In this guide to the best fire ant bait, we will educate you on everything fire ant so that you can understand your newly found foe. From what they are to what they do, and how to tackle them with the best products around.
And knowing all of this together will help you to get rid of them once and for all. It’s all here in this fire ant battle plan. The Latin name for the red fire ant is ‘Solenopsis Invicta,’ which literally translates to ‘appears invincible.’ And, as you’re about to learn, it is an apt name!
And if you’ve ever had to battle these little critters before, you’ll totally agree with us. They are hardy, numerous, and they pack a big punch for such a tiny ant.
Often the first sign of a fire ant infestation will be when their colony starts to show above ground. In other words, you have ant hills all over the lawn. Or if you’re unlucky, you will see a few wandering about the house.
This a sure-fire sign to take action. But where do you even start?
Let’s get firefighting…
What You'll Learn
- 1 Are You Sure You Have Fire Ants?
- 2 Fire Ants Need Specific Treatment
- 3 How to Choose the Best Product to Kill Fire Ants?
- 4 Treating Fire Ants on Your Lawn
- 5 Treating Fire Ants in Your Home
- 6 Any Home Remedies for Fire Ants?
- 7 Best Fire Ant Baits for 2020
- 8 Conclusion
Are You Sure You Have Fire Ants?
Before you go to battle with a fire ant, you need to know that they are fire ants. Here are the best ways to tell.
What Are Fire Ants? What do They Look Like?
The red fire ant is often referred to as the imported fire ant as it isn’t a native species in North America. It was accidentally imported from Brazil via cargo ships into Alabama sometime around the 1930s.
Due to a lack of natural predators, and the agreeable sunny climate in the southern states of the US, they have thrived. And unfortunately, they have become a prevalent and common household pest.
The imported fire ant is still making his way into new areas because of import and export activities. So, sometimes you will get an infestation in your yard or home because your recent plants or gardening purchases came with a hidden extra, hitchhiking fire ants.
Fire ants enjoy a variety of food and water sources such as food crumbs, open garbage cans, and pet food and water bowls. By removing these attractants, you can start to prevent the increase in these ants.
Fire ants are easily discernible compared to other ant species. They have a dull red coloration, as opposed to the shiny reddish-brown of other ants. Plus, they have that obvious stinger on the tail. Despite the small size of it, it’s very apparent to the naked eye. Just don’t get too close!
Measuring only 2 to 5mm, fire ants can, initially, be hard to see. But once you spot one, you will normally find many more nearby.
With an average of 40 to 150 mounds per acre and a count of up to seven million ants in a single queen colony, they reproduce fast and are very invasive.
In areas with a multiple queen colony setup, there could be over 200 mounds and around 40 million ants per acre. That’s a big problem for you and your land if left unchecked.
When on the lookout for fire ants, bear in mind that they are least active during the hot midday hours, and they also avoid shade. Sunup and sunset will be the busiest periods for them, and they will be out in the open on lawns and in parkland areas.
These aggressive insects feed primarily on living insects and dead animals, so they prefer to live outside. But as the weather cools, they may well find their way inside looking for warmth such as near to hot water pipes and tanks.
Fire ants are omnivores that will feed on both animals and vegetables. Once inside, they will forage for fatty and sweet foods. Ranging from meats, such as pet food or greasy and sweet foods such as jams, peanut butter, and bread. They aren’t that fussy.
What to Look For?
Fire ant mounds are the most obvious sign of fire ants. Unlike other ant mounds, there is no opening in the center. Fire ants enter the piles at ground level through an extensive array of entry and exit tunnels.
A typical mound will be dome-shaped, and it can be up to 61cm in diameter and 18 to 24cm high. Although considerable in size to look at, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The colonies contain hundreds of thousands of ants, with at least one queen.
Because the fire ant prefers softer, sandier soil, their mounds will be sandy and fluffy in appearance. They will be more apparent after rainfall as the surface will be covered in small craters and earth bubbles caused by the droplets hitting it.
Fire Ants Need Specific Treatment
Fire ants are notoriously difficult to control due to the colonies being very large, and because they spread like wildfire. Their colonies extend for miles underground, and they are not just localized to the immediate mound you find.
Some colonies will have multiple queens and can recover almost immediately if you take out a single mound. For this reason, you must use a fire ant specific treatment and well-formulated methodology when you decide to take action.
If you do not get it right the first time, the destroyed mound and colony will leave an underground space for other colonies to use and extend into.
For this reason, certain chemical compounds are the most effective against fire ants. These tried and tested pesticides come in a variety of products and application methods.
