Fire ants can be serious pests for gardeners, and are best managed with a two-step chemical control method. Gardeners should also follow best management techniques to discourage mound development. The following is recommended for home lawns.

Step 1: Treat individual mounds with an approved bait. Bait is usually applied by sprinkling the recommended amount around each mound, not on top of the mound. Do not disturb the mound by poking or kicking. It is best to apply the bait in the early evening and when the ground is dry. Bait, which usually contains a mix of insecticide and food, is carried to the mound by worker ants and shared with the brood and queen. Examples of ant baits include Amdro, Extinguish, Come and Get It, and Ortho Fire Ant Killer. Some baits are organically acceptable.

Because baits can be slow acting, gardeners may need to repeat application or follow up with Step-Two 5 to 7 days after Step 1.

Step 2: Treat with a contact-type insecticide. These products are usually applied directly to the mound and watered in. To be effective, the drench must trickle down and contact most of the remaining fire ants in the colony. Follow all directions for use. Products are most effective when temperatures are between 70 and 85 degrees F. Examples of contact insecticides include Sevin, Over n’ Out, Spectracide Fire Ant Killer Plus, and Bayer Advanced Fire Ant Killer.

Follow all label directions and keep children and pets away from treated areas. Discourage fire ant mounds by reducing weedy areas, keeping shrubs pruned away from the home, emptying trash cans regularly and inspecting new plant material. Non-chemical methods for controlling fire ants include boiling water and mint oil. Although foraging fire ants will collect grits, there is no evidence that grits will reduce the number of ants in a colony.

For more information on fire ants or other garden pests contact Katy Shook, Area Horticulture Agent, at 252-482-6585.

Contact Nicole Bowman-Layton at nlayton@ncweeklies.com.