesn't kill fleas however (you would think it would, since Frontline does) but the folks at Ortho say it is because it is in a different delivery, so it won't kill the fleas. It isn't cheap, but I put it on in the spring and it kept the fireants away the rest of the year.

  • Annette Holbrook(z7a)
    14 years ago

    To the original poster, since you have chickens already, maybe you should add a few guinea hens. They love to eat fire ants and ticks.

    Annette

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    14 years ago

    debbie, that pesticide is NOT NOT safe to use around your pets. Even though the active ingredient is the same, because of the unique delivery system it is 'reported' that Frontline is safe for pets. Horticultural pesticides are NOT. Don't ever use it around your pets or other members of your family.

  • jwarner191
    14 years ago

    The amount of fipronil in Over'n Out is: 0.0103% fipronil. What the vet puts on the dog is usually about 9% fipronil, which is about 800 times more concentrated. In other words, Over/n Out if used as directed is very safe. If is MUCH safer than fire ant stings which kill many people each year.

    Dr John Warner, PhD entomology

    Here is a link that might be useful: toxicity of ant stings and other fun stuff

  • chezmonmi
    13 years ago

    I know this is an older thread.. but... do guinea hens and armadillos really eat fire ants? Please let it be true. Guineas would be about the only non-scary solution for me.

  • viki5
    13 years ago

    Fire ants are a real pest!!! I have problems with them getting into my home so much so that I have to keep my laundry hampers inside pans with poison. Spinosad does work outside fairly well. Also have used cedar oil from a company out of TX called cedarcide. Any product that the main ingredient is pyrethium or boric acid works well-if you want ant control inside your home, sprinkle or "puff" it into areas where ants enter the home and along trails. If you want to kill those pesky sugar ants dissolve boric acid and sugar in water and use soda or water jug lids for bait stations. Wish this would work for fire ants but they prefer grease/protein/starch as food sources. I also noticed a decrease of fire ants in my garden if I use a large amount of organic matter incorporated in the soil, could be the high activity of soil organisms that keep the ants at bay. The offer of an armadillo is "NO THANKS" they are so destructive even if they are just doing what they have been made to do. I have at least one and so far ant hills are still popping up all over the place. The guinea hen idea sounds great.

  • gonebananas_gw
    13 years ago

    The elderly lady next door used to have a few dozen huge fire ant nests 20 years ago or so. I would purchase the very strong ammonia you can get from paint stores for degreasing (lots stronger than household ammonia, so be careful, though it has virtually no envirironmental damage). I would poke a stout stick maybe a foot down through the nest, twirl to widen the top of the hole a inch wide, and pour an ounce or so of ammonia down there, then scrape the top of the nest to seal the top of the hole. Vapors would fill all the belowground nest. The ammonia over the next few days would become nitrate fertilizer for the pecan trees overhead.

    We seem to have many fewer fire ant nests in populated areas here now. A said-to-be-biteless Argentine ant has outcompeted them. The Argentine ants are a bit more of a pest in entering houses but I'm not complaining.

    Lucky -- 15 or so years ago I saw an EPA registration number on a bottle of TCE or PCE labeled for killing fire ant nests. It was for sale on a hardware store shelf. No wonder we find chlorinated solvents in so many wells.

  • gator_rider2
    13 years ago

    0-0-60 fertilizer hand full to mound go back 3 hours later dead ants in piles around mound. Very cheap fire ant killer use it above 60F. Over-N-out best bait out there going to old friend thats vet check out fipronil 9% cost.

  • gonebananas_gw
    13 years ago

    0-0-60 = Potassium chloride (or "muriate")

    I don't have a clue as to how that might work but if it does it does. I'll have to try it.

  • caterpillar2moth
    13 years ago

    Although this sounds terribly cruel, I've heard it works.
    But I haven't been able to bring myself to do it.

    Cover ant hill with a large flower pot whose drainage hole has been plugged with a cork or tightly wadded plastic wrap. Heat a bucket of water to boiling and flood the surrounding soil, reserving a few gallons of the water. Wait a minute or two for most of the ants to find shelter in the overturned pot, then turn it upright and pour in the remaining water.

  • venezaparis_gmail_com
    13 years ago

    do chicken eat fireants? If so having a few chicken and opening the fireants nest in front of them could benefit both us and the chicken...
    I also agree with the finding that more organic matter in the soil reduces fireants

  • jwarner191
    13 years ago

    try Advion and/or Extinguish Plus (it has an insect growth regulator)

  • keygoddess
    9 years ago

    I read this somewhere and decided to try it since I don't like pesticides. You have to be careful not to get them on you when you do it, but I have seen it work. Get a long handled shovel and dig in as deep into the mound as you can in one scoop and carry that dirt with ants in it over to another mound. Stir it up as well as you can and take some of that mound over to the one you brought the first scoop from and give it a stir. It can take a couple of days for them to kill each other, but they usually do. Supposedly, they are territorial and when invaded by others they will fight to the death.

  • zzackey
    9 years ago

    Where do I buy orange oil?

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7
    9 years ago

    Have any of you used Amdro?

