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How to Get Rid of Fire Ants Naturally

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.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants Naturally

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.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants Naturally

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.

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This post was written by Scott Sexton

COMMENTS(20)

  • Randy says:

    I have used a mixture of grit & salt seems grits swell . Or do it the Hillbilly way. Find the biggest mound ram a broom handle down the middle as deep as you can. Then remove pour gas into hole . Give a bit alight and see where the next mound is as the burning ants leave a nice trail.

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      I think David the Good does something similar. It sounds like a lot of fun!

    2. francine742 says:

      Ants are also creatures of the creation: gloating about burning them I find gruesome

      1. MARK says:

        OMG Francine!!! “creatures of the creation”??? I hope you mean created by GOD!! Anyway, sounds like something a California Democrat would say. Living in south Georgia, you learn quick that fire ants are your enemy, especially when you step near a mound or try to pick okra. They’ll fall off the stalks and land on you, then the fun begins when you feel them continue to dig their fangs into your skin. Then you feel it for several days, including a nice puss filled pimple that itches, and hurts when you scratch it. No, I don’t think you’ve had any experience with fire ants swarming on your grandchild who runs in panic, screaming in pain as hundreds of them inject venom into the child’s flesh. They are worthless creatures from hell, and from the sounds of it, after the rapture, you’ll still be around to feel them times ten. Here’s a tip…if you have access to a bible, read the book of Mathew seven times and it will change your life forever. If you’re against the bible, try reading the first “Left Behind” book. Maybe that’ll help open your eyes. I’ll already praying for you that your eyes will be opened.

  • Ruth Reyes-Loiacano says:

    The FIRST time?! Wow, I can’t get rid of them!

    I’ve used the orange oil before…and it worked okay. However, for me…it kinda works the same as anything else. It doesn’t really kill them, it just makes them relocate.

    I’ve heard strong concentrations of orange oil can burn plants. Not sure if that is true or not…But, I’ve always avoided putting the orange oil in my garden for that reason. In these locations, I’ve opted to either just deal with them…or if it’s a mound that is in a high traffic area – to mark it w/ a little DE or a stick…so I know to avoid the area! haha!

    Best of luck with those buggers. They are a real nuisance around here!

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      Thanks for bringing that up! I’ve seen several videos with people testing various fire ant treatment methods. Some videos will be used to verify and others to falsify the same method. I think it depends on your environment (heat, humidity, soil, etc.), application variation (hey, I rhymed!), and natural variations in fire ant subspecies. For example, the boiling water method doesn’t work as effectively for me because of my heavy, clay soil. The water moves too slowly and loses too much of its heat. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But I hear that in sandy soils, this method is a sure thing.

      I’ve heard plenty of people say that orange oil doesn’t work, or doesn’t work very well. But it almost always knocks them out completely for me. I’ve only had 1 colony get up and move, and it was a huge one. After a second treatment, it was toast. I’ve also heard people say that the various commercial chemicals work or don’t work to varying degrees too.

      One thing you might experiment with is Sucralose (Splenda). Allegedly (so says the internet), it was originally being developed as an insecticide, but a lab worker misunderstood the order to “test the sample” as “taste the sample”. He didn’t die, and history was made. I’ve tried sprinkling Splenda around (not on) ant mounds in dry-ish weather. One died completely after a week. The other was diminished but survived (until I poured orange oil on them). A workplace acquaintance tried the same and had similar results: death or diminished colony size.

      It might be worth a try. But I’m also wondering what the Splenda does to other critters in the soil. And I’ve heard some of the same concerns about orange oil, with it burning roots or killing soil microbes. It’s a tough problem without a perfect solution. Best of luck to you!

      1. Ruth Reyes-Loiacano says:

        Hmm..Interesting. I bet it does work…it tastes like poison to me!

        I also have heavy, black land prairie clay…and the boil method doesn’t do a thing!

