Hot Headed Garden Pests: Fire Ants and How to Get Rid of Them

July 22nd, 2014

There are few problems more severe in your garden than a fire ant infestation. But what exactly are fire ants? What threats do they pose? And, most importantly, how do you get rid of them, if you discover that you have a fire ant infestation in your garden?

Fire ants: What are they?

Prior to the 1930s, the US didn’t have a problem with fire ants. However, after being accidentally introduced to the country from Argentina, the red fire ant, or Solenopsis invicta began to invade gardens across the country and increase significantly in numbers to become the nationally recognized pest that they are today.

The red fire ant is fairly easy to recognize, due in part to its reddish color, but also to its aggressive behavior. If disturbed, red fire ants will swarm out of their nests in great numbers, and actively seek to attack the person or animal that has disturbed them.

As you can imagine, this makes them a highly unwelcome garden inhabitant.

How can you tell if you have fire ants?

Like most breeds of ant, red fire ants like living underground. However, during breeding time, they actively expand their nests, making them visible above ground. If you’re unsure as to whether or not the ant hill in your garden is a fire ant’s nest, look out for these tell-tale signs:

  • No hole at the top. Unlike most ant hills, which have a hole at the top where the ants enter and exit their nest, a red fire ant mound will have no hole, as they     enter from concealed holes below ground level.
  • Loose soil. If the soil on the mound is particularly loose, without any evidence of impact, this can be a sign that the mound belongs to a colony of red fire ants.
  • White larvae inside. If you accidentally disturb the mound, and you see white grain-like objects inside, this is another indication that you have a red fire ant nest in your garden.

The dangers of having red fire ants in your garden

Red fire ants are highly aggressive. They will actively seek to attack any perceived threat on their nest, using toxic venom. At the very least, these stings can cause significant discomfort. In the worst case scenario, they can cause severe allergic reaction and can even result in death.

Another distinct danger associated with fire ants is their tendency to climb to higher ground in the event of flood. This often means, during heavy rains, that they’ll head into the house, which can be particularly dangerous.

Getting rid of red fire ants

Regrettably, simply pouring boiling water or chemicals down on the mound seldom has much effect. Instead, it’s a far better idea to contact a local pest control expert, who will visit your house and deal with your fire ant infestation as swiftly and efficiently as possible, leaving you and your family free to enjoy your garden once more.