Fire ants are a common problem for Florida homeowners. Manage this pest population by correctly identifying the species and implementing smart control methods like broadcast bait applications and individual mound treatments. Encourage biological controls and take simple steps to prevent turfgrass damage.
Are fire ants getting out of control in your lawn? This is, unfortunately, a common problem for homeowners in Florida: ant hills can damage the grass underneath, and species like fire ants can bite any unlucky soul not paying close attention. If an abundance of ant hills is getting in the way of your family’s enjoyment of the yard, it’s time to fight back.
Identify the Invading Species
Before you launch an attack on the invading ants, you must make sure that the pest you’re dealing with is what you think it is. Florida hosts several fire ant species, the most troublesome being the imported red fire ant. Identify these ants by their reddish-brown and black bodies and aggressive behavior. Stings from these fire ants can cause pain, burning, and extreme itching.
Avoid the common mistake of identifying flying termites as flying ants (or the other way around). Ants can be identified by their wings: they have two pairs of wings, one small and one large. Termites have equal-sized wings. The misidentification of the pest will result in ineffective control methods and no solution to the problem you are facing.
Managing Ant Issues: Two Approaches
Unfortunately, there is no way to permanently rid your lawn of a pesky ant population, but you can implement some control methods to reduce the nuisance.
The ants that you can see at any given time are most likely the colony’s foragers. While it is tempting to spray these ants, they only represent 20% of the colony population, and a spray will be ineffective in managing the problem. Two more effective approaches to ant control are broadcast bait applications and individual mound treatments. You may find that a broadcast bait application is sufficient, though some experts suggest a two-step approach.
1. Broadcast Bait Applications
Start with the broadcast application of an insecticide bait. Most fire ant baits use soybean oil-soaked corn grits, which attract the forager ants and which they then bring back to the mounds. The insecticide is generally slow-acting, and over a few months, it will disrupt the life cycle of the colony.
2. Individual Mound Treatments
An individual mount treatment involves applying either a chemical pesticide or very hot water directly to each mount. This treatment can help to reduce ant activity significantly. However, it is more difficult to target all existing ant mounds using this method than when using a broadcast bait application. We suggest using this method supplementally with the first, not as your sole control approach.
Additional Biological Controls
Native ant species can serve as a biological control agent for the red fire ants. Make sure that whatever control method you are using is not a sweeping pesticide that will kill any ant species. You may face short-term relief, but you will have effectively removed the most natural method of controlling fire ants. If using a broadcast bait, make sure to choose one specific to fire ants. Their propensity to feed on oil will drive them to beat out other ant species for the insecticide.
Prevent the Smothering of Your Turfgrass
Anthills sitting atop your turfgrass for a length of time will block the grass from receiving necessary sunlight, resulting in dead spots in your lawn. There is an easy solution to this problem: when you notice a mound, level it with a rake so that it is not obstructing sunlight.