Fire ant killer is always in high demand at ranch and feed stores throughout the Southwest, and when you look at the statistics, it's easy to understand why.
According to information released by Texas A&M University, more than 40 million people share the South and Southwestern areas of the United States with the fire ant. Polls done in South Carolina indicate that approximately 33,000 people a year seek medical attnetion for fire ant stings (which many people mistakenly call fire ant "bites").
The average cost for fire ant control in Texas in 1998 was more than $150 per urban household, with approximately $10 of that figured in medical care for stings.
Killing fire ants, obviously, is a thriving business.
What works best?
When asking "what's the best fire ant killer," it's also important to ask, "what's a safe fire ant killer for my needs?" Make sure it's safe to use around children and pets, or you can at least keep kids and pets away from it. Take pains to follow the instructions on the label for proper use.
People who are not familiar with killing fire ants (usually people who relocate from a part of the country where there are none) typically reach for a can of regular ant killer and start spraying.
While this may kill fire ants that get drenched with insecticide, it doesn't address the root of the problem.
The queen is the root of the problem, and she's usually deep down in the nest popping out around 1500 eggs a day. Any fire ant killer that doesn't eliminate the queen doesn't eliminate the colony.
There are a number of commercial products that kill the queen indirectly but effectively. These products are called baits because you spread them (also called "broadcasting") around the mound or the nest. Worker ants carry the bait back to the queen and she eats it. In a day or two, she's dead and the colony is dead along with her. That's how it works in the ant world.
Baits are effective fire ant killers for a number of reasons. They're not very toxic, and when broadcast properly they settle down close to the ground where they're likely to be found only by their intended targets.
Amdro® is probably the best known of these types of fire ant killers. It works quickly and is highly effective. Keep in mind though, no fire ant killer is likely to eliminate all ants all the time. Sometimes it takes patience and persistence to get the job done.
Two other popular products called Logic® and Award® work well for longer term control. These may be effective for up to a year when used as dirtected.
Fire ant killer that doesn't work
There are several methods of killing fire ants that experts discourage. Highest on the list is the practice of pouring gasoline on the mound. Besides the fact that gasoline is dangerous to handle, it is also toxic to any plants in the area. It some places, it could also leach into the soil and eventually into ground water or surface water.
Another "home remedy" has been getting a lot of attention on the Internet. People are sending it around in emails, and it's even showing up on websites and in discussion forums.
The suggestion is to pour club soda on the mound. Proponents claim it's an "environmentally-friendly fire ant killer," which works by supplanting oxygen in the mound with carbon dioxide, suffocating the inhabitants." Scientists at Texas A&M's Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project are skeptical. They say there's no scientific evidence to back up club soda as a fire ant killer - although it probably will drown some, but not all, ants in the nest.
A number of biological control agents are on the market including predaceous mites, parasitic nematodes, and the fungus called, Beauvaria bassiana. Scientists are studying these now, but, as the saying goes, the jury is still out on whether they work well or not.