  • countrygirlsc, Upstate SC
    9 years ago

    I tried mixing the ants from hill to hill, but found it very hard not to get them on me when transporting them. I don't really like to use chemicals, but I sprinkle a little Amdro around the hill then stir the hill up. You can see them come up and take the Amdro down into the hill. I have only had to use two applications a couple times. The hills are usually empty the next day.

  • jimmygfarm
    9 years ago

    The cornmeal does work(for me) but it takes about two weeks of daily treating with hand full of corn meal,just won't kill instantly like poison.

    ( Probably the gmo corn (BT). )

  • barnetmill
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    There are baited poisons and general insecticides that one can broadcast over the yard. I do not like using such poisons. It may be my imagination, but while still a problem I am seeing fewer colonies this year. What I used is a powdered general insecticide that has little toxicity for mammals and I like watching the adult fire ants writhe in agony. I will sprinkle enough water so when the ants brush r walk over it they are poisoned. Dry poison a granules are less effective. One does not kill the entire colony the first time and they will move to make a new one. The second one will be much smaller and if the third appears it will even smaller.

    My dogs have learned how to deal with these critters. The dogs often pick up fire ant infested pears that have fallen and will either roll the pear or avoid the pear totally depending on the dog. The cat apparently has no problems even though it likes to kill small snakes. Fire ants love dead snake. I am in northwest florida and I hate yellow jacket ground hornets, fire ants, squirrels, racoon, and possum..

  • nel5397
    6 years ago

    Some people use boiling water to treat fire ant mounds.

  • barnetmill
    6 years ago

    The talk of viruses infecting fire ants naturally may explain a decrease
    in my fire ants. I still have them, but not as many. My practice has
    been to attack the mounds. With a little gasoline (Never the light the
    gasoline, kills best as a solvent) or pesticide. I have Talstar PL Granules a low
    toxicity to mammals pesticide The first application of what ever you
    use will kill many and the nest moves a little bit. A couple days
    repeat and then once more repeat. Eventually that problem hill seems to
    go away. The dogs have learned to avoid fireants, especially fallen
    pears that they like. Some times they will roll the fruit to get them
    off.

  • msmissieinms
    6 years ago

    I recently sprayed a HUGE ant mound that was in the line of grass around a building that I was spraying with 41% Glyphosate. Had not thought about it killing the ants but a couple of days later I noticed the ants were gone or dead. I stirred all in the mound and did not see one ant. The only problem it kills all the grass too and several of my ant hills are on the front lawn. :(

  • Leigh Boucher-Owsley
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    I started using orange oil concentrate,dish soap and water,it's been the only thing that gave me results after trying so many other natural remedies,many went effective at all for the amount we had,I was starting to think the hill in my yard was just one giant ant hill. 1 1/2 oz orange oil 3 oz dish soap 1 gal water I get the 32 oz orange oil concentrate from Amazon ,start by spraying around the mound so your less likely to be attacked then I stick the spray nozzle as far into the mound as possible and spray for at minute and repeat with every visible mound

  • Otto Gsell, Upstate SC 7b
    5 years ago

    A couple of years ago I left the northeast , thank god, and I could have basically moved anywhere . I chose upstate SC. For no reason but the weather I guess.


    Picked up a cheap house on an acre and got attacked the first week we moved in. We have a four year old and I don't let her out of my sight when outside. It's so annoying .


    planted a memorial tree for my loving father in law who recently passed. Found a nice big flat rock and wrote his name, etc, on it. Went to pick it up and clean it and also pull the weeds and wouldn't you ya know what was under the rock. Thank god I had on my gloves or I would have been bitten .


    And our our blueberry bushes that we planted. Right underneath them. These fire ants are almost as bad as mosquitos .


    after it rains the new mounds always come back somewhere else.


    I use AMDRO bait from lowes. It works great. I must say. I use a lot of gasoline in the backyard as well....


    i should have moved to pennsylvania lol

  • barnetmill
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    "Found a nice big flat rock and wrote his name, etc, on it." Such rocks can also have a dangerous snake under them so never use your hands but a long implement. I killed two water moccasins this year one of which was spotted first by my dog. My neighbors killed one and another got away to where I know not. Also keep my white english bull dog when handy when clearing brush since she hunts them down, but does not close with them allowing me to kill them. She will harass them at a distance. Picture of her with an e-collar to prevent her licking a wound she got in a fight with her much larger cousin over which got to sit next to me by the computer. She is only 68 lbs. By the wat I just had a fight with a nest fireants today. Third poisoning. They hid their nest after my last attack several months ago and I just found it.

  • Otto Gsell, Upstate SC 7b
    5 years ago

    Cute pic

    i don't dare do anything outside without my goofy gloves.


  • osmelliaswims
    5 years ago

    Well if you really want them gone I would suggest Cedarwood oil. I did a science fair project on that and when I put it near them they ran away as fast as they could. But beware they might move into your house or other unwanted places. Also if you have dogs or any animals cedarwood oil is a non-toxic solution to get them to leave that area. Well good luck! Hope this was helpfull

  • barnetmill
    5 years ago

    Literally any fine oil is detrimental to them. Cedar wood posts are very resistant to rot and insect attack and the oil likely contains the important ingredients. I doubt that it kills any better than run of mill ethanol mixed gasoline.

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