How to Choose the Best Product to Kill Fire Ants?
The decision of which product to use for your fire ant infestation can be an overwhelming one when you look at the hundreds of products available.
The one most suitable for your needs will depend on a few factors. These are where you are going to apply it and whether you have pets and kids to think about. And also, the level of infestation and, of course, whether you have specialist tools available to apply it.
Types of Fire Ant Killing Pesticides
So, let’s look at what forms these products can take, what they will do, and when you should use them.
This type most often employs the bait technique to entice the ants to eat and share the granules. As ants are social creatures, once they find the food, they will lead more ants to it. All so that it can be gathered and taken back to the colony to feed as many as possible.
This is one of, if not the best method, of killing any ant infestation. Because the queen and the newborn larvae will eat the poison, which in turn destroys all life stages within the colony and destroys it.
This form of treatment is for both indoor and outdoor use. Inside you will want the granules in a bait station. Whereas outdoors, you will spread the granules evenly across the whole lawn. Granules can be effective for weeks and months if weatherproof.
Be sure to read the label, though, as some ant killing granules will kill on contact, which will be less effective at destroying the colony.
Ant sprays are a liquid ant killer that kills on contact with the ant. They are fast-acting, and they are great for getting rid of ants that are an immediate nuisance.
As simple as point and shoot, you just chase the ants with the spray until they are all dead. This makes sprays very useful for localized treatment.
But they are ineffective at getting rid of the problem long term, as they do nothing to rid you of the colony that contains thousands more.
These are another form of ant bait. They are sticky and sweet, replicating the ant favorite that is honeydew. Honeydew is the milk secreted from aphids that ants can’t get enough of. It makes bait gels very good at enticing them in and feeding them the active ingredients.
Ordinarily provided in a syringe-style plunge applicator, they can be squirted wherever you want and will even stick to vertical surfaces if needed.
They are an excellent option for squeezing into cracks and holes in the exterior walls of your house, stopping ants from crossing the threshold.
Do You Need a Pet or Child Safe Insecticide?
The war on fire ants should not end in collateral damage to pets and children. So, it is important to make sure that if the makeup of your household includes mini-mes and prized fur babies, that you look for products with no toxicity.
To keep your loved ones safe from toxic chemicals used in ant killers, you have two approaches. You either purchase labeled pet-friendly products only. Or you use the more robust products but take precautionary measures.
The former might mean that the only safe way to go is all-natural. In which case, you will be limited to the likes of diatomaceous earth and natural oils as a repellent. Just be aware that while diatomaceous earth can be useful to a certain degree, the natural oils will not be when it comes to fire ants.
Fire ants have a unique ability to detect repellents and avoid the treated areas. They will simply travel through the areas that have been missed or not treated to complete their journeys.
Taking precautionary measures with harsher chemical products can be a concern and a chore. But taking into consideration the threat fire ants pose to the whole family, including the pets, it might be a burden worth bearing.
Or an excuse to get the grandparents to babysit for the weekend while you fight fire with fire!
With some products such as water-soluble treatments, it can be as simple as keeping pets and kids off the lawn until the product is dry. A minor inconvenience if it gets rid of the fire ants the first time around.
Treating Fire Ants on Your Lawn
When it comes to lawn infestations, there is no one size fits all approach. The general rule of thumb is that bait will be the most effective as it has the strongest chance of reaching the queen and killing the colony from the inside.
But it will not do it all. A multi-product approach is the best way to give the bait some flank support. This will aid in significantly reducing the number of ants that you have on your lawn.
Here are the common multi-product approaches that are likely to have the best result:
Mound Drenching and Lawn Treatment
A toxic liquid containing an effective fire ant formula is sprayed all over the lawn, with particular attention paid to the mound. This will kill the majority of the fire ants on contact. The shortfall is that it might not kill the queen located deep underground.
A top tip when targeting mounds is to avoid rain and hot sunny days. In both instances, the ants will be inactive. Wet granules and bait are unappealing to ants, and on hot days the ants will be deep underground staying cool until sunset.
Granules formulated with fire ant specific insecticides are spread across the lawn and around the mounds. This method is another contact killer, so ants in the vicinity of the mound will likely carry some back to the queen. This increases the chance of killing her and the colony.
The tried and tested method. Baits kill ants slowly, giving them time to share it around as a food source, allowing maximum exposure to the queen. It’s simple and effective.
Treating Fire Ants in Your Home
Fire ants in the home usually occur in cold, wet weather, when their mounds have been damaged, or the ants are seeking warmer living conditions. Your first step is tackling entry and exit points. You can either seal them with a filler or apply gel bait to them.
