Anyone who has ever been bitten by a fire ant knows they are accurately named. The long-lasting, burning sensation is enough to make you never want to step outside. Knowing they can also invade your home is downright scary, not to mention frustrating. No one wants ants in their home, especially ants with painful bites. Whether they’ve invaded your yards or your homes, the following tips and solutions will get rid of them for good, so you can get back to enjoying what’s important.
Identifying Fire Ants
One of the most common species of fire ants people have the misfortune of coming into contact with is Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA). This ant is native to South America but can now be found across North America, the Caribbean, and Asia. In the United States, fire ant populations are much denser along the east coast, mainly in the southern states.
Fire ants live in colonies and vary in size depending on their role within the colony. Worker fire ants tend to be smaller in size whereas the queens are the largest. Most ants are no larger than ¼” in length. Their roles are also linked to their longevity as worker ants may live several weeks but the queen can live up to six years.
Fire ants are typically red or reddish black with segmented bodies. They also sport segmented antennae. Their diet varies depending on their roles within their colony, but they are known to eat insects, earthworms, vertebrates, honeydew, and other sweet or sugary substances. Fire ants produce a venom that they inject with each sting. It is this venom that causes the pain we experience as a result of their stings.
Ant colonies will typically form their mounds on dry ground, especially near gardens, decks, and lawns. Heavy rainfall may cause them to move inside homes or other structures they normally wouldn’t inhabit in the wild. Fire ant mounds resemble loose piles of dirt that are out in the open. They can be domed or flat on top, but usually look fluffy and less compact than the surrounding dirt. These mounds will not be very tall and may not have an obvious entry point. One mound can have up to 500,000 ants within it, so it’s best to always approach them with caution.
How to Treat an Outdoor Fire Ant Infestation
It’s difficult to relax and enjoy your lawn and outdoor spaces if you’re constantly worried about stepping on a fire ant mound or your kids or pets getting bitten. There are many ways you can treat infestations, but they can sometimes seem confusing. While some should only be undertaken by professionals, there are many that anyone can do without any trouble. Below are the most common and reliable methods for getting rid of fire ants outdoors.
- Mound Drenches - This method involves pouring an insecticide directly into the mound, allowing the liquid to penetrate all layers above and below ground. After several hours, the ants inside will be eliminated. Minimal traces of the insecticide will remain on the surface, so it’s important to keep kids and pets away from the area for several days.
- Surface Dusts or Granules - Dusts and granules are placed directly on top of fire ant mounds. Any ant that crawls through the substance will be killed on contact. Some granules require lots of water in order for them to be effective. However, many dusts and granules are resistant to weather and will remain effective for several weeks, even after rainfall.
- Baits - Compared to other treatments, some baits can take longer. Ants will carry the bait back to the mound to use as food immediately or to store for later consumption. It may take several treatments of baits over time to allow the fire ants to consume enough bait throughout the colony to make a large enough impact. However, it is effective and will not leave residue on the surface of your lawn. Other fast-acting baits can be applied directly to visible ant mounds to treat them at the source. You can also apply them to your lawn, ornamental plants, or around the perimeter of your home to prevent fire ants from building new mounds.
How to Treat an Indoor Fire Ant Infestation
Fire ants outdoors are one thing, but an indoor infestation is downright frightening. Before your stress levels go through the roof, there are several effective ways you can eliminate fire ants from your home before they have a chance to really settle in and cause damage.
- Baits - Applying baits on the perimeter of your property will draw ants away from your home. Smaller infestations will be eliminated quickly using this method and will typically impact ants before they have a chance to breed, allowing you to quickly rid your home of these pests for good.
- Ant Dust - Ant dust is ideal for cracks and crevices these pests use to enter your home. The dust kills fire ants on contact and prevents them from getting further inside your home. This method is long-lasting and resistant to water, so it can provide protection for up to eight months.
- Diatomaceous Earth - Diatomaceous earth is a chemical-free option for controlling fire ants in your home. This powder feels soft to people but is razor-sharp to insects. Once they crawl across it, they will die from dehydration within 48 hours. When used as directed, DE is a safe choice for homes with kids and pets. Simply place the powder in a line anywhere you’ve noticed fire ant activity and it will do the frustrating work of eliminating them for you.
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