Fire Ants

Fire Ants

Sod University
Fire Ant Problem

Fire Ants

Identifying the Fire Ant Problem

In many regions on the United States, loosely constructed fire ant mounds pop-up all over yards and around buildings overnight. While the mounds are unattractive, they are not necessarily bad for the health of a lawn; however, fire ants are more than just an unsightly nuisance—they can be extremely harmful. Fire ant bites can have serious medical ramifications for humans and pets. Additionally, fire ants cause structural and electrical issues in buildings if they are left unchecked. 

The truth is that fire ants are an invasive species and must be dealt with; ignoring a fire ant problem will only allow the issue to worsen. Fire ants were accidentally introduced to the United States in the 1930s from South America. They quickly became an issue and now heavily populate the southern United States and other territories in North America. Identifying fire ants is not difficult because they have a few distinctive traits. Fire ants are little but vary in size unlike other ant species that are more uniform in size. They build loosely constructed mounds that have no hole in the top—this is one of the easiest ways to identify a fire ant habitat. A fire ant bite yields an intense stinging, burning sensation; hence its “fire” namesake.

Fire ant mounds are problematic for turf grass because they disrupt the moisture and root systems that keep grass healthy. For example, mowing and maintenance becomes more difficult with the presence of fire ant mounds. Also, fire ants displace significant amounts of soil to build their mounds, destroying the health and wellbeing of the grass that once relied on its compact composition. Aside from the issues the mounds create for yards, fire ants tend to wreak havoc on wiring and structure when they build habitats under and beside homes and buildings.

Solving the Fire Ant Problem

While there is a lot of information out there about natural, non-chemical fire ant solutions, unfortunately, these remedies simply do not work. Boiling water and grits are often suggested as treatment options, but sadly will not solve a fire ant issue.

There are three ways to deal with fire ants. The ideal time to control fire ants is in the fall when it is the end of the warm season and the ants are active. With that being said, it is important to treat fire ant mounds as soon as they begin invading a property no matter the season.

Option A: Isolated Mound Treatment

The first option is to treat the isolated fire ant mounds. If there are only a few mounds, this might be the way to go, but consider that this is absolutely the least effective of the two options. Treating individual mounds oftentimes results in the fire ants simply building another mound a few feet over. There are liquid, dust, and granular products that can be used to treat mounds that can be easily purchased from your local home improvement store.

Option B: Whole Yard Treatment

This option is more effective than treating mounds individually but requires that the whole property be treated. By covering an entire lawn with ‘bait’ (often composed of pesticides and natural deterrents), the ants take the poison back to the mounds where it will then kill off the rest of the colony. Baits can be easily purchased at local home improvement stores and applied with a hand-held seed spreader. Be sure that the ground is dry and that no rain is expected for at least 48 hours before application. It is best to apply bait in late fall and to reapply every six months.

Option C: The One-Two Punch

In cases of extreme fire ant infestation, it may be necessary to treat mounds individually and to treat the entire yard as well. The best way to combine options A and B is to apply bait to the entire yard first and then follow up by treating individual mounds.

Want to learn more about achieving a great lawn? Check out our other Sod University tips here