Fire Ant Control

- Use baits and treat individual mounds -

Summary: Fire ants can be controlled with a combination of toxic baits and individual mound treatment. Apply baits in the spring or fall and treat mounds that are close to human activity with a contact insecticide.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Fire ants are dangerous insects and should not be allowed to remain around homes or play areas. These insects have an extremely potent sting and a tendency to swarm at the least disturbance (see What are Fire Ants? for additional details about this invasive pest).

The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) occurs mainly in the southeastern US from North Carolina to east Texas. Isolated colonies have been found in southern California as well (see map below). Fire ants are generally considered to be "tropical insects" in that they are limited to areas where the soil does not freeze and there is adequate rainfall.

Fire ants construct large (up to 18" high) mounds in fields, pastures, lawns, and along roads (right). Mounds may contain thousands of ants. The presence of mounds is the best indication that fire ants are in the area. Do not attempt to collect ants for identification. Control of fire ants is usually a two step process - poison baiting and individual mound treatment.

fire ant mounds
Fire ant mounds in a pasture. Photo by USDA/APHIS/PPQ Archives

Poison baits

The best fire ant baits are made from corn meal and have an oily texture but there are other effective formulations as well. Baits can be broadcast with either a hand-operated spreader or a push-type fertilizer spreader for very large areas.

Treat infested areas in fall and/or spring when worker ants are active and there is no rain anticipated for at least 8 hours. Test for worker ant activity by carefully placing a small piece of hot dog (frankfurter) next to a mound. If ants are active they will begin feeding within 30 minutes.

Common fire ant baits are Advion (indoxicarb), Ascend (abamectin), Award (fenoxycarb), Ceasefire (fipronil), Amdro (hydramethylnon), Extinguish (methoprene), and Distance (pyriproxyfen). All will give good control if used properly. For more information, including current product labels, you can use the search box at our affiliate to search on "fire ant bait".

Conventional insecticides

There are a number of conventional contact insecticides labeled for fire ants as well. Again, for more information, including current product labels, you can use the search box at our affiliate to search on "fire ant control".

Next, treat individual mounds

Since baits can take weeks to months to be completely effective mounds near homes or play areas should be treated with a faster acting insecticide to remove this threat. There is no need to individually treat all mounds only those that pose an immediate threat, those near homes or outside recreation areas.

fire ant quarantine area - US

Fire ant (red imported fire ant - Solenopsis invicta) quarantine area as of August 2005. Map from USDA/APHIS/PPQ.

Mounds can be treated with either granular or liquid insecticides that are approved for this use. Check labels to determine if a product is registered for fire ant mound treatment. Common active ingredients to look for are acephate, carbaryl, cyfluthrin, d-limonene, deltamethrin, and permethrin. Be sure to carefully follow package instructions regarding rate and application.

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Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project is part of Texas A&M University.

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