  • cre8tiv369 says:

    Chickens will eat fire ants… Heck, chickens will eat anything and everything. But there are several videos of chickens eating fire ants online. You could also just sprinkle some bird feed on the mound, or hang a bird feeder above the mound, or if you are not as rural and have neighborhood dogs that like to leave lawn bombs in your yard, pour a little bacon grease on the mound and put the little bastards to work. If you have multiple mounds you can make a line between the mounds with some cheep corn syrup and after the two ant colonies collide and go to war with each other, you come in and squash the weakened victor!!! You could also trap them and relocate them… Dig a hole close to the mound, insert a 5 gallon bucket with corn syrup and road kill at the bottom covered in dirt, once they move in, pop the lid on, and drive them over to the house of someone you hate or a business you hate and give them a new place to call home. Or… if you want to get crazy… Get a metal 55 gallon drum that is open on one end and closed on the other (open end is the bottom), cut a hole near the top that is just big enough for a leaf blower nozzle to fit in. Light a fire on the fire ant mound, add some green material to get plenty of smoke, cover with the barrel, insert leaf blower and turn it on. That leaf blower will act like a bellows and you basically just made a redneck rocket mass ant smoker… You might see smoke rise in various places around the area depending on how big the nest is. But that hot fire and smoke will quickly turn them into a colony of little tiny briskets and burnt ends. Or… You can also get some Calcium Hydroxide (It has many common names, including hydrated lime, slack lime, pickling lime and “Cal” in Spanish, for making masa) and sprinkle a little bit on top of the mound (right in the center, about 2 to 3 inches in diameter). Calcium Hydroxide is known as an “alternative” insecticide, as most crawling insects are killed by its touch, including ticks, fleas, beetles and grubs. Get yer leaf blower (with a decent diameter nozzle), and place it over the little lime pile and turn it on for just a second (you want to be wearing full skin protection, closed eye protection, respirator mask (not a paper one, a real one), but that should kill them or really really piss them off to no end… or… Get creative and have fun… Drop a viagra or two down the mound and see if the queens all leave to go stay with their sister for a few days. Drive metal rods into the ground on either side of the nest, hook a car battery to the rods with jumper cables and pour salt water in the nest. Or… (you can find some very cool videos of this online), pour molten aluminum down the mound and dig out the casting afterwards (it makes a hell of a wedding or Christmas gift for the person that has everything), it is definitely art. And if all else fails, drop a piece of pot brownie on the nest and bring in a crack spider… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSiXERe0QKE

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      Hahaha! That may be the best comment I’ve ever seen! Lots of good ideas in there. Thanks!

  • Janet says:

    Last summer while hanging out sheets on my patio I was stung by an ant…I could barely walk and the pain lingered up my my foot for hours afterward! Upon investigation I saw a huge mound with many numbers of ants marching across my yard and patio. They weren’t “fire ants” as we know them here in Northern New Mexcio. They were bigger, mostly dark with reddish heads…they are Red Imported Fire Ants which have been in migration from southern ports (from Brazil) since the 1930’s. I have tried EVERYTHING to rid myself of this torture. They keep coming back and my outdoor patio is rendered useless. If anyone has suggestions that actually work I would love to hear about it!! ( tried boiling water, bleach, insecticide, red chili flakes with dawn dishsoap & vinegar and lastly Alpaca poo…..help!!!

  • sonbyrd says:

    We use food grade DE in the garden beds themselves and it really does work. In fact we use it for all sorts of unwanted crawlies. But i like your orange oil recipe for the numerous mounds that pop up outside the garden cause I think its effect will last longer. Gonna try it. Thanks!

  • Scott Sexton says:

    It’s interesting to hear what does and doesn’t work for other people. I’ve always been told that DE doesn’t work on fire ants. It’s supposed to do with how they hold their bodies up over the DE, preventing it from scraping their undersides. But I haven’t tested it myself. Glad it’s working for you!

  • Scott Sexton says:

    Hi Janet. I hope you find a solution to your fire ant problem! If the orange oil mix doesn’t help, you could also try Stevia sweetener sprinkled near the mounds. Ruth and I were chatting about it up above. I’ve had some mixed success with it, and I think that it might be a real winner if was reapplied once a week for a few weeks.

