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How to Control Fire Ants

Pest Control and Exterminators
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Imported red fire ants are an aggressive species of stinging ant that has invaded the southern United States since their introduction in the early part of the twentieth century. The need to control fire ants is great. State agricultural departments and entomologists work diligently to determine effective ways of curbing the spread of non-native fire ants. When a nest of pest fire ants is discovered near your home, your primary concern is more than likely how to destroy them.

Because Solenopsis wagneri were introduced from Brazil, they have no natural predators native to the United States. This gives them a relatively free pass to spread wherever they wish, much to the dismay of anyone who happens to be stung by them. In working to control fire ants, it's important to target efforts on the non-native pest species and to avoid killing native ant species, even sparing native fire ants. Native ants compete with imported fire ants for food and living areas, which slows the growth of the pest fire ant population.

Several native species of ant sting just like pest fire ants, and some look nearly identical. Telling the difference is essential, though, before beginning any extermination efforts. Pest fire ants are a dark color, small, and aggressive. Their workers vary in size, unlike some native species that have identically-sized workers. The head of a pest fire ant will be no wider than its abdominal segment, while some native species have a head that is obviously larger than the rest of the body.

Imported fire ants build a nest in the ground and create a mound of loose dirt that is easily visible. Often, there will be many pest fire ant mounds in a yard or area.

It can be very helpful to consult a professional exterminator, who will be able to examine the nest and determine if you do, in fact, have a pest fire ant population.

Control Fire Ants with Pesticides

Professional exterminators have a variety of heavy duty pesticides that are effective in destroying fire ant colonies. Their technicians are trained in safely and effectively administering these pesticides. By hiring an exterminator, you eliminate the chance of being stung should the fire ants decide to swarm.

Because professionals have significant experience in dealing with pest fire ants, they can usually treat a mound with pesticides without causing a mass swarming of the insects. A professional exterminator will usually choose one of two possible treatment methods:

  • Insecticide Drench
  • Bait

The drench method consists of pouring a diluted insecticide into the fire ant mound. The poison fills the pathways and chambers inside the nest, surrounding and killing the queen and all other ants. This is usually a very effective way to control fire ants and is the preferred methods when fire ant mounds are located near populated areas.

Ant baits can be placed around a home and along the paths fire ants have been observed to follow. The baits contain an attractive food laced with insecticide. When the worker ants discover it, they eat a little and then carry some back into the nest to feed the other ants and the queen. New baits may need to be put out often, but eventually all of the fire ants will die.

The trick to using ant baits responsibly is to choose an insecticide that will kill pest fire ants without harming other ant species. This can be difficult, but a professional exterminator should know what the best option will be.

Though some natural methods--like diatomaceous earth and phorid flies--have been able to help control fire ants, the only way to guarantee that an entire fire ant colony will be killed is to use commercial-grade insecticides.

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