There are few insect pests as destructive and invasive as the fire ant. Incredibly aggressive, and often attacking in swarms, the recipient of fire ant bites feels as if he has literally been burned. The stings leave red, pus-filled blisters, and can often result in lifelong scars. The ants made their way into the United States in the late 1940s, and by 2009 had spread to over 300 million acres (121,405,693 hectares) in 18 states.
Eradication of fire ants, finding a workable fire ant killer, has been an ongoing battle of United States agricultural authorities for decades. The insects have also become prevalent in Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Aside from attacks on people and small animals, fire ants also destroy a wide variety of crops. Some of the favorite entrees of the fire ant include soybeans, potatoes, watermelons, peanuts, strawberries, cucumbers, and any type of meat. The ants will also feed on seedlings, saplings, and virtually any seed that is in the process of germination.
There are almost 200 fire ant killers currently available for purchase, but the first step in wiping out this fast-spreading species is to identify the nest. Fire ants generally build large mounds of loose soil and will swarm if the nest is disturbed. The two most prevalent methods of killing fire ants lies in either baiting or drenching their nests.
Fire ant killer in bait form is best used as a preventive measure, as it is slow acting. It is a poison mixed with natural food sources that is carried back to the nest, eventually killing the queen ant. It is most effectively applied in the spring or fall, and should be spread in a wide area around the nest. Be very careful not to disturb the nest itself, or the ants will panic and very likely relocate. Using bait as a fire ant killer is really only effective on very small nests, or as a pre-treatment to areas prone to infestation.
For existing mounds, the only effective fire ant killer is the drenching method. The kill is immediate, and there is little risk of the colony’s relocation. The most common and effective fire ant killer contains the chemical Cypermethrin®. It is one of the few substances that have proven absolutely effective in destroying both the ant colony and its queen.
You must work quickly when drenching a fire ant mound. First, following directions on the package, mix at least a gallon of the Cypermethrin® compound in a bucket. Next, using a pick-axe or piece of sharpened steel rod, poke holes in the ground surrounding the mound. Speed is of the essence, as the ants will begin to swarm the second you begin digging the holes.
Begin pouring the Cypermethrin® directly on the mound and into the holes surrounding it. Do not just dump the contents of the bucket, but rather pour slowly and deliberately so that the mixture sinks in. While doing this, take care to avoid being stung, as the fire ants will be less than happy with your actions. With any luck, the vicious inhabitants of the mound will be dead within just a few hours.