Next, you will need to try and locate the ant nest, come colony. If they have taken up roots in the home, you will need to spend some time observing the ants to see whereabouts it might be.
Then the most effective way to deal with them is with ant baits and traps. You want to be sure that the bait will reach the colony, so do this by placing multiple bait stations around the home.
Then for the immediately pesky ants that are in unwanted places such as your cupboards and fridge, keep an insecticide spray on hand that will kill on contact.
Remember, as satisfying as it is to kill instantly, it cannot replace the bait. You need some live ants to carry that back to the colony, so don’t go crazy with it.
Any Home Remedies for Fire Ants?
There is some truth to the old saying fight fire with fire. With that in mind, many people deploy two somewhat effective but risky options. Boiling water and gasoline.
It may seem extreme, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Obviously, these aren’t remedies for an indoor infestation. And, even outdoors, they can cause more damage to the grass than the colony turning it brown or killing it.
Less extreme home options include mixes of natural oils and household ingredients to create sprays that can both kill and repel. You should be aware that home remedies are often less effective than commercial products.
Popular choices are borax mixed with water and sugar, boiling water and dish soap, and baking soda and powdered sugar. All are effective for dealing with common ants and minor infestations but can be less so on hardier ants such as the fire ant.
If you fancy giving them a go before you reach for the pesticides, find some commonly used home recipes here.
Best Fire Ant Baits for 2020
In no particular order, here are our favorite picks as the best fire ant baits.
Ortho Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules, 11.5lb.
This Ortho product is designed to be a preventative measure and extra protection against fire ants. It will target and kill flying queens that come looking to start new colonies.
It is effective at preventing new colonies and mounds from forming for up to six months, post-application. You simply spread it over the lawn and watered in.
Formulated to be fast-acting, it will kill the fire ants on the mounds in 15 minutes so you can get the use of your lawn back quickly. Plus, the residue left makes the pile inhabitable for any neighboring ants wanting to utilize it.
In its granular form, it is easy to apply. Just use a manual or wheeled spreader to cover up to 5,000 square feet of lawn. Then use your garden hose to water it in for full coverage.
It is best used as part of the Ortho two-step system. The first part is using the Ortho Orthene fire ant killer (see above) to kill the mounds and colonies directly; then use this to control new piles from forming.
- Large coverage area
- Effective preventative measure
- Prevents incoming ants from colonizing your yard
- Easy to use
- Only completely effective as part of a two-stage process
- You will need a broadcast or drop spreader for even coverage
Amdro Granules Fire Ant Bait, 0.375 Pounds
This granular bait from Amdro is very effective against the hardy fire ant species. It is for outdoor use, and the granules are effective as both an all-over lawn treatment and mound spot treatment.
You can apply them from the container directly by sprinkling them sparingly over the desired area or use a drop or broadcast spreader for easier, more even coverage.
When used as per the instructions as a two-step approach, it will kill all visible ants and their colonies within two weeks. First, you give the affected area a full spread, and then you can take two to five tablespoons to each mound and pour over the top.
Dosage guidance states that a light infestation requires around a 1lb. of granules per 2000 square feet. A heavy infestation requires double the dose at 1lb. per 1000 square feet. At the concentrated level, that means it will still treat a 10×100 meter lawn space.
Be aware that these Amdro fire ant granules are not weather-resistant, so they cannot be applied when rain is expected. This formulation will dissolve and spoil when wet.
- Easy to apply
- Substantial coverage
- Specifically formulated for fire ants
- Effective hydramethylnon active ingredient
- Not weatherproof
- Slow acting
Syngenta Advion Fire Ant Bait Insecticide, 2lb
Syngenta is a well-known company with a track record of making effective pest products. Advion fire ant bait is another one of their well-designed products.
It is an insecticide bait treatment that uses the slow-release bait and kill method.
The active ingredient is indoxacarb, which is a chemical that replicates the smell of food but is toxic to ants and many other insects. It is another neurotoxin that causes loss of nerve function, leading to paralysis and death.
As a slow-release bait, Advion will take 24 to 72 hours to take effect and start to kill the colony. Effective against all life stages of the ant, it will kill workers, larvae, and the queen herself, ensuring total colony control and destruction.
The granules can be used as a broadcast treatment that you can spread across the yard. Or as a mound treatment that you sprinkle directly over.
It comes in a 2lb. jug, meaning there is enough to cover around an acre with a modest spread. So, it also offers good value for money with its extensive coverage capability.
