4 Ways to Get Rid of Fire Ants Using Home Remedies

Fire ants are everywhere in the southern United States. They’re tenacious, and are known to out-compete many native species. They can also cause potentially dangerous allergic reactions in people sensitive to their bites, or who are bitten by many ants at once.

Fire Ant Killer

They’re hard to eliminate, but getting rid of fire ants on your property is good for your health and for the environment. Here are some of the ways you can get rid of them effectively.

Best Fire Ant Killer

Cold Pressed Orange Oil Concentrate

Orange oil is actually sold as a cleaning product, but it doubles as an effective, organic fire ant killer. To use it, you can combine the oil with some dish detergent and water, and apply it to the ants’ mounds outside.

The active pesticidal ingredient in orange oil is d-limonene, which is also responsible for the distinctive smell of oranges. It can kill fire ants, as well as other insects and some non-insect arthropods, on contact.

It works by destroying the waxy coating that lines the ant’s respiratory system, which uses tiny openings called “spiricles” on the exoskeleton to allow oxygenated air in, and release carbon dioxide out. Upon exposure to d-limonene, the ants will quickly suffocate. Soap has a similar effect. Unlike many other pesticides, d-limonene from orange peels is completely safe for humans, to the point of being sold as an edible health supplement.

Harris Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade

Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occuring soft rock that easily crushes into a fine powder. It forms from silicate compounds that come from the shells of dead diatoms, a type of microorganism known for its striking geometric crystalline shells.

Diatomaceous earth kills insects on contact because of its absorbent qualities. It pulls out lipids from the waxy coating on insect exoskeletons. Without the coating, the insect will quickly lose water vapor to evaporation, and die of dehydration because their internal water pressure drops.

Harris Diatomaceous earth is food grade and very fine, making it suitable for killing ants. You can deposit the diatomaceous earth around doorways, and directly into ant nests.

How to Get Rid of Fire Ants

Fire ants are irritating and potentially dangerous pests that you don’t want on your property. Here are some of the ways you can get rid of them.

1. Orange Oil and Dish Soap

The compound that gives oranges their scent, d-limonene, can also kill insects by suffocating them. Dish soap has a similar effect, and you can use a mixture of both compounds, plus some water, to pour onto the mounds to kill them.

2. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth sucks water out of insects and damages their exoskeletons, quickly killing them via dehydration and water pressure dysregulation. It can be sprinkled around the perimeter of your house, particularly near doorways where ants could get in, to keep ants and other pests out. You can also apply it in your yard.

One downside to diatomaceous earth is that it’s difficult to use it to kill a fire ant colony’s queen, which is essential if you want to get rid of the colony completely.

3. Broadcast Baits

Broadcast baits include active ingredients that can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to take effect (in killing the fire ants). It consists of corn grits, coated with soybean oil in which insecticides are dissolved. When applied on the mound, the ants will take it as food, eating it themselves and carrying it to the queen.

4. Natural Pest Control

Fire ants are prey for a variety of different native animals, including both invertebrates and vertebrates. These organisms can work as biological control agents to suppress fire ant populations. You can also try to encourage native ants that compete with fire ants for resources.

Where Do Fire Ants Live?

Fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) were originally native to South America, and were introduced to the US inadvertently with produce shipments. Mobile, Alabama is thought to be “ground zero” of the fire ant infestation, which has spread throughout the South. You’ll find fire ants throughout the southern United States, from coast to coast. The northern extent of their range stretches to approximately the Mason-Dixon line, with the northernmost fire ants found in parts of Missouri, the southernmost portion of Illinois, and parts of New York. They’ve gained dominance in regions where they’re found as an invasive species, and have out-competed many species of native ants.

Like most ants, they live underground in large networks of tunnels, identifiable by small mounds of sandy soil at the entrances.

Are Fire Ants Dangerous?

Fire ants get their name from their sting. Unlike many other ant species, fire ants don’t actually “bite” at all, and what you’re feeling is a sting, which injects a venom called solenopsin. In most cases, fire ant bites aren’t dangerous, though they produce itching, burning, and irritation.

However, the welt that develops at the bite site is caused by the body’s allergic reaction to the venom, and in some cases, the allergic reaction can become dangerous. People can sometimes become more sensitive and allergic to fire ant venom over time, and in severe cases, it can cause anaphylaxis. If you live in a region with fire ants, it’s a good idea to have some oral antihistamines (like Benadryl) on hand, as well as topical steroid creams.

How Do You Identify a Fire Ant Mound?

Many ant species build similar mounds, so ant mounds on your property may not necessarily be fire ants. Fire ant mounds don’t have openings at the top center, like other ant mounds. Instead, the ants access it via the tunnel system.

When you disturb the mound, you’ll see ants running out, as well as white larvae. If you can safely get a close look at the ants, you may be able to identify them. Fire ants range in color from red to reddish-black, and vary in size depending on an ant’s sex and social role.

Another characteristic of fire ants, but not native ants, is their tendency to crawl up vertical objects like grass when their nest is disturbed.

Does Vinegar Kill Fire Ants?

Vinegar is capable of killing fire ants, but it’s not the most effective option. You’re better off using dish soap and orange oil, or using a plant-based natural insecticide.

Other Pest Control Guides

Ant Home Remedies