There are SO many home remedies that get tossed around on web communities and internet forums for that nasty fire problem that might be plaguing your backyard. All of them promise the same thing: “Here’s a DIY fire ant cocktail that will finally get rid of those pesky fire ants for good and the best part… you don’t have to use any dangerous chemicals or go out of your way to purchase some ridiculous apparatus.” But how does one discern an effective solution for fire ants from the home brewed duds? Let us take a closer look at a couple of these “supposed” fixes for a fire ant problem.
First up to bat is cornmeal. By feeding cornmeal (or grits) to your fire ants; they will die when the food expands in their stomach once moisture is introduced when the ant decides to take a drink. The major flaw in this logic is that adult ant’s cannot eat solid food. They will take solid food back to the colony, where then the larvae will consume the cornmeal and regurgitate a portion of the food in liquid form so then the adult may feed.
Carbonated water, this method got a lot of buzz behind it because it was erroneously being attributed to Walter Reeves (a retired member of UGA’s department of agriculture). Reeves later went on the record to brush aside any notion that he was behind this pest solution. Regardless, Walter did disprove its carbonated water’s effectiveness. The story goes that when one pours 2-4 cups of carbonated water into the fire ant mound, the carbon dioxide in said soda water is supposed to push the oxygen out (because CO2 is heavier than O2) of the colonies network of tunnels and literally suffocate the ants whom are trapped in the colony at the time. The issue that reeves points out is that typical fire ant colonies go as far as 30 feet into the ground and anywhere between 30 to 50 feet in every direction from the point of the ant mount. One would need an impractical amount of CO2 enriched water to truly suffocate the ants!
Speaking of the gargantuan size of a fire ant colony, this brings us to another commonly held fix for fire ant control, pouring boiling water into the mound! Yes, pouring boiling water on an ant will most certainly kill it, but the massive scope the ant colony is the undeniable hiccup here. One just cannot simply boil enough water to cover all the nooks and crannies that a colony may have. Now one might be reading this and starts to think to themselves that if methods work it’s just a question volume of water, let me just pour water daily, that won’t either… Here’s why: Once the ants realize that they are being attacked constantly and their current residences is no longer safe, they will not stick around long enough for your assault to be effective.
Another of these half-baked fire ant solutions is the “Ant Jar” trick. Apparently if you stick a jar lined with vegetable oil right next to the ant mound, the ants will be drawn to investigate the foreign object and eventually make their way into the inside of the jar. The vegetable oil acts as a lubricant that does not allow ants to adhere to the glass surface and crawl its way back up. This little trap works, but there is no way to assure that every single any will just pile on in and starve. Plus this does nothing to snatch up the queen, whom can always just make more worker ants.
The use of spices such as cayenne pepper, cinnamon, black pepper and peppermint oil have been touted as effective means of ridding oneself of the ant menace. Truthfully, there is a caveat to that statement. These spices do work as an effective means of repelling ants and messing with their ability to follow the scent trail they leave behind for themselves. However, as far as ant removal is concerned, it misses the mark. If applied to an ant mound; all this will accomplish is driving the fire ants further underground or compel them to find a new mound site. The lemon juice cocktail will also produce similar results unfortunately.
Lastly, and my personal favorite because is sounds like a twelve year old came up with it, is shoveling one colony into another! I laughed hard the first time I heard about this one, but I did a little digging myself (please forgive the pun) and found that fire ants are particularly territorial. So if a glob of foreign fire ant caked soil just happened to land upon another mound, they would indeed fight it out. While an amusing proposition this is ultimately futile as the “invading army” will lose interest and try to find their way back home.
I’ll tell you what the experts tell each other… Use appropriate fire ant control products, they work and work for a reason. Whether you choose to use ant bait, ant gel, insecticide or borax acid, just pick the method that best suits your situation and needs. Be mindful of your surroundings (children, plant life, pets and wildlife) when applying pest control and with a little care and patience, you’ll have overcome that fire ant nuisance.
Luis Alberto Simauchi Jr. is an inbound marketing specialist for Do My Own Pest Control