Getting Rid of Ants that Bite
There’s none better when getting rid of ants than your cousins down south. We burn fire ants, drown them, launch chemical weapons, pour pop on them and few dummies even eat them.
In the following paragraphs you’ll read what works and doesn’t work when killing fire ants. Think of it as fire ants in the pants prevention.
The following methods of getting rid of ants will be covered:
1) Out Damned Spot - the Olde English Way
2) Ant Tag-Team Wrestling
3) Snorting Fire Ants
4) Ribbentrop Treaty Revisited
5) Quaker Oats Dynamite
6) The Ant Queen’s Chastity Belt
7) Drunk Ants and the Crazy Uncle in the Antic
8) She Sells Seashells
9) Fire Ant Dog
10) A Cup of Coffee for Anty
11) Michael Jordan Three-Pointer
The Creepy Fire Ant
Killing Fire Ants
So pay heed because fire ants are crawling out of the ground to bite you, unless you live on the frozen tundra of Green Bay. Not only will the red fire ants bite you, they will destroy your veggie gardens, eat your birds and kill your pets. Did I mention that fire ants bite?
Now, there is no creature more nasty, useless and vile than the fire ant. It serves no purpose except to annoy you, bite your kids, destroy your yard and garden, set up residence in your TV, birdcage and lawn, and then they’ll attack you as payment for squatting on your property.
The fire ant doesn’t fit into our eco-system. It’s a foreign invader and it’s taking over. It has few natural enemies besides other ants.
Fire Ant Kills Wildlife
Fire ant bites kill our native species, pet dogs, pet cats, endangered birds, rare turtles, lizards and an occasional human being. Fire ants will invade your gardens, recruit the nasty plant-sucking aphid by the millions and launch the bug to attack and destroy your prized flowers and tasty vegetables.
The fire ant is responsible for reducing populations of Bob Whites, raccoons, birds, snakes, armadillos and possums by attacking and killing their young.
Fire ants have infested about 300 million acres - 1.3 million square miles - of United States soil and cause $5 billion in damage every year.
How deadly are these fire ants?
Bob Cunningham of Seminole County, Florida, took his dog for a walk in 2008. News reports are contradictory. One report said he accidentally stepped on a fire anthill. Another reported that the ants were floating on floodwaters spawned by tropical storm Fay.
Either way, he somehow disturbed the fire ants and they swarmed all over him, inflicting hundreds of deadly bites. Within an hour or so he went into anaphylactic shock. By the time he was brought to the hospital, it was too late. He died of fire ant bites because he had an allergic reaction.
Severe infections requiring skin grafting or amputation have been known to occur from fire ant bites. Fire ant bites also cause scarring.
Fire Ant Bite Dance
Let’s go into a few details so you know what’s happening if you, a friend or family member is attacked.
To begin, fire ants don’t bite to inject their poison. The ants will first crawl onto your skin. You probably won’t feel them immediately. After they’re in position, the workers will clamp their mandibles into you by pulling and pinching the skin. This movement anchors them.
Then the ant will arch its back and plunge its rear-end stinger into your skin. It will then do a two-step to the right, staying attached via the mandibles, and sting again. This is the fire ant sting dance. Step, one-two - sting! Step, one-two - sting!
It continues, going around and around, stinging each time. And they all do it simultaneously, as if following a choreographer. Hundreds of ants repeating the stinging dance is what causes the pain and burning. The sting will feel like you’ve been burned with fire, thus the name “fire ant.”
Resist the Itch
The fire ant’s venom, composed of an alkaloid, makes our body release histamine that produces pain, itching, swelling and a red skin. Seconds after a sting a red welt pops up. Depending on an individual’s sensitivity, the welt will grow and in about an hour a small blister will jump out. Over the next few hours, it will begin to itch. Resist the itch. Breaking these blisters open can cause infections.
You have a small window of time to lessen the venom’s effect. Dab the sting with diluted bleach or mix up a paste of meat tenderizer and water. If 15 minutes have passed, you’re too late.
A one-to-one mix of bleach and water applied to the sting can help. Try to avoid stings by lightly dusting your shoes, socks, feet and legs with talcum powder.
Another option is to treat the sting with an insect bite medicine that contains benzocaine.
Every year, 5 million people are stung by fire ant bites, and about a dozen die in the United States.
Fire Ants Live Where They Want to Live
Where are fire ants located?
Fire ants build their colonies everywhere. On lawns, in fields, under houses and buildings, in birdcages and television sets. So stirring up a pot of fire ants is almost unavoidable in fire ant country.
