How to Get Rid of Fire Ants


Small Fire Ant

How the #@!*% do I get rid of fire ants in my vegetable garden without using heavy-duty chemical pesticides? Are there any home remedies that work?

Shelve the grits, baking soda, club soda, vinegar, molasses, plaster of Paris, aspartame, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and coffee grounds! In scientific testing, none of these home remedies worked worth a lick against the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) — a nasty, non-native species that’s invaded the South, from Florida to Texas, and is expected to spread westward into California.

Although most ant species are neutral or even beneficial, this one can ruin a garden in no time by devouring germinating seeds, tunneling into potatoes and tomatoes, and girdling young fruit trees — and they’ll bite and sting you, too. Drought makes these ants even more voracious, as it prompts them to turn to garden crops for moisture.

If you have just one or two fire ant mounds in your garden or landscape and not a widespread problem, you can do a couple of things. The simplest is to pour 3 gallons of very hot water directly onto the ant mound. This method achieves only about 60 percent control, so you’ll likely have to repeat applications often. Be careful not to splash the surrounding plants or yourself.

For an even more effective way to get rid of fire ants, drench the mounds with a citrus oil and soap solution, a combination that’s repeatedly proved effective. In controlled studies conducted by Texas A&M University entomologists, fire ant mounds still showed no activity nearly a month after the researchers had drenched the mounds with a mixture of 1 1⁄2 ounces of Medina Orange Oil, 3 ounces of Dawn liquid soap and 1 gallon of water. A compound in citrus oil, d-limonene, breaks down the ants’ exoskeletons and causes them to suffocate. The commercial product Orange Guard Fire Ant Killer — approved for use in organic agriculture by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) — also contains orange oil. (For other approved products, check the OMRI website.)

If your fire ant problem is more extensive than a mound or two, step up your response with the “Texas Two-Step” method recommended by Texas A&M University extension specialists for fire ant control in home vegetable gardens and landscapes.

11/4/2021 8:53:10 AM

Take it from an old Louisiana boy. We have been fighting fire ants since the 40s. The answer to your problem is to take a shovel full of one ant pile and exchange it with another pile. Trust me, they will annihilate each other in a day or so. It seems so simple, but it works!

2/15/2019 12:21:54 PM

I am a beekeeper in south central TX. Fire ants will take down a hive in under 7 days. I tried setting the legs in stands holding water, oil, and painted tanglefoot on the legs. NONE even slowed down the ants. They just crawled across the backs of their dead siblings. I set the legs in pie tins holding commercial chemical fire ant killer and it kept the ants away. As for mounds, d-limonene is available from Tractor Supply, and soap making suppliers. This combined with dish soap, and boiling water slows them down. DO NOT confuse fire ants with other types of ants. The Aggie Two Step Method is only about 50% effective. IMHO, NOTHING, not even commercial ant killers is more than 75% effective. Cinnamon, borax, cornmeal, and other things that kill sugar ants DO NOT WORK. They don't work against our newest pest, either -- the Crazy Raspberry ant. On the positive (?) side, the fire ant is such an effective invader, that chiggers are no longer a problem -- at all. Scorpion population is way down as well. I don't consider that a bad thing. Fire ants require multiple applications of multiple methods. I keep the yard and bee yard "free" of mounds, and let them loose on the rest of the 20 acres. To do more requires heavy chemical applications, which, as a beekeeper, I can't do. Aim for a draw, and call yourself lucky.

4/27/2018 9:51:39 PM

Citrus oil where do you get it plus what kind of soap. We have fire ants

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