It’s hard to imagine a yard and garden insect that is more of a nuisance than the pesky Red Imported Fire Ant. Best known for their painful---and sometimes harmful---stings, Fire Ants are a motivated, well-organized species that are capable of working toward a common goal with uncanny cohesiveness. That’s why the key to successful long-term Fire Ant control is to be as persistent as they are.
The Red Imported Fire Ant arrived in North America around the 1930s, and the species has since spread to infest areas from coastal North Carolina to Florida and west to central Texas. In addition to being highly motivated, Fire Ants are strong. They can carry up to ten times their own body weight and, working together, they can strip to the bone a much larger creature like a frog in just a few hours.
Effective Fire Ant control begins with first understanding their habitats. Fire Ants prefer warm, sunny conditions in the middle of yards and pastures, and they avoid shady areas such as woods. Typical Fire Ant mounds can expand up to roughly two feet in diameter, but may not always be easily identifiable as they sometimes remain flat to the surrounding ground. Plus, Fire Ants will also construct mounds in or beside central heating units and other electrical equipment, which can be destructive to the equipment.
The key to Fire Ant control is locating and treating colonies early and often. However, be careful when searching for their mounds. Fire Ants are aggressive and will swarm and sting individuals when disturbed, which can be bad if people are allergic to Fire Ant stings. Fire Ant colonies are also capable of remarkable feats of movement from one place to another (they can move several feet overnight). In neighborhoods where residents wish to reduce pest populations it might be helpful to talk with neighbors and coordinate your Fire Ant control efforts.
Now, your first instinct might be to reach for the spray insecticide because of how it kills on contact. However you should keep in mind for truly effective Fire Ant control, you need to kill from the source. The quick contact killing of spray insecticides kills the foraging worker ants before the ants are able to return to the mound to spread the poison to the rest of the colony. For more and information on Fire Ants, visit our ant identifier page.