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Fire Ants

I have a vegetable garden in southeast North Carolina and now have a problem with fire ants. Please tell me what I can do to get rid of these annoying ants. I am getting ready to plant and need help right away. Thanks, Kelly

Imported fire ants are a huge nuisance throughout the southern United States. They kill newborn domestic animals and wildlife, especially ground nesting birds, injure livestock, damage crop seeds and seedlings, out-compete native ants for resources and inflict pain on humans and pets. Although they do prey on flea larvae, cinch bugs, cockroach eggs, ticks and other pests, the problems they cause outweigh any benefits.

Fire ants make their home in open, sunny areas with a nearby source of water, which is why they are often found in our lawns and gardens. They also like the warm, moist environments such as compost piles, rotting logs and the area between the soil and the wood that frames raised garden beds.

A fire ant mound can easily reach 18 inches high and be 2 feet wide with tunnels extending 5 or 6 feet underground. These nests have single or multiple queen colonies with high reproductive rates that can disperse easily to form new colonies.

Mother Nature lends a hand in the battle against fire ants. Birds, lizards, spiders, toads, dragonflies, robber flies, and other species of ants all do their part to keep this pest in check.

Phorid flies are a beneficial insect that are used to control fire ants. They kill by injecting their egg in the
fire ant. When the ants recognize that the flies are present, they run for cover. This causes their feeding patterns to be disrupted and allows native ants to effectively compete with them. Breeding programs are in place to help increase the populations of Phorid flies, but the process is slow going because these flies are specialists. The species of Phorid must come from the same country of origin as the targeted fire ant.

There are several successful and earth-friendly methods of controlling fire ants. Some people use a soil drench containing three species of nematodes that parasitize and kill fire ants. This product works best in sandy soils.

For treating individual mounds you might try another type of soil drench made with d-limonene, an extract of orange oil.