A Farewell to Fire Ants
If you’ve lived around fire ants, you know the kind of problem they can become. They aren’t deadly, but they’re painful and just plain mean, attacking in unrelenting waves. They can be hard to get rid of, and they can turn a simple stroll through the yard into a chore. Read on to discover how I quelled the fire ants’ assault on my yard, without synthetic chemicals or costly ingredients.
The Fire Ants Arrive
I’ve been on watch for fire ants for several years. They’ve been in the general area for at least a decade, but I hadn’t spotted any near my home until late last fall. While walking across a hay field that abuts my property, I spotted one of their large mounds. Naturally, I poked it with a stick, because that’s just fun. But I knew that stick poking wouldn’t be enough. As a father with multiple young kids, I knew I had to do something to keep our yard a safe place for them to play.
That night marked the beginning of a cold spell that no doubt sent the ants deep into the earth. My attempts to deal with them were postponed until the following spring. But as the time to deal with them finally rolled around, I could no longer find the mound. Had they died? The winter had been mild, but perhaps it was possible. Eventually, I forgot about the ants and went about my business.
Fast-forward a few months and I’m out in my mini-orchard, fighting the never-ending battle against grass. My youngest son comes up crying that fire ants are biting him. Sadly, the bugs do love this child, and everything wants to bite or sting him. He’s 3, and he calls all ants fire ants, so I was certain I’d find a stray ant or two on his leg. To my surprise, I found ants all over his legs. Then I found ants all over my legs. Then the stinging started. The fire ants had finally arrived.
After a quick round of ant swatting and first aid, I began researching the various methods of dealing with fire ants. Naturally, I wanted to avoid the harsher chemical methods. However, most pest service websites assured me that home remedies were ineffective. Apparently, fire ants have some behavioral and biological peculiarities that render then immune to many conventional ant deterrents. And the commercial, organic treatments were a bit pricy.
Nevertheless, I resolved to do something. I’d heard about pouring boiling water onto the mound. That sounded like a lot of fun, but it also sounded like a good opportunity to scald myself. So I went back to the Internet. After sifting through several alleged “miracle solutions,” I centered on some recipes involving orange oil. There were several versions, and in the end I mixed and matched to end up with 1 gallon of water, 2 ounces of orange oil, and 6 ounces of compost tea.
How to Get Rid of Fire Ants Naturally
Check out the video below to see the entire process, but the short version is, “It works.” This orange oil mix really knocks them out. If you decide to try it out, be sure to check back in a few days to see if they’re all gone, or if they need another dose. Also, fire ant colonies can have multiple queens, which makes them trickier to deal with than your garden-variety ant. If one or more of the queens survived, they may move over several feet and try again. Keep on the lookout for new mounds, and hit them again before they build up their numbers.
What Do You Think?
If you have any other fixes for fire ants, let me know in the comments. Let’s share the knowledge. Or if you’ve discovered a way to live in peace with fire ants, let me know that, too. Peace is better than war, even with ants.
Scott Sexton is a TGN Trailblazer, a highly experimental gardener, an unrelenting weed-eater, and a largely non-profit herbalist (much to his wife’s chagrin). When Scott is not teaching foraging classes, testing out theories in the garden, or grazing in the forest, he can be found at his Facebook page, “A Forager’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.”