View Full Version : Help! FIRE ANTS! What to do?

Dec. 30, 2008, 11:31 PM
I'm posting for my friend/trainer. I noticed when I went to her place today that the fire ant hills seem to have tripled! :eek: One small pasture in particular is just covered in them.

When I commented about this, she said she was literally at wit's end. She spent almost $3000 last year trying to eradicate the nuisance on her 10 acre farm. For awhile, it seemed she was at least keeping them at an even level, but now they appear to be overwhelming her property. With two very active school age kids and at least 4-6 horses to school each day, her time and money seem to be going down the drain for naught in trying to control these pests. :no:

For the most part, her horses have learned to deal with them, and avoid the fire ant hills etc. I'm worried because our mare will be foaling in the next couple of months and I'm concerned about the ants biting/stinging the foal. Having been stung/bit a couple of times myself, I know they are quite painful. I'd hate to see what would happen to an animal that was overrun with this menace!

So...advice? What works for you? :confused: Any product out there that seems to work better than others? My friend is planning on calling her agricultural exentsion agent tomorrow to ask advice. I live approximately 50 miles away, and so far we don't have fire ants...but from what I've seen, I DON'T WANT THEM either! :mad: What can we do?????

Dec. 31, 2008, 12:32 AM
We have local companies that treat 10 acres twice a year for $300 and guarantee results. I would never have known that if an article had not been in a local horse publication. I just assumed professionals wold cost more!

They use growth inhibitors so its safe for mammals and birds ect.

Dec. 31, 2008, 05:23 AM
Diatomaceous earth! It works wonders. Plus, it's safe for the horses. I get the perma-guard brand, make sure it's food grade, just incase the horses would eat it. It costs about $50 a bag and will probably last all summer.


Dec. 31, 2008, 02:41 PM
Think it was on a thread here on COTH a while back--sprinkle grits on the hills. Ants eat
them, grits expand and kill the ants. If the aging memory serves me right, several folks
had very good luck using this method.

Dec. 31, 2008, 02:46 PM
OK, snow and ice have a purpose after all.

Will remind myself of that tonight while dealing with winter's latest. It could be fire ants!

Dec. 31, 2008, 03:00 PM
It was discovered that all the grits did was make the ants move their hills. I like equinelaw's method-I personally treat my stupid little yard myself, spend a fortune and still get tons of them. They travel downhill and if the people uphill do nothing about them then you won't be able to wipe them out either. I don't think there's anything the amateur can get and use safely that really gets rid of the stupid things. Time to call a pro.

Jan. 1, 2009, 09:13 AM
We have plenty of fire ants down here in TX and as far as I know they are here to stay. I have heard of nothing affordable to treat a large area. All the treatment methods other than poison seems to just make them relocate.:mad:

When my foal was a month old he decided to take a snooze on top of a fire ant hill one day and he did get bit all over, probably 30 times....:no:
He was fine. I felt horrible for him but he seemed to get the point and has not been using ant hills for pillows since.

Jan. 1, 2009, 10:25 AM
I went through a stage in high school where I wanted to be a myrmecologist--that's an ant scientist--so I know a thing or two about this.

Fire ants are very difficult to get rid of, but there is one thing that will kill them for sure: killing the queen. If you kill the queen, the ants literally lose their "mind". Most professional extermination services are aimed at doing just that.

If your friend lucks out, she may have just one colony headed by one queen. If she is unlucky, she has multiple colonies headed by multiple queens and needs to kill all of them. If she is really super DUPER unlucky, she has a fire ant species that has multiple queens that are related by blood, meaning that if you kill one queen, the ants will just latch onto a genetically similar queen from a nearby colony and things will be exactly as they were before. If she leaves even one young colony behind, the ants will re-populate.

If the mounds all have separate queens, you can set them to war with each other by placing ants from one mound on another mound and letting them go at it. This is somewhat unreliable as the ants from the other mound would have to a) be unrelated to the mound they're placed on, b) manage to beat back the soldiers from the mound they're attacking, and c) manage to reach the queen and kill her.

You can supposedly kill the queen by drilling a hole in the colony with a piece of rebar, shoving a piece of dry ice into the hole, and using the re-bar to shove the dry ice deep within the colony. Allegedly this freezes the queen to death. I've never tried it myself, but it sounds like a better solution than pouring boiling water or lye or grits, none of which are likely to reach the queen.

Jan. 1, 2009, 10:53 AM
I went through a stage in high school where I wanted to be a myrmecologist--that's an ant scientist--so I know a thing or two about this."

the THINGS you learn on horse lists! This is cool. I don't have this problem but it sure sounds more likely than the others. After all, if grits were the answer, probably nobody would have fireants, right?