Fire ants invade flower and vegetable gardens. Because they’re territorial, they’ll sting you when you try working in the garden. They eat plant buds and tunnel under roots, weakening plants. They eat seeds, bulbs, seedlings, young trees, fruit and pods. Fire ants love to eat aphids. They will cultivate and herd them like cattle which means you’ll be battling an aphid infestation in addition to fire ants.
Ants Attack For No Reason
Workers will forage for food more than 100 feet from the nest, day and night. So if you’re munching cookies, chips and milk at your desk, be sure to check your shirt hanging on the chair before slipping it on in the morning.
If you stand on a fire ant nest or break up a food chain gang, you’ll get attacked. You can sit on your seat reading a book, contemplating your navel or munching a sandwich, and they’ll still attack. For no reason.
Brush Off When Attacked
When attacked, don’t jump in a river or lake. This is not the right way of killing fire ants. Fire ants build pontoons of live fire ants to cross rivers and lakes. Water doesn’t seem to bother them. Oh, they’ll eventually drown, stinging all the while until they’re dead.
Brushing them off is the best way of getting rid of ants. That’s all it takes to remove them. Use your handkerchief or hand and brush them off.
Use the same method if a pet is attacked.
Then dab on the treatments mentioned above to reduce the poison’s potency. Change your clothes and dump them in a bucket of soapy water. Drown the little demons. A quick shower will relieve that “buggy” feeling.
1. Out Damned Spot - the Olde English Way
This is an old English variant of thwarting invaders. The premise is simple: Boiling water was good enough to thwart castle invaders during medieval times, so it’s good enough for killing fire ants today in your castle.
Wait for a good rain. When it rains, fire ants call out the construction crew to build fresh mounds. The rain also turns their tunnels into a sloppy muddy mess making it impossible for the ants to move deeper and avoid the scalding water. The wet conditions and the necessary mound work moves the ants closer to the surface and thus vulnerable to death by boiling water. Prepare for attack.
Double, Double Toil and Trouble
Boil up a cauldron of water. Figure two to three gallons per mound. Punch a hole in the top of the mound. Pour. For dramatic effect, you can shout out appropriate olde English Shakespearean verses: Double, double toil and trouble.
Move onto the next mound and repeat.
A variant is to dig out the mound and dump it in a bucket. Now pour the boiling water in. This mitigates damage to the soil and plants.
Be forewarned, though, that if you don’t kill the queen, you haven’t achieved your goal of getting rid of ants. The queen can push out 2,000 new baby ants each day, and the fire ants have her hid so you don’t know where she is.
Know these other consequences, too: Boiling water can sterilize the soil; all vegetation in the affected area will probably die; and carrying around boiling water is dangerous. Be careful.
2. Ant Tag-Team Wrestling
It’s the ants versus flares! Approach this like a wrestling tag team match. Wrestler A - let’s call him Big Bubba - lights the flare, knocks off the top of the mound and sticks the flare in. Wrestler B - let’s do something Viking and call him “Eric the Bone Crusher” - tags Big Bubba.
Eric the Bone Crusher runs off and watches for smoke curling out of previously hidden ant holes. Then he plugs them a sledgehammer blow or a heel stomp. It will get hot, exciting and deadly inside the ant nest. As Eric tires, he can tag Bubba to finish the round.
3. Snorting Fire Ants
Nope. Forget it. It’s been tried. Doesn’t work. Well, yeah sure, you can snort fire ants but holy jumping crickets...Okay, here’s the story:
The urban legend says that two stupid Ozzy fans got tanked up and snorted a line of fire ants. Apparently the experience was painful and they died. This story has been floating around the net for years, and it’s impossible to sort fact from fiction. Most likely, Ozzy spread this stupid story for publicity.
This method is not approved for getting rid of ants.
4. Ribbentrop Treaty Revisited
Ants have their pecking order and their socialization structure can be used in getting rid of ants. Here’s how it works:
Scout your yard for other ant colonies, such as black ants, red ants or both. Plunge your shovel into the black ant mound, pull out a big scoopful and dump it on the fire ant hill. Now dig your shovel into the fire ant mound, pull out a scoop and dump it on the black ant hill.
Congratulations, Ambassador Ribbentrop. You’ve started a World War amongst the ant kingdoms. You can pull out the magnifying glass and watch the ant version of the epic siege of Stalingrad in your backyard. After the war is decided, pour boiling water on the surviving fire ants.
5. Quaker Oats Dynamite
Sprinkle old fashioned oatmeal on the fire ant mound. The dutiful but stupid workers scamper out, take it underground and start feeding. Then the ant clods feed the stuff to the idiot queen fire ant. She eats the oatmeal, the oatmeal expands and she blows up. With no queen, the fire ant mound dies. Who says all Quakers are pacifists...
