GardenSMART :: Why Home Remedies for Fire Ants Don't Work, and What Does
Why Home Remedies for Fire Ants Don't Work, and What Does
Photographs courtesy of Amdro
When you live in an area threatened with fire ant activity, protecting your home and family from these dangerous pests is a priority. Many homeowners turn to do-it-yourself home remedies in attempts to control fire ants. At their very best, these activities kill fire ants they directly contact or cause fire ant colonies to relocate. At their worst, they endanger people, pets and plant life, and waste your time and money. In many cases, these methods are also illegal.
One thing do-it-yourself home remedies have in common is their ineffectiveness against fire ant queens. Queens must be killed; otherwise, they continue to lay eggs — which mature in as little as nine days — at rates of up to 800 eggs per day, and their colonies remain fully operational. The following examples of widely circulated home remedies reveal the truth and myths behind these methods:
Digging or Disturbing Fire Ant Mounds
When fire ant mounds are disturbed, ants respond by attacking the threatening person or pet and delivering painful, burning stings. Unlike insects that sting only once, fire ants can sting repeatedly. Their bites and fiery stings result in painful, itchy pustules that can cause scarring. In severe cases, fire ant stings can cause shock and even death. Some homeowners regularly dig mounds or run lawn mowers over them, but this only causes colonies to relocate. The queen and colony remain unharmed nearby.
Mixing Fire Ant Colonies
Some people believe that fire ants from "rival" colonies will kill each other. So they shovel ants and soil from mound to mound — a dangerous and ineffective act. Many fire ant colonies have multiple queens that readily welcome ants from different mounds. While mound mixing may result in some ant deaths, the impact on queens and colonies is small. However, the likelihood of the person being stung is high, since hundreds of fire ants can swarm and attack within seconds of having their mounds disturbed.
Pouring Club Soda on Mounds
This popular home remedy involves pouring as little as 2 cups of club soda on fire ant mounds. It's mistakenly believed that the carbon dioxide behind club soda bubbles moves into mounds and replaces oxygen, suffocating entire colonies. Club soda interrupts ants and causes surface bubbles, but little more. Fire ants create elaborate networks of tunnels reaching up to 25 feet from mounds — keeping queens well beyond club soda's reach.
Research shows that similar methods involving household items, including vinegar, baking soda, coffee grounds, cinnamon, molasses, plaster of Paris and the artificial sweetener aspartame, are equally ineffective.
Dousing Mounds With Hazardous Products
Some fire ant home remedies advocate pouring gasoline or other petroleum products, such as kerosene, diesel fuel or oil, over fire ant mounds. Similar approaches recommend dousing mounds with hazardous products from battery acid to chlorine and ammonia. Not only are these "methods" extremely dangerous, they're also illegal. These highly hazardous, often flammable, substances endanger human and animal life, kill grass and surrounding vegetation, create toxic soil and pollute groundwater. While they may kill some ants they contact or cause colonies to move, they do not eliminate fire ant colonies.
There have been cases where misguided people purposely set gasoline mound drenches on fire – something that should never be done under any circumstances. In at least one case, a building burned as a result.
Pouring Boiling or Soapy Water Over Mounds
This common approach to fire ant control is somewhat effective, but it only impacts fire ants that are directly contacted by the substance. It comes with dangers as well. Handling the amount of boiling water needed to kill fire ants is very hazardous and can result in severe burns.
Pouring about three gallons of extremely hot water on a single fire ant mound eliminates the mound about 60 percent of the time. Drenching mounds with a similar amount of hot soapy water is about 60 to 70 percent effective. However, in both cases, every mound would need to be treated individually — as well as your neighbors' mounds — and these extremely aggressive and invasive pests would likely still exist below the surface, where they originate.
These methods work best when ants are near the surface, such as after heavy rainfalls or during morning foraging times. Smaller amounts of boiling water may kill fire ants they contact, but won't reach queens or significantly harm colonies. However, boiling water will potentially kill all grasses and plants it contacts.
Treating Fire Ants Effectively
When fire ants threaten your home and family, there's no time to waste on ineffective "remedies." Many fire ant experts recommend using fire ant bait products for effective, time-proven fire ant control. Bait is different from other types of fire ant products because fire ants think the bait is food. They take it back to the mound to share with their colonies — including the queens.
With nearly 40 years of experience fighting fire ants, AMDRO® offers two highly effective fire ant bait products. AMDRO® Kills Fire Ants Yard Treatment Bait is a unique formula for broadcast treatment, meaning you don't have to hunt for mounds. For treating mounds and smaller yards, AMDRO® Fire Ant Bait is ideal. The combined power of this two-step approach eliminates fire ant mounds, kills fire ant queens, and provides season-long protection against new invasions.
By Joan Casanova, Bonnie Plants,
Photographs courtesy of Bonnie Plants
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