fire ant control without chemicals

zzackey(8b GA)February 4, 2013

Is there any way to control fire ants with out chemicals??

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Nothing I've tried has worked for more than 2-3 days. They just move. I'll be watching here to see if anyone has suggestions.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 8:38AM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

I was told you can fill a bucket full of hot soapy water & a long pole, then break open the mound w/ the pole & pour the soapy water inside.

I haven't had fire ants in years - not quite sure why - maybe natural parasites? Maybe because my yard is very shady & they prefer sunny & warm places?

Here's a UF document, if you haven't already checked there...

Here is a link that might be useful: Fire ants

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 9:55AM
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Zackey, I've used Amdro with great results. If used according to directions on the package, there will not be a speck left 12 to 24 hours after it's put down. Just to be on the safe side, I walked my dog rather than allowing her in the yard for that one day. It was almost a year before I ever saw another mound. Treated it and so far, they've not been back. That's been almost 3 years ago.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 8:37PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I don't want to use any chemicals in my yard. I plan to have alot more vegetable gardens this year all around the property. Mostly hugels.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 9:00PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

I don't think I've seen an 'organic', non-chemical way to handle fire ants aside from the South American decapitating fly. Every time someone mentions that they have a way, it seems 14 others are quick to jump in and say that the method did not work for them. Not even Amdro is a 100% chance of removing fire ants. I tried the stuff near the tail end of last summer when I couldn't sit anywhere in my yard without getting attacked, two days later I had no fire ants. Three weeks later they were coming back. That said, since then the fire ants have not been a 'problem'. I see their homes around my yard, but their numbers have remained small and they haven't been attacking me while I've worked in the yard.

But I'm not going to give them a chance to regroup as the weather gets nicer. I plan on doing another round of Amdro, but on a smaller scale, specifically baiting small areas around their homes and covering the bait to hide it from birds. Last summer, I was paranoid that the Morning Doves or some other birds might mistake the bait as feed, but never saw any of them take it. However, I have a much larger population of birds around my house now thanks to the bird baths and feeder and the chances of accidental ingestion have gone up.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 9:36PM
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Someone here is a fan of orange oil for fire ants, IIRC. Never tried it myself.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 12:18AM
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Don't really have an issue with ants, but according to one of the standard beginner references for aromatherapy, by Valerie Ann Worwood, plants to grow that deter ants (generally, perhaps not fire ants specifically?) are spearmint, peppermint, tansy, and pennyroyal. Essential oils recommended are peppermint/spearmint/pennyroyal, as well as garlic and citronella. While I've heard citrus oils are good at deterring fruit flies (counter-intuitive, I know), never knew orange oil to be suggested for ants.

A mix of oils that Worwood recommends to deter a wide variety of insects naturally is as follows: 2 parts lemongrass, 1 part peppermint, 1 part lavender, and 1 part thyme (I'd go with Red Thyme over White, but it's not specified either way).

You can definitely find a cheap supply of peppermint and lavender at your local GNC, and possibly lemongrass as well, but it's the thyme that's tricky unless you are near a Whole Foods or something similar.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 12:48AM
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Fire ants do not even acknowledge the existence of mint. It's a deterrent to indoor ants, but not those, not at all.

I have had fire ants in peppermint, spearmint, and potted lavender.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:00AM
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Me too, my mints in pots are filled with fire ants. :o(

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 3:03PM
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I tried the organic route and got no where. We couldn't walk through the yard, and the dogs were always stepping on the nests and I'd have to pull ants from between their toes. Now I use Amdro, only on nests near a path. I am concerned about birds eating it. The morning after treating a mound, I found a mourning dove dead about 15 ft. from it. I couldn't find anything online concerning Amdro and bird deaths, though.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 4:20PM
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For those who haven't heard of the orange oil, here's the thread about it:

