Fire Ants tend to thrive in warmer environments, making Florida a prime location for fire ant colonies. These small but mighty pests bite and sting when their nests are disturbed, making them dangerous to kids, pets, and you. Luckily, there are a variety of extermination methods, from hot water to professional help, that can help you eradicate them.
Below, we help you identify fire ant colonies, discover differences in behaviors, and how to treat and prevent infestations in your lawn.
What are Fire Ants?
While there are indigenous ant species that aren’t particularly invasive or aggressive, the red imported fire ant (also known as RIFA) are notoriously pesky insects. The fire ant’s main food source is plant sugars, making them a serious problem for crops, but the ants also eat other insects, rodents, birds, and reptiles. They lock onto their victims with powerful four-toothed mouths and then release a venom, leaving a red and white blister.
Fire ant venom also contains proteins and peptides that can produce an allergic reaction. While only 5 percent of fire ant attacks are lethal to humans, hypersensitive people should get immediate medical attention if they are stung. Small pets that disrupt a nest can be killed by the ants, so get them professionally treated if they are badly bitten.
How to Identify Fire Ants
To most people at first glance, fire ants can be challenging to identify because they have similar characteristics to less-aggressive ants. Red fire ants are reddish-brown in color everywhere but their abdomen, which is translucent, brownish-black. They are relatively small in size when compared to other types of ants, ranging from 0.05 inches up to 0.2 inches. Fire ant sizes will vary within a single colony.
Fire ants may be easier to identify by their behavior. They’re most active in the morning or late afternoon, they build a fire ant mound on the ground, and they’re quick to swarm any human or animal that disturbs their nests.
Spotting Fire Ants Around Your Home
Fire ants can build a colony virtually anywhere – your home, lawn, driveway, and their nests aren’t always visible. Spotting fire ants, or discovering they’re living somewhere nearby after being bitten, is a sure sign you need to find the nest and treat the colony.
Where to Look for Fire Ant Nests
Inside Your Home: Fire ants can make their way indoors, but they don’t build their nests inside. If you spot one or more fire ants inside your home, something is attracting them. Usually, it’s food that isn’t sealed, such as fruit on a countertop or an open bag of pet food. Fire ants are most likely to be looking for food in the morning or late afternoon. Observe their path to determine where they’re nesting. If fire ants are going in and out through a gap in a window sill, for example, you’ll likely find their nest outdoors on the ground near the window.
Outside: Looking for the fire ant nest mounds is usually the simplest way to find them. Fire ant mounds average up to 2 feet in diameter and up to about 1.5 feet high. However, individual colonies may be larger or smaller. Fire ants don’t have a preference for soil type, although they generally like sunny locations. Don’t dismiss a smaller ant mound when looking for a fire ant nests, because some colonies build smaller surface mounds and then dig elaborate tunnels that can extend up to 25 feet away!
How to Get Rid of Fire Ants
There are several ways to manage a fire ant infestation, and each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Keep in mind that any approach you take that involves standing close to the nest risks instigating a swarm and getting stung, so be sure to wear protective clothing. You should always call a professional pest control company to ensure that fire ant colonies are completely eliminated. The methods described below are to help you keep the nest at bay until your lawn pest care company can get there.
Bait worker ants to kill the fire ant queen.
Placing bait around a mound or in areas where nests may be hidden is a safe, reasonably effective means of fire ant management, but it’s not a quick fix. The ants take the bait and carry it deep inside their nest, ideally killing the queen.
If you want to try this method yourself, sprinkle a bait on the ground around the fire ant nest. You can also spread it over an entire lawn with a broadcast spreader. The goal is to have the worker ants gather the bait and carry it back to the nest, where any ants that eat it, including the colony queen, will die. Remember: Always follow label directions, the label is the law!
Spread an insecticide treatment.
This method is safer than pouring insecticide or boiling water on the nest because the homeowner doesn’t directly engage with the nest. However, some granules may be light sensitive and lose their lethal potency before the ants feed on them. A broadcast spreader is a more effective way to treat large yards.
A broadcast insecticide treats an area up to 5,000 square feet and will remain potent for up to six months. Broadcast insecticides are also helpful at deterring fire ants that are looking for a new place to start a nest, so they are useful as preventatives as well as fire ant killers. Another Important Remember: Always follow label directions, the label is the law!
Call in a professional Pest Control Company.
This is the most effective way to kill fire ants. Professional exterminators have access to more potent insecticides than products sold over the counter. Not only this but they have the knowledge and experience to ensure the products are being safely and effectively applied to your property. It is never recommended to attempt to use pesticides and insecticides to treat pests found around your lawn or home, as this can cause further issues that may be hard to fix.
Brock Lawn & Pest Control takes pride in offering the most technological up to date solutions for your pest control needs. That’s why we offer Topchoice® for your fire ant issues. A single application offers up to one year of fire ant control.
Topchoice® provides control of fire ants for up to a full year in home and commercial lawns, golf courses, sports fields, school grounds and parks. A single application controls existing colonies while also preventing new infestations from forming, and it’s formulated specifically for broadcast application by professionally trained Pest Management Professionals. Learn more about how it works by clicking here.
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