Fire Ants in the Butterfly Garden

SaraElise(8b)April 23, 2013

I'm allergic to fire ants - one bite won't kill me, but if I get too many at once it's another matter. So, I'm extra careful about keeping the mounds out of my pathways in my yard.

Unfortunately, they have decided to form their spring mounds in my butterfly garden.

Is there anything I can use to keep the mounds out (so I can weed and look after my plants) that won't harm the butterflies, caterpillars, or eggs?

I am adding step stones to try to provide somewhat safer places to put my feet, but the ants will still react if the foot on the stone disturbs them or if I pull a weed growing near them.

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I won't use chemicals in the yard due to my pets, so I have been pouring boiling water over the nest that are beginning to pop up. Yeah it kills the grass and leaves a brown spot, but the grass grows back! It may take multiple times to kill one nest, but if you can locate the nest entrance and get the boiling water to go down in there, you can kill the entire nest. I've also used white vinegar with a touch of soap in it, but it doesn't work as well as the boiling water.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 3:12AM
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That might work, as long as the mounds aren't too close to my more delicate plants.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 4:25AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

So very sorry to read of your problems with this pest. I hope the boiling water treatment will at least allow you to keep the number of nests to a minimum.

My son told me about a program he recently watched on cable TV that demonstrated how tough the fire ant is and to describe a fly that has been scientifically altered so that it will attack and kill fire ants. The work on this fly was done by a scientist in Austin, TX. If I'm remembering correctly what was related to me, it is in trials or about to be released into the wild. I so hope this works and that the fly doesn't create a problem of it's own.

My son told how, in a filmed demonstration shown on this program, a fire ant was placed on top of a pizza and put into the microwave. With the cheese sizzling, the ant was unaffected, just kept eating the cheese!

I know what a problem this ant has caused for our neighbors to the south and how much grief it will continue to cause as the ants move north and adapt. Lets hope the little fly does the job.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 9:25AM
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Kind of sounds like the beginning of a monster movie!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 9:33AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

I should have tried to find out more information before relating information second hand.

I cannot find anything on a modified fly being developed or used to attack fire ants but did find a lot of information regarding the use of phorid flies for biocontrol of Fire Ants.

Some varieties of these flies ARE being imported from their natural habitat in other countries and observed as a possible natural predator of the fire ant here. This work is being done at the University of Texas, Austin. This may be what the program discussed and misunderstood by one or both of us. And according to this report, the flies are not expected to totally control the fire ant. They will just help, along with many other forms of control.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:23AM
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There is another method I have heard of but haven't tried. Using dry ice to poison via carbon dioxide. You would have to create some kind of tent over the nest to contain the evaporating vapors and get it to go down in the mound. I tried a homemade version of vinegar and baking soda and while it did produce some carbon dioxide, it wasn't enough to completely kill the mound. That, and it was a pain in the backside to keep the mixture producing and to get it down into the mound. May be worth a shot if you have easy access to dry ice - just be careful!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 4:50PM
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