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Organic Fire Ant Control

It is possible to control fire ants organically. Gardeners and homeowners have a few organic treatment options that are quite effective. Many of these contain the active ingredient spinosad. Spinosad is a biopesticide produced through commercial culture of a soil-born microbe that produces metabolites toxic to certain insects. These metabolites are harvested and formulated into insecticide, so the final product contains no living microbes. But note that not all products that contain spinosad are completely organic; some contain non-organic inert ingredients. Spinosad products approved for organic production usually indicate so on the label. Organic fire ant control products containing spinosad are available as baits and as liquid drenches.

Organic Fire Ant Baits: Most organic fire ant baits contain spinosad as the active ingredient. Come and Get It Fire Ant Killer and Payback Fire Ant Bait are two examples. Baits are best used by broadcasting them over the entire yard according to label directions. Spinosad-based fire ant baits are relatively fast-acting and should give results within two to three weeks. Depending on where you live and the level of control you expect, you may need to treat two to three times per year. See the section on Granular Baits and Tips on Using Baits for more information on how to use and apply fire ant baits. See Fire Ant Biology to gain a better understanding of how and why fire ant baits work.

Organic Mound Drenches for Fire Ants: There are several organic insecticides labeled for use as fire ant mound drenches. The most common contain spinosad or d-limonene. Two examples of liquid spinosad products are Monterey Garden Insect Spray and Ferti-Lome Borer, Bagworm, Leafminer, and Tent Caterpillar Spray. These products are used primarily to control caterpillar pests in home gardens and landscapes, but they also have directions for use as mound drenches for fire ants. D-limonene is an extract of citrus peels that has contact activity on certain insect pests, including fire ants. Orange Guard Fire Ant Control is an example of a mound drench product containing d-limonene. This product can damage grass when applied in undiluted form, and control cost per mound is relatively high.

Apply mound drenches by mixing the specified amount of insecticide per gallon of water and drenching the fire ant mound. The ants are killed by contact activity. The amount of drench needed depends on the size of the mound. One gallon is sufficient for small mounds, but two gallons or more may be needed for large mounds. Use a watering can, or similar container, to mix and apply the drench according to label directions. Do not disturb the mound before drenching. Be sure to use enough drench volume. Not using enough drench to thoroughly soak the mound is the main reason for control failures with mound drenches.

Use Both Baits and Drenches: One of the most effective ways to control fire ants with these organic treatments is to use the baits as the foundation of your control program and use liquid drenches to spot treat mounds that survive the bait treatments or that ‘pop up' between bait treatments.

Contact

Dr. Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist
Department of Entomology, Mississippi State University
Phone: (662) 325-2085
Email: blayton@entomology.msstate.edu

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News

Fire ant mounds are common along fence lines where they are protected from grass-cutting equipment and other traffic, such as this mound in an Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, pasture on May 11, 2015. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Forages, Insects-Forage Pests, Fire Ants May 19, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Southern farmers may never win the battle against imported fire ants, but aggressive tactics can slow the pests’ invasion, reduce damage and prevent further spread across the United States.

Jane Parish is an Extension/research professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. She said cattle and hay producers have learned to live with and work around the troublesome ants since the pests arrived in the state almost a century ago.

The biggest reason people have trouble controlling fire ants is that they only treat individual fire ant mounds. Individual mound treatments can be useful situationally, but need to be supplemented with broadcast treatments that will control all fire ants in all areas. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Agriculture, Insects-Crop Pests, Insects-Forage Pests, Insects, Fire Ants, Insects-Pests May 15, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- People have many misconceptions on how to eliminate fire ant mounds and prevent them from coming back, and these erroneous beliefs hinder efforts to keep the harmful pest from spreading.

Many dogs spend time outside and often share their play areas with fire ants. When disturbed, the ants sting and deliver venom that can cause severe allergic reactions for some pets and children. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Susan Collins-Smith)
Filed Under: Fire Ants May 5, 2015

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Fire ants can be more than unwelcome guests in the home lawn; their stings can be dangerous for children and pets who share play areas with the pests.

Fire ant stings are characterized by sharp localized pain, swelling and intense itchiness that is just a short-lived nuisance for most. A raised red bump appears soon after the sting and soon turns into a sterile pustule that resembles a pimple. However, the ants’ venom can cause severe allergic reactions in some people and pets.

Fire ant mounds, such as this one in Clay County, harbor an invasive species that has a negative impact on wildlife, including reptiles, mammals and ground-nesting birds. (Photo by MSU/Blake Layton)
Filed Under: Fire Ants April 28, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Blake Layton grew up quail hunting in Simpson County and has seen the steady decline of quail as fire ant populations expanded across the state.

Layton, an entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the farm he grew up on has the same habitat as it did when he was a child, but it has more fire ants and fewer quail and other wildlife species.

Most fire ants found in Mississippi are a hybrid between the red imported fire ant, pictured here, and the black imported fire ant. (Photo by Mississippi Entomological Museum/Joe A. MacGown)
Filed Under: Fire Ants April 24, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Tell Mississippians that fire ants have completely invaded the state, and they’ll probably shrug and say they already know that. Tell them the pain actually comes from a sting rather than a bite, and they’ll say it still hurts. But tell them how to get rid of the nasty critters, and they’re all ears.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service is organizing efforts to help residents Bite Back against fire ants. The solution is a simple two-part attack, but success comes in the long-term follow-through.

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Fire Ant Control

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