- Large coverage area
- Good value for money
- Formulated for fire ants
- Easy to use
- Not an instant kill product
- You will need a broadcast spreader for even coverage
Ortho Fire Ant Killer Mound Treatment, 3 lb.
Ortho fire ant mound killer is a product formulated to specifically target the mounds that fire ants create as they colonize your lawn. It is fast-acting and effective at killing the queen so that the colony is wiped out.
It then acts as a repellent barrier and ant killer for any ants thinking of re-establishing a mound in the same area.
Simple to apply, you just sprinkle two-thirds of a cup of granules over each fire ant mound and spread around the surrounding three feet of ground. You then drench each mound with two gallons of water to dissolve it and wash it into the dirt and soil.
This forces the chemical pesticide to penetrate down to the queen and infiltrate the surrounding soil creating the no-return barrier. This will also keep flying females from establishing new nests in the vacated space.
Not just designed for lawns, this product can also be used to treat fire ant affected ornamental flower beds and planters. Ultimately, it can be used anywhere where you may have a fire ant problem, except for the house, of course.
Ortho also gives you a no-fail guarantee. If it doesn’t work, they’ll give you your money back.
- Easy to apply
- Specifically formulated for fire ant mounds
- Preventative barrier for long-lasting control
- Not pet friendly
- Cannot be used as a full lawn treatment
Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer, 12oz.
Ortho Orthene new formula fire ant killer, contains acephate and can kill the ants and colony in hours and continue to control ant populations for up to six weeks.
It also has a newly formulated recipe that has a reduced odor. So, a lot less cabbagy, which can only be a good thing!
As anyone that has used acephate based treatments before will testify, they usually have a very pungent odor caused by the sulfur dioxide it releases.
Ortho Orthene has proven effectiveness in killing fire ants. It comes in a powder form, making it simple to apply, and it even has a built-in seal opener.
This means you don’t have to wrestle with the foil seal that can often lead to you chucking the contents over yourself.
When applying it, you dust it on the mound and leave it to take effect. It is best applied when the ants are active so that they encounter it and take it deeper into the nest before it takes effect. That way, they will spread it around a bit, giving it a chance to reach the queen.
This treatment will remain active in the soil for up to six months once it is absorbed. Allowing you to control the ant population with a continued hands-off approach.
- Uses powerful active ingredient acephate
- Specifically formulated for fire ants
- Active for up to six months
- Easy to use
- Not an instant kill product
- Not a bait so may not kill the colony
Surrender Fire Ant Killer with Acephate, 1lb.
Surrender fire ant killer contains 75% acephate designed explicitly for the destruction of fire ants. Whether you use it as a dust or a water-based solution for spraying ants directly or drenching mounds, it is incredibly poisonous to ants.
This ant killer is for outdoor use because it is toxic and smells like week-old cooked cabbage. Not pleasant, but very effective.
As a dry mound treatment, you can sprinkle just a teaspoon of the powder over the mound, and it will have a significant effect on the number of ants you see.
If the ants don’t appear to have been affected or they come back quickly, you can mix it up as a solution and pour over the mound. The toxins will then seep deep into the soil and colony.
The acephate systematically poisons the fire ants by blocking enzymes in the nervous system, affecting muscles and nerves. This over-stimulation results in paralysis and death.
Acephate has a residual effect of 10 to 15 days. Insect pests are generally controlled more effectively by acephate through ingestion than by contact. Acephate does not deliver an instant kill, and it may take several minutes or longer for a pest to succumb to it.
- Acephate is a powerful active ingredient
- Specifically formulated for fire ants
- Can be used as a powder or spray solution
- Easy to use
- Smells really bad
- Not a bait so may not kill the colony
Well, there you have it, our all-encompassing guide to fire ants and how to give them their marching orders. We hope that the information and product recommendations we have provided you make it easier for you to choose the right product for your circumstances.
Our final piece of advice is that prevention is better than cure. There are several actions you can take to reduce the chances of getting an ant infestation in the first place.
The chances of an outdoor infestation are mitigated by removing any stagnant standing water that will attract ants. As well as keeping the yard clean with a regular sweep and removal of rubbish.
The use of preventative products such as lawn barrier treatment is an excellent option to use rather than waiting until you have a problem that needs a reactionary measure.
Indoors you must keep all areas clean and food-free. By removing basic attractants such as moisture ridden areas and food sources, the ants have nothing to gain from being indoors.
Do you have experience with fire ants? What method worked for you? Do you have any favorite tips and tricks you want to share with our readers and us?
Leave them in the comments below, and we will meet you there for a discussion that is sure to be fired.