    1. Joyce says:

      You do mean Sucralose (Splenda) and not Stevia, right?

  • GardenGal says:

    Diatomaceous earth works well. It doesn’t take much. Beware of breathing it into your lungs.

  • squiggley64 says:

    Take grits and spread a path around the ant hill, the ants take the grits back to the hill, when it rains the grits swell up and kill the ants

  • Rebecca L Gray says:

    How to Take the Fire out Of a Fire Ant’s Bite!
    Fire Ant’s bites hurt so much because they defend themselves by spraying out a drop of really strong acid. It can hurt, blister and itch for days, and can leave a scar or become infected on a child young enough to keep scratching it; band aids, mom’s warnings ignored. People with large numbers of bites may be hospitalized.
    As you remember from chemistry class in high school, you counteract an acid with a base. One that is strong enough, easily available, and won’t hurt you is common household bleach. Bleach is pretty safe when used properly, which is why chlorine is used in swimming pools, diluted to commercially wash food and in drinking water to take out pathogens that could make you really sick or even kill you. It gasses off very, very quickly. Leave tap water out overnight and you can put your goldfish back into the tank in the morning. (Yes, I know, most of us don’t use it anymore, but if it keeps my grandson’s from the pain of a fire ant bite, I will use a few drops.)
    So if you get a Fire Ant bite, put a little bleach on a cotton ball and wipe the bite a couple of swipes. No blister or itch, and the pain goes away quickly. My daughter lives in San Antonio and her kids’ backyard playset seems to be the location fire ants most desire.
    For people who feel sorry for the ants that are set on fire, go deal with them. See what they can do to a child or your own leg before you jump to their defense. I’ve heard that they have killed cows that stood on the mound in a pasture. The world’s sweetest lizard, which eats native ants, the Horned Toad, it is becoming extinct in Texas. They are aggressive and invasive. Their evil little ant agenda is to keep moving north and take over the continent, and then the world! Apparently, cold doesn’t stop them if they can get below it, so a 7 or 8 ft frost line is required. Get ready.
    https://www.ars.usda.gov/southeast-area/gainesville-fl/center-for-medical-agricultural-and-veterinary-entomology/imported-fire-ant-and-household-insects-research/docs/potential-united-states-range-expansion-of-the-invasive-fire-ant/
    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/02/fire-ants-using-us-staging-ground-global-invasion

  • Carey says:

    I have found that 2 oz of each orange oil, compost tea and molasses works very well. The orange oil kills them, the compos tea feeds the beneficial organisms and the molasses drives them away. If they move reapply to the new mound. I have found the easiest way to apply is to use a garden sprayer dialed to a strong stream. You will be able to bore a hole deep into the mound and distribute the liquid where it really works. Do this in multiple places in the mound and if you “drill” deep the mound never comes back. If it moves hit the new mound.

  • JakeMartin says:

    Ruth Reyes-Loiacano — Never heard of using compost tea in this mix, but have used dawn dishwashing soap (around a half cup) and it actually works pretty good. The soap helps the orange oil to stick to the ants and the orange oil kills them. And although I hate using chemicals on my property, there is one surefire killer of fire ants that I use regularly, because I hate wasting good orange oil on ants, and that is AMDRO – it only takes a cap full sprinkled on the mound in the evening (best – contrary to that video, fire ants are most active at night – ever notice that in the middle of the day when you disturb the mound that there are so many ants, it’s because they are all at home) or early morning. AMDRO is a bait that they LOVE and will take it into the mound and feed the queen — it has NEVER failed to kill a mound, although it may take a second treatment for really large ones. I have a lot of animals on my little farm so when I treat for fire ants I set a milk crate on top of the mound with a large rock in it until the job is done.

  • Hillbilly says:

    I use Ash from fires all the time. The ash sticks to their feet and they are unable to follow the trail back and if you have mounds just place ash around the mound about three inches and until it rains they are lost cause all they do is keep putting out the chemical they use to track. The ash just keeps on sticking. And it is done around the tent as soon enough ash can go across the doors. And Please waterproof your tent before you leave the house

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