Jan. 1, 2009, 10:53 AM
and one more question, how do you tell the queen?

Jan. 1, 2009, 11:08 AM
We are constantly buying products from Walmart, Home Depot, or the likes for this problem! They all sell jugs of granules that are fire ant specific and usually mention that the strategy is that the other ants will take it to the queen.It is a never-ending battle in South Florida. My husband is allergic to them, so we always keep some form of benedryl around.

Jan. 1, 2009, 11:17 AM
and one more question, how do you tell the queen?

The chances that you're actually going to SEE her before you kill her are pretty much zero. The other ants in the colony exist solely to feed and protect her. She only comes to the surface on a few occasions, most commonly when the colony is migrating (in which case she'll often be encased in other ants who use their body as a shield, so you still can't see her), when she's so young that she has to venture out of the colony on her own to form her own mound, or if she's dead on a stick in an entomologist's drawer. :lol:

But if you do happen to see her, it will be obvious. She'll be much larger than the other ants, and she's an egg laying machine. She'll look something like this:

You don't actually need to see her to know that she's dead. If you kill the queen, the mound will self-destruct within days or weeks.

Jan. 1, 2009, 11:25 AM
50 years of fighting them from New Orleans to Jacksonville. Although I'm not an ant specialist like the one lady, I did work for a pesticide development company for 5 years. The key as said is to kill the queen. You probably won't see her because she is deep in the mound and well protected. Instant kill products, like Sevin or diatomaceous earth, don't work as well in my experience because it kills the workers before they can deliver it to the queen. (The Borg on Star Trek are an excellent parallel.) So my strategy is to first trap the workers and soldiers in the mound. Without disturbing the mound encircle it with diatomaceous earth or some other instant kill. Apply a thick wide barrier. Diatomaceous earth is inexpensive so you can be generous with it. You can buy it in volume from pool supply stores. It is actually microscopic razors which cut the exoskeleton. Once wet the "blade" is dulled and won't work so apply to dry ground when you don't expect rain. Mammals digestive system pretty much dissolve the DE so it is not considered toxic to mammals and is save for horses and foals to be around. Now you've started a siege, no food or materials coming in. Go back later to disturb the center of the mound as deep as you can and put a blizzard of pesticide. I've had good experience with Amdro. With this system you've trapped them in a toxic environment. If any get out they will try to start a new mound. Anyone of them can become a queen so you need to be persistent. I've also found they tend not to come back to an area where mounds are not succeeding. I had a foal this year and used this method in the nursery pasture. There were only a few small mounds in the pasture but lots of big ones surround the pasture. I figure fire ants are part of living in the South so all I'm out to do is get a working relationship with them so it is clear where they can be a where they can't. I guess I'm saying they are trainable over time. Best of luck and keep us posted on your foal.

Jan. 1, 2009, 03:28 PM
I use a Mike Meetze. He's a fire ant control specialist and uses a biological control that is non toxic to birds, reptiles,and mammals. It sterilizes the queen. He's located in Greensboro, NC. Not cheap, but it works! He comes 2x a season ( I'm in SC) and I have NO more fire ants. Phone # 336-288-8868.. I also used a friend of his in when I lived in Florida and eliminated all the ants on my 5 acre property there.

Jan. 1, 2009, 07:08 PM


I did the broadcast method last spring and had no problems with fire ants until fall. Then I got overrun and had to treat all the mounds. This year, I'm going to do the broadcast spring and fall as recommended.

Jan. 1, 2009, 08:07 PM
OK, snow and ice have a purpose after all.

Will remind myself of that tonight while dealing with winter's latest. It could be fire ants!

:lol: :lol:

And don't forget kudzu! Your farm could be over run with it!:eek:

Almost makes you appreciate winter! :yes:

Jan. 1, 2009, 10:55 PM
There are a few products labeled for use in pastures: Amdro, Logic, Esteem, and Extinguish. If you have a large population of mounds in the pastures, the broadcast method of a bait is going to be most effective. You can apply the bait in swaths across the pasture, so you're not having to cover the entire pasture (which can get $$$ quickly). These products may cost $10-15/acre to treat. The idea is that the ants forage out for food and bring the bait back to the mound - hopefully feeding the queen and then killing off the mound. If there are mounds close to high traffic areas that need to be treated quickly, you can use a contact insecticide to help control those (like Sevin). Long term control will be best with the broadcasted bait though, even though it's slower acting.

You'll never completely rid yourselves of the ants...there are just too many of them and they really have no natural predators. The most you can do is just manage their populations so that they aren't so much of a nuisance.

Jan. 2, 2009, 11:03 AM
http://www.poetv.com/video.php?vid=27065 not that I *want* a spider like this but wow....