Tar O Mar - Fire Ants

Fire Ants

General Info

  • Fire ants are usually 1/8 - 1/4 inch long and reddish-brown or black in color
  • Fire ants are limited to the Southern tier of states including the Southwest, but they are expanding


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Where They Nest

  •     Fire ants generally build colonies outdoors in dome-shaped mounds that are often 1-2 inches in diameter
  •     They will often kill the grass around their mounds
  •     Not all outdoor mounds are visible – some are built under rocks or wood laying on the ground
  •     When the soil is moist and cool, outdoor colonies are located within a couple of feet of the soil surface - during dry periods colonies may be down 5 or even 10 feet
  •     After a heavy rain, many people observe new colonies - these could be new but often they are just hidden colonies that are being re-opened after wet soil clogs the ant tunnels

What They Want From You

When foraging indoors, fire ants are looking for:

  • Food and moisture (found in the sink, shower, leaky pipes, spills, etc.)
  • They are especially likely to look for water when outside temperatures are hot and the weather is dry

Why They’re A Problem

  •     The presence of carpenter ants can be a sign of water or moisture problems in your roof, gutters, porch, deck, floors, or walls
  •     Large colonies that are left untreated can be as destructive to homes as termites

Tips & Tricks

  •     Search for leaks in and around areas where you see these ants. These leaks/moist areas will need to be repaired/corrected
  •     Remove limbs/shrubs that touch the house, particularly the roof – ants use these contact points to gain access
  •     Remove stumps and dying trees within 50 feet of the house/garage – these are perfect spots for new colonies to start
  •     Store firewood off the bare ground and away from the house
  •     Consider using inorganic mulches (stone, gravels) in areas where you have had problems with ants, or where ground moisture is a re-occurring problem
  •     Inspect older trees carefully for signs of outdoor colonies

Why They’re A Problem

  •     Fire Ants can bite you and your pets, but they also have a stinger on their abdomen that they use to inject venom into anything that disturbs their colony
  •     Their stings can be quite painful and multiple stings may require medical attention
  •     Occasionally, a severe and possibly fatal allergic reaction can occur in some individuals
  •     Fire ants are a persistent problem in the south because they routinely move their colonies into new locations with ample food and moisture

Tips & Tricks

  •     Fire ants build and follow trails - looks for these trails around foundations, baseboards, and other moist areas
  •     Remove debris (wood, rocks, stones) close to the foundation of your home where fire ants may build an invisible colony
  •     Caulk any points where ants enter into wall voids, cracks, and crevices including entry points from the outside

Avoid common mistakes

  •     Consider hiring a professional yard maintenance company to treat fire ants if there are too many mounds to treat yourself, or if there is a medical reason to avoid stings
  •     If you decide to treat your yard yourself, only use EPA-registered products labeled for use on fire ants and read and follow the instructions
  •     Universities commonly recommend using a combination of residual sprays, mound treatments, and baits