6. The Ant Queen’s Chastity Belt
This is biological warfare. Fire ant bait is inexpensive, safe and easy.
It plays off the fire ant’s natural foraging instinct. Place the bait near the mound, not on it. Sprinkling bait on the mound can stress the ants and trigger an alarm to move the colony. The workers grab the bait and take it underground to feed. After the queen eats it, she gets a chemical chastity belt locked on - no more baby ants. The stupid ants still run around maintaining the hive and stinging you, but new replacement ant creeps aren’t produced. With no new ants produced, the worker ants die off from overtime work.
Use about 15 to 25 baits per square foot. Broadcast in September and October to checkmate the springtime fire ants.
A Community Effort Killing Fire Ants
Scientists recommend this method of eradication be a community wide endeavor. Neighbors pool their resources to buy bulk quantities of bait at discount. Equipment for broadcasting is shared. Everyone must chip in. It does little good to rid your property of fire ants while your lazy neighbor is drinking beer and watching football.
This method is cost effective, lowers the frequency of applications and is less toxic to the land.
There are 157 various chemical concoctions available for fire ant control.
7. Drunk Ants and the Crazy Uncle in the Antic
Another stupid science tale says that dumping club soda on a fire ant mound kills them. The carbon dioxide in the club soda displaces the oxygen in the soil, so says the fable, and suffocates all the ants in two days.
All you get is impressive bubbling while the ants simply rebuild the mound. Maybe if you followed club soda with a bottle of whisky, you might get them drunk. But what do you do with drunk ants? Stick them in the attic with the crazy uncle, right?
8. She Sells Seashells
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is ground up seashells. In this crushed state, DE is like ground up shards of glass. Because ants aren’t smart enough to wear boots and chaps, they crawl through the DE. It cuts their little bodies to shreds and they bleed to death. Be aware, though, it can also kill good insects like ladybugs and worms. Use it judiciously.
Sprinkle around the mound and watch the blood flow.
9. Fire Ant Dog
Australia has trained dogs to sniff out fire ant colonies. Will the dog go about the work of getting rid of ants? No, that’s your job. Dogs aren’t stupid. But think of what you could make hiring out your trained dog to sniff out fire ant nests.
10. A Cup of Coffee for Anty
Ants don’t like coffee. Sprinkle the coffee grounds on the mound and see what happens. The ants might ask for a doughnut. Refuse. They’ll move away.
11. Michael Jordan Three-Pointer
Do a Michael Jordan and bounce a basketball against the mound. Try a three-pointer from downtown.
Got the idea? Don't get too close.
If you don’t have a basketball, hit the mound with a stick. Throw rocks at it. Kick it.
Fire ants, for all their deserved bad dude reputation, are the hermits of the ant world and prefer a sedentary life with no disturbances, unless they’re busy biting you. Stir up the nest enough, and they’ll pack and move. Hopefully off your property.
Some recommend sprinkling cinnamon on each fire ant mound. Fire ants hate cinnamon. There might be other spices and herbs in the plant kingdom that can kill fire ants. Scientists are working on it. Stay tuned.
Pick Your Poison
So there you go - getting rid of ants in 12 different ways. Some are stupid, some don’t work and some have proven their effectiveness.
Pick your poison when getting rid of ants and choose the one that suits your demeanor and budget.
Juanjo on December 15, 2014:
At the bottom of each daily piotsng there is a light grey area where you are offered to opportunity to express your thoughts on the blog. Those comments come to me and I either reply to you personally, post your comments without replying to you, or hitting the delete button for those really obnoxious SPAMSTERS! I hope our comments were sincere and you truly like the blog. The piotsng to which you attached your comments was Good Nature from August 18, 2011. That is the piotsng where I tell about my Mother's dirt cupcakes (brownies cooked in terra cotta pots) and ants on a log (peanut better smeared into celery and topped with raisins.) Not sure why the topic is close to your heart unless you grew up with this on your lunch plate, like I did. If you found joy in this topic it is perhaps because you, like my Mother, have a warm heart and try to find happiness even in the smallest of things.
Richie Rosen from Florida on October 02, 2013:
Great Hub! I never found such unique ways to stop ants! Have to try the oatmeal idea!
ChristinCordle12 on September 05, 2011:
Wonderful article. Useful and voted up. Thanks for sharing.
Ronnie Sowell from South Carolina on October 18, 2010:
Oh yeah, run!
Ronnie Sowell from South Carolina on October 18, 2010:
Great hub. I hate a fire ant, almost as much as a deer.
Here's a thought. Punch a hole into the mound and drop in a M-80.