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Environmentally Safe Alternatives for Killing Fire Ants

written by: •edited by: Lindsay Evans•updated: 4/22/2011

Fire ant extermination is a top priority because of the high economic toll these voracious predators wreak on the environment. Learn how to get rid of fire ants using non toxic pest control methods and environmentally friendly products.

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    Ant Extermination

    If fire ants are a problem at your home, you probably want to know how to get rid of them. Are there environmentally safe alternatives for killing fire ants? Here we discuss how to get rid of fire ants without harming the environment.

    Fire ants were transported to the United States from Brazil, and their colonies have grown and spread due to the lack of natural predators. Of the four types of fire ants found in the U.S., the Red Imported Fire Ant (solenopsis invicta) causes the most economic loss and damage.

    Red Imported Fire Ant 

    Red fire ants destroy crops, trees, beneficial insects, and small animals. They are highly aggressive; swarming, biting, and stinging when their mounds are disturbed.

    Research studies show several sustainable methods to kill fire ant colonies using non toxic pest control methods. One big concern about fire ant extermination is how to kill fire ants without wiping out beneficial ant species that are their natural competition.

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    Natural Ant Elimination

    The most effective extermination method is the Texas Two-Step. This two-step process for extermination gets rid of the fire ants and destroys the queens. The queens lay eggs and perpetuate the reproduction and growth process of the colony, so it is imperative to kill the queens to totally exterminate the colony.

    Ant extermination by the Texas Two-Step starts by broadcasting, or spreading, a botanical insecticide around the fire ant mounds. The most commonly used non toxic botanical is spinosad. Spinosad is a slow acting toxin extracted by fermentation from bacteria in soil. It is sold under tradenames like Fertilome Come and Get It, or Safer Fire Ant Bait. Fire ant bait is an effective means of extermination because the fire ants carry it into the mound and poison the queen.

    In the second step, non toxic pest control products are used to treat the mounds as drenches or dressings. Here are brand names for some common ant extermination products to use in step two:

    • Safer Brand Fire Ant Killer
    • Entrust
    • Monterey Garden Insect Spray
    • Greenlight Fire Ant Control with Conserve
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    Botanical Ant Extermination

    Botanicals (active agents extracted from plants) are very effective ant insecticides. Common botanicals proven to kill fire ants and safe for outdoor ant control are:

    • Pyrethrins – quick-killing nerve toxin
    • Rotenone – attacks insect respiratory tissues and muscles
    • Pine oil – slow killing poison
    • Clove oil – eugenol is used to treat mounds and kill fire ants
    • D-limonene – citrus acid
    • Diatomaceous earth (DE) combined with pyrethrins – mixing these botanicals boosts effectiveness
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    Exterminating Ants Naturally

    Boiling water is a proven means of ant extermination. Statistics show three gallons of boiling water poured directly into the mound will kill fire ant colonies with about 60% efficiency. This type of outdoor ant control must be repeated as the fire ants may simply migrate to another portion of the property.

    To tie it all together, there are environmentally safe ant extermination products for killing fire ants. Time and expense are deciding features. For instance, Entrust is a highly effective toxin for exterminating ants, but at a price tag of $500 per one pound bag, it is cost-prohibitive for most. Ant extermination by botanical or other sustainable means is less expensive, but may need to be repeated and becomes time-consuming. Weigh all the factors involved when you are learning how to get rid of fire ants so you can eliminate the pests in a eco-friendly fashion.

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    Resources

    http://fireant.tamu.edu/materials/factsheets_pubs/pdf/FAPFS012.2002rev.pdf

    http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/chatham/ag/SustAg/fireants.html

    http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/fireant.html

    http://www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/Publications/PDF/FSA-7036.pdf

    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain/Fanghong