What Works and Doesn’t Work to Get Rid of Fire Ants


In the United States, fire ants pose an extreme infestation problem for dozens of states along the coasts and southern half of the country. Not only do they inflict painful stings, but can cause damage to wiring, plants, and structures.

To get rid of fire ants, most direct contact spraying methods do not work. Instead, poisoning their food supply so all ants ingest pesticide is the most effective way to eradicate an ant colony.

close up of ant head

The Most Effective Fire Ant Killer

Living in the desert fire ants pose a huge problem.

Not only do fire ants bite me, my kids, and my animals, but they also completely decimate any vegetation surrounding their mounds.

And then there are hundreds of thousands of them…EVERYWHERE!

Over the years, I have tried different natural and not so natural ways of killing off ants, and the product that I would HIGHLY recommend is Amdro.

How Amdro Works

Amdro works because it can poison the entire colony’s food supply in a very short period of time.

The product, which comes in the form or granules is heavily sprinkled around an ant hole (Amdro works on all ant species), and worker ants gather them up and take it into the nest.

The poison’s toxicity is delayed, so it won’t kill the workers until later.

Later, the poison is fed to the larvae and eventually the queen and other ants, killing them off.

In my experience, Amdro kills off an entire colony in under 72 hours, usually sooner.

Benefits of Amdro:

  • Very effective
  • Easy to use
  • Can be stored up to 3 months

Some downfalls of Amdro:

  • Doesn’t work as well when wet
  • Can’t be used near food producing gardens
  • Slightly more expensive than other treatment methods

Is Amdro poisonous for pets?

Amdro should be stored away from pets since large doses can be fatal.

Small amounts of Amdro scattered through a yard should only cause a limited amount of exposure to a pet, which shouldn’t have any negative effects to the pet.

Where can I find Amdro?

Amdro can be found at stores that carry garden and yard related products.

Not all Pesticides are Created Equal

I am a cheapskate at heart, and sometimes I decide to go with a generic or inferior product.

Recently, my store of choice was out of Amdro, and I had at least 7 very large ant hills to deal with.

My kids were getting bitten, we were starting to get fire ant scouts in the house, and my animals were itching like crazy from their bites, so I knew I had to do something.

So I went with a generic pesticide that on the packaging said it did everything that Amdro did.

I read the directions, followed every single step and noticed the next day that there were some dead ants at the entrance of the ant hill.

However, that was only temporary, and soon hundreds of fire were going in and out of the hole as if nothing had happened.

The next time I went shopping, I was happy to see that Amdro was in stock again and quickly bought some.

As soon as I arrived home, I began sprinkling granules around all of the ant hills closest to my house.

The next morning they were dead.

Not just some of the ants, all of the ants.

It has been about two months and they still haven’t returned.

red ant hill

Does Vinegar Kill Ants?

Can Vinegar kill ants?

The short answer is yes, it can.

Can vinegar exterminate an ant hill?

Short answer, no.

Vinegar can kill ants if applied directly onto ants.

However, there several hundred thousands to replace the ones that get drenched by the vinegar.

If you cannot kill the queen, you will get more ants.

Vinegar is considered a great natural way to control ants, because of its strong smell.

Ants communicate by using scents called pheromones.

Scouting ants excrete pheromones along the trail leading to a food source so other worker ants will know where to go for the food.

This trail can be destroyed by cleaning it, or covering it with a stronger smell.

If the trail is gone, the ants will go somewhere else to find food.

So vinegar is great for spot controlling ants, but not for getting rid of them entirely.

Watch Out: If you are trying to prevent ant issues by using vinegar, make sure you do not spray it on any plants.

Vinegar kills plants.

Does Dish Soap Kill Ants?

Dish soap, especially Dawn dish soap is touted by many to be a great safe way to kill ants.

In fact, I use diluted dish liquid to spray on hornets nests, and any bees that might make my way into the house.

Like hornets and bees, and sometimes spiders, as soon as I spray the ants, they die.

However, dish soap has the same problem as the vinegar.

It can’t penetrate the entire ant hill, leaving the queen alive to make more baby antlings.

In fact, if a colony feel threatened, they may decide to split up and make even more colonies.

Does Peppermint Oil Kill Ants?

Because of it’s strong smell, peppermint oil makes a great ant repellent, and when sprayed directly on an ant will sometimes kill it.

As with the vinegar, peppermint oil can disrupt trails of pheromones, but will not be enough to kill an entire colony.

Do Grits or Cornmeal Kill Ants?

The theory behind the grit method is that if you sprinkle a whole bunch of grits on top of an ant hill, the ants take it inside and when they eat.

Once the ants eat the grits, supposedly the moisture in their stomachs cause the grit granule to swell causing the ant to basically explode.

While watching several videos on YouTube that make it look like it works, it has been my personal experience that it does not.

According to extension.org sponsored by the USDA, it is actually impossible for ants to explode from grits.

In fact, they state that adult ants cannot eat solid food, only liquids.

So they feed to the larvae who can eat solid food, who then regurgetate it.

The regurgetation is then fed to the queen, and the leftovers are given to the rest of the adult ants.

Yummy.

So even with Amdro, the food has to go through this process which allows it come into contact with all of the ants in the colony.

Does Diatomaceous Earth Kill Ants?

Diatomaceous earth has proven to be a great natural substance when it comes to ant and other pest control.

It is made up of crushed marine fossils that are made mainly out of silica.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, diatomaceous earth is a powerful weapon in ant control because:

“Diatomaceous earth causes insects to dry out and die by absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the insect’s exoskeleton.

Its sharp edges are abrasive, speeding up the process. It remains effective as long as it is kept dry and undisturbed.”

Applying diatomaceous earth on top of a ant hill, and then creating a thick ring around the mound, making sure to cover all of entrances of the hill will cut the ants off from their food supplies.

This method could take a few days, and the area will need to stay dry during the process.

However, it is the best NATURAL method in eradicating fire ants.

What To Do if You Get Stung

Unlike other ants that merely bite you, fire ants have a stinger.

If you get stung, ice the area and apply a steroid cream like Cortizone cream to the bite area.

If there is a chance you can have an allergic reaction to the bite, make sure you have an epi pen near by when you are working in the yard.

A product I enjoy is a small suction device that pulls the venom to the surface of the skin, causing it to not itch.

Essential oils can work to a degree as well.

I have used peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender in the past to help with the itching, as well as Vicks Vaporub.

Prevention is the Key

When it comes to ants in the backyard, some preventative steps can go a long way in reducing your ant populations.

Identify possible food sources

As you survey your backyard, try to think like an ant.

Is there a easy source of food, like a garbage can or pet food dishes?

If there is a obvious potential food source, preventative measures could include encircling them with diatomaceous earth.

Follow the trail

If you seen ant trails, try to follow them to their hills.

Once you locate their hills, but they aren’t on your property, see if you can get permission to treat them so the colony doesn’t expand into your yard.

After you have discovered where the hills are located, destroy the trails by applying vinegar, peppermint oil, or even cinnamon.

Try to catch the problem while they are small.

Flying Ants can be a sign of a new or nearby colony

Not all ants stick to the ground.

Males and a few females are able to fly where they mate and look for a new colony.

If you have large amounts of flying ants in your house, there is a good chance that they are males from a near by colony.

Check around your yard and your house’s foundation to see if you can spy any ant trails that can lead you to their home.

The Take Away

There are several ways to get rid of ants, although temporarily.

However, to get rid of them for good, it is important to attack their food supply.

Make sure whatever method you choose, read the label to make sure you are applying the product correctly and safely.

Although it can be frustrating, ant control is possible to keep your yard safe for you, your family, and your

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