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Lawn Treatment for Fire Ant Problems

by Marcia Passos Duffy, All About Lawns Columnist

Fire ants, accidentally imported from South America in the 1930s and spreading throughout the southern United States ever since, are extremely aggressive insects. If you've ever been bitten by them you know how these little red ants got their name. They are extremely sensitive to movement or vibration and sting--en masse--when a person swats them or runs. Fire ants' nests are mounds built in soft soil, about 18 inches in diameter.

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While fire ants are a nuisance, they are probably here to stay. But you can use some good lawn maintenance practices to control them and prevent problems without resorting to toxic chemicals.

  • Diatomaceous Earth. A natural silica dust that kills ants--but not the entire colony. It also loses its effectiveness in humid or wet conditions.
  • Pyrethrin. A botanical insecticide that kills ants on contact. It can be used in conjunction with diatomaceous earth for better results.
  • Baits. Most effective organic baits are those that contain the compound "spinosad." This compound is also used in concentrated formulas in a garden spray or to drench a fire ant mound.
  • Boiling Water. Effective in killing up to 60 percent of fire ants in a mound. But it kills surrounding plants and grass, too.

Some "Natural" Methods Won't Work

There are "natural" methods of fire ant control circulating around cyberspace that plainly don't work, according to the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project. Those tips include pouring two cups of club soda directly into the center of a fire ant mound to kill the colony. While that may drown some fire ants, it does nothing to eliminate the colony.

To learn more about fire ants and read lawn maintenance tips on how control them in an eco-friendly way, visit:


About the Author
Marcia Passos Duffy is a freelance writer and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She is a frequent contributor to Turf Magazine and Growing Magazine. Visit her site at

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