Here is a link that might be useful: fire ant control

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 5:00PM
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For people worried about using Amdro around birds, pets and other animals... After treating small mounds put an inverted metal pail over the treated mound and a rock or cinder block on the pail to hold it down. For a large mound use Grandma's old galvanized washtub with a cinder block to hold it down. Yes they still sell those washtubs at hardware stores. It works great keeping the animals away from the poison.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:43AM
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Lou, you always come up with the most common sense solutions! Hope all is well with you.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 3:42PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

I thought the coincidence of this showing up in my latest copy of Florida Gardening so shortly after this post was created too much to not pass along the information. The answer was given by a Lee County Extension agent:

Q: I have ANTS! Tons of them. I know they're a good thing, but they're all over everything- in the house, in the grass, in the pavers around the pool and in the walkway and in my vegetable garden. Trying to be chemical free, I've tried boric acid, peppermint spray, orange oil, borax and boiling water. Any other suggestions?

A: Proper identification of the pest is the first step in controlling the problem. The ants could be big-headed ants, white-footed ants, Caribbean crazy ants (I want these in my yard. If they play the Steel Drums that is.) or Argentine ants. Unadulterated boric acid or borax powder repels most ants, except white-footed ants. Most commercial ant baits are less toxic, less irritating, less dangerous and more effective than the peppermint spray, orange oil and borax you've tried. They key to killing pests is to match the right bait (sugar, oil or protein) to the target ant species. You can control some ants by mixing 3% or greater concentration of boric acid with sugar. However, this method can take months to decrease the ant population. It is less aggravating to purchase the correct properly-formulated ant bait. Bring several ants from a couple of the locations in your house and yard to your Extension office for proper identification. Big-headed ants are controlled by a protein-based bait, including Combat and Maxforce granular baits. White-footed ants, Caribbean Crazy ants, Argentine ants and Pharoah ants are controlled by a sugar-based bait, including Uncle Albert's Super Smart Liquid Ant Bait, Gourmet Ant Bait Gel, and Drax Dual. Fire ants are controlled by oil-based baits, including Amdro, or a protein-based bait that includes Ascend Fire Ant Bait, Extinguish Fire Ant Bait and Maxforce Fire Ant Bait.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:19PM
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I have read elsewhere (but have not yet tried) that applying used diatomaceous earth from a swimming pool DE filter around fire ant nests will make them move. If you have a DE filter, try recycling the contents the next time it's due to be renewed and see if it helps.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 6:55PM
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An article I read says that the diotoamceous earth actually kills the ants, kin of cuts them up from the inside.

Glad to see the info about the borax, just bought a box for the laundry, it'll serve double duty.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 7:33AM
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I don't know how this method would work in a manicured lawn, but it worked for me in the weedy deep sugar sand out in the pasture.....

You take a shovelful of one fire ant mound and dump it on top of another mound nearby. Then get some more from another corner of the yard and dump it on the first one.

I read about this treatment in Mother Earth News and it was easy enough to try. I think it said the ants are territorial and kill each other, although I doubt that is why it worked for me. I think they just packed up and moved over to the undisturbed field next to us.

I had a tree farm back then and the only way I could work was to put each foot in a 5 gal paint bucket with water in them and wear them like boots. Regular boots didn't stop them; they would still climb up and bite my calves.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 12:50PM
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judyk_2008(9 DeLeon Sprs)

Fire ants were so bad in my veggie garden, I could not go into it. I used Safer brand diotomaceous earth(it has a bait in it) and I haven't had anymore problems. Another product that's not organic is Terro. It's a gel you only need a drop of it. You could put it an enclosed plastic container with small holes for the ants to enter. That is the only thing that worked for my Mom inside and outside.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 12:50PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

Wow! I can't imagine having to wear bucket boots. I'm really laughing now!! Where in 9 are you? Our yard is an old pasture. I'm not into a manicured yard. Too much work and chemicals needed. I tried the ant moving trick and it worked some. I guess I'll have to put my gloves and boots on and thry that again!! Thanks!!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 3:34PM
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zackey wrote:

"Is there any way to control fire ants with out chemicals??"

