Natural Control for Fire Ants

February 26, 2013 | Common Garden Pests

I vaguely remember a family trip we took to North Carolina in 1990 when I was just 5 years old.  My father, Dr. Pye, was going to check on an experiment controlling fire ants with BioLogic’s Scanmask. Though details of the trip are fuzzy, I very clearly remember being quite scared of getting stung by fire ants.  The trip was a success, as was my father’s experiment, and I left North Carolina unscathed by red imported fire ants.  I was one of the lucky ones!
Fire Ant Adult
The red imported fire ant (RIFA), Solenopsis invicta, is native to South America, but has been spreading throughout the southern United States. RIFA are known for their strong and painful sting, but  they are also an ecological threat, out competing indigenous species. The large mounds of the RIFA can be a nuisance to the agricultural industry and to homeowners alike. RIFA can cause widespread damage to crops, livestock and other agricultural assets. These fire ants can produce numerous mounds and colonize a yard more quickly than native species. RIFA are also extremely resilient, able to survive drought, floods and even colder temperatures.

The RIFA life cycle consists of four main stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The first three stages (egg, larva and pupa) occur in the ants’ underground nests. RIFA eggs are very small, and almost impossible to see with the naked eye. The tiny eggs hatch into larvae which are fed by RIFA workers. Once finished growing, the larvae molt into pupae which look similar to adult RIFA. In the final molt the pupae become adults. Most adults are sterile females (workers), though some grow into larger reproductives. The reproductive females will become queens. Some fire ant colonies have only one queen per nest and are called “monogyne” colonies, while others may have multiple queens and are called “polygyne” colonies.

Fire Ant Life Cycle
Because RIFA are so destructive, and because their sting can be so unpleasant, it is wise to keep RIFA from not only your home, but also your property. What can be done to control RIFA? Though resilient, the RIFA are susceptible to BioLogic’s Scanmask which contains active Steinernema feltiae beneficial nematodes.  An Organic control of fire ants!

For home use we recommend Lawn and Garden Scanmask or 10M Scanmask Spray.   The Lawn and Garden Scanmask contains 7 million nematodes and can treat up to seven colonies, while 10M Scanmask Spray will treat ten colonies at one million nematodes per colony.

For treatment of RIFA, mix Lawn and Garden Scanmask with 7 gallons of water or 10M Scanmask Spray with 10 gallons.  Mix well directly before application and  pour one gallon of the Scanmask mixture down the cone of each ant hill.  Watering cans with rosette removed work well for this!  To prevent getting stung be sure to remove yourself, your children, and your pets from the area immediately after application.

Once inside the nematodes in Scanmask will begin killing workers and possibly penetrate to the queen. Whether or not the nematodes kill the queen the colony will be destroyed. Without the queen the colony will die and without enough workers the colony will starve. Scanmask is an effective and natural alternative to harsh chemicals for the treatment of red imported fire ants.  The beneficial nematodes in Scanmask are naturally occurring and are safe for people, plants and pets!

Have fewer than seven or ten ant hills?  Try our 5M Scanmask Spray.

Stung by a fire ant?  Try icing it and then applying some apple cider vinegar.