Fire Ants

(Question)

HELP!!! The last 3 years we have been over come with tiny red or fire ants and getting worse. They have taken over my entire yard which is huge. We can’t sit out as we get stung. We tried crushed eggshells, hot water, cayenne pepper, they just migrate else where. When trying to plant I dig and the ground gives way to huge nests not to mention being stung all the time. They have taken over my little leaf linden even though I used mulch and cinnamon around it. They even lay their tiny white eggs under my flower pots. I have had a professional come and spray but to no avail. Don’t know how we got infested as we never had this issue before. I’m losing the battle and my plants are suffering.

(Answer)

 

Wow that is quite the problem you have. “True” Fire ants, Solenopsis, are found in southern United States and  Latin America.  I believe what you have is a distant relative, the European Fire Ant, Myrmica rubra.

European fire ants build nests in soil under rocks, wood or other debris. These nests are NOT large soil mounds. The number of nests is usually very abundant, with 10-12 nests in a 10-ft x 10 ft area. It appears the ants spread two ways. One way is by “colony budding” into adjacent areas where a group of ants, including the queen, moves from the original colony and establishes a new nest nearby. They are also spread by human transport of nests from infested areas (soil, decaying logs, potted plants, etc.)

Remove preferred nesting sites, boards, logs, rocks . . . anything that maintains a moist environment. Mow tall grass and if possible increase the sun exposure, as the ants prefer a lightly shaded environment.

Boric acid and diatomaceous earth are two of the registered pest control products that can be used.

Diatomaceous Earth (often referred to as “DE”) is an off white talc-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. When sprinkled on a bug that has an exoskeleton (such as bed bugs, ants or fleas) it gets caught between their little exoskeleton joints. As they move, the diatomaceous earth acts like razor blades and cuts them up. But it doesn’t hurt mammals. We can eat it. We do eat it! It’s in lots of grain based foods because lots of grains are stored with diatomaceous earth to keep the bugs from eating the grain!

Fire ants have a symbiotic relationship with aphids, providing aphids with protective services in exchange for food.  Aphids naturally produce a sugary, sticky liquid called honeydew that fire ants love to eat. Therefore, it is important to control aphids as well as the fire ants.

Additional information can be found on the following sites.

https://www.toronto.ca/311/knowledgebase/99/101000640299.html

https://www.richsoil.com/diatomaceous-earth.jsp

https://www.gov.ns.ca/natr/forestprotection/foresthealth/insect-notes/JulAug08.pdf

https://www.edenpest.com/blog/post/ant-pest-control-nightmare-fire-ants-aphids-partner-up