Controlling Fire Ants in Your Yard
As red imported fire ants continue to spread across North Carolina and the country, you may be a bit more leery about new ant mounds in your yard. We’ve all had that moment when we find little six-legged scavengers and wonder if the dreaded fire ant has set up shop.
But how do you spot a fire ant infestation? What do fire ants look like? And most importantly, how can you get rid of them? Homegrown shares tips and tools to help keep your yard fire ant-free in our latest segment featuring NC State Extension pest management specialist, Mike Waldvogel.
Fire ant mounds are usually a distinct dome-shape, with no opening at the center, and always out in the open.
As the name would imply, adult red imported fire ants can be identified by their reddish-brown coloration and shiny, dark abdomens. They range in size from about 1⁄8 inch long (workers) to around 1⁄3 inch long (queens). For more details on fire ant characteristics, visit eXtension.org’s “Identifying Fire Ants.”
Fire ant mounds vary in size but are usually in direct proportion to the size of the colony. For example, a mound that is two feet in diameter and 18 inches high may contain as many as 100,000 workers, several hundred winged adults and a queen.
Fire Ant Facts
- These biting, stinging insects, originally from southern Brazil, have spread across the southern United States and currently can be found in at least 75 of 100 N.C. counties (U.S. Map | N.C. Map).
- Fire ants are more active in mild to warm weather (between 70°F and 85°F), as they need the sun to regulate their body temperature. On hot days, the ants will forage at night; if it’s too cold, they will move further down into the soil.
- Wait until warmer weather to treat for fire ants—during the cold season, the colony may have moved on or burrowed many feet below the surface where treatments won’t reach them.
- When treating for fire ants, sprinkle bait around the mound—not on top! Fire ants don’t exit their mound from the top, but instead through side tunnels that can be several feet away.
- Find guidance for both chemical and non-chemical control of fire ants in Extension’s Red Imported Fire Ant Resource Guide.
- If you’re unsure whether you have fire ants, take a specimen to your local N.C. Cooperative Extension county center.