Get one of these:

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 12:00PM
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timetraveler(9b Melbourne Beach FL)

Crazy Ants. Since they moved into my neighborhood, I haven't seen any fire ants. The Crazy Ants are said to kill them. Of course, Crazy Ants create their own problems, but they don't sting.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 12:14PM
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I don't think there's anything organic worth a crap to deal with fire ants. Amdro seems to work the best, but for the initial round you MUST do the entire yard with a broadcast spreader. Also do any empty land near you. Yes, it costs a hundred bucks. It's worth it. After that you can put a bit on mounds that might pop up.

It was so bad here when I first moved in, they were living in my walls. Amdro actually works indoors as well, but only on fire ants.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 6:51PM
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I have found two things that work to kill fire ants without using chemicals. Both methods may take more than one attempt, but they both will work. Find two fire ant mounds that are in two different parts of your yard, about fifteen feet or so apart, as then they are not likely to be from the same colony. Dig a shovel full of dirt with ants from that first mound and take them quickly in the shovel and put them on the second mounds. Then immediately take some of the ants from that second mound and put them on the first. They then fight and kill each other. Some times this works on the first try, but some times I have to do it two or three times, but it works as they kill each other. It is using their own natural instincts to control them. The second way is not something everyone can do. If you can make a fire where you live from excess branches that fall from your trees, when the fire is full of coals put a layer of the coals on the mound. It is best to do this the day after it has rained so that the ground is full of moisture. This steams and kills the ants. I have also had to do this sometimes two or three times to get the queen, but it does work. I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 12:25PM
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Boiling water. I did this and it worked but killed a lot of my flowering plants nearby.

I have found that heavy mulching seems to get rid of them. I keep adding mulch and wood chips to my beds and I haven't seen any since last year. BTW, I stepped on a hill barefoot. Those suckers ran up my legs and bit me from toes to shoulder.

I am very careful now! Nasty critters.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 12:36AM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

The mound on mound method does not work for true fire ants, the invasive buggers from South America. As they are genetically identical and often form multi-queen mounds (one of the few if not only ants to do this), dropping one mound on another only speeds up their family reunion.

Mulching works because it deprives the ants of one of their preferred living conditions. Fire ants like to have hot, dry ground and the mulch helps to keep the area moist. But this only works if the mulched beds are kept watered and moist. If left to go dry, the ants will eventually move into the area. Another thing they dislike is shade, so keeping an area shaded will reduce the chances of them moving in. This is why they are such a bigger nuisance to perfect lawn type folk. The perfect lawn is prime real estate for fire ants.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 5:51PM
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I have killed huge fire ant mounds by using the used coffee grounds that Starbucks gives away for free. After experimenting with these used coffee grounds for 8 years, I have found all kinds of interesting uses for them. Mainly as a direct contact spray, I can take care of all the insects I have problems with, and I have 40,000 plants. I found that the coffee spray will not kill ants, but they ARE repelled by the used coffee grounds.
This may take a little practice, but I take the used coffee grounds and mix them with enough water that they turn into mud. I put a thin layer of mud all over the mound, and I found out the trick is to cover another 4 inches farther than the mound because they try to tunnel out under the coffee mud. The only thing I can figure is that they refuse to dig through the coffee, and when they can't go out and feed the mound, the colony dies. One way or another, it kills the mounds. This is hard to do when you collect your own grounds, bit you can get so much at one time at Starbucks when you go at the right time of day. Sometimes, I have come away with about 60 pounds of used coffee grounds when I ask them for the bag they are filling behind the counter.
On another note, try experimenting with coffee repelling ants and other insects. Like if you had a small garden, you could pour a barrier of grounds around the perimeter of the garden to keep them away. The barrier would also keep out mealy bugs, scales, aphids, and even spider mites.
I never got to finish a formal experiment, but I would bet money that used coffee grounds would get rid of chinch bugs in the lawn as well.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 11:08PM
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