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fireants in my pants

 
Dan alan
Posts: 96
Location: Tyler Texas
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OK so the problem is the solution? I need help finding the solutions for fireants. Everywhere I water or mulch I end up with with 3 foot wide ant dens who quickly start farming aphids on everything. De does nothing & I can't hardly stand still without ants going up my legs and biting me. Something has got to give! The ants do create deep loose soil in my otherwise compacted clay, but their aphides kill most everything. While lady bugs eat some aphids, they don't get them all, infact I think the ants killed most of the 1000 ladybugs I released. There seem to be no natural preditors of the ants. I heard from a fungus Guy that there is a strain that gets rid of them for good, but court battles prevented its use for ants. I lost the info on this and I need some help finding a solution. I refuse to use poison, but that may be the end of growing anything. Perhaps a vibrator would displace the ants? A modified bug Zapper to make ant body mulch? I don't know what to do...

Please share your experience, obversations, and thoughts on fireants.
 
Tyler Ludens
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In my experience fire ants tend to like sunny open soil, so anything you can do to get plants up and shading the soil might help keep down their numbers. If you have ant nests already in your growing beds, you may have to sacrifice some of your plants in order to kill the nest. Pouring boiling water on a nest can kill it, but you have to do it repeatedly until the nest doesn't come back. Continually disturbing ant nests may cause them to move out of an area, though they may just build a nest somewhere else. Flooding the nest with a hose might help drive them away. Unfortunately this is destructive to your planting bed as well. Foraging chickens will sometimes dig up and eat fire ants, and armadillos will dig out nests, but of course both these kinds of critters will also wipe out your plants. I wish I had more encouraging things to say. We have fire ants on our place but not many of them. Mostly we try to encourage native ants and other critters that might compete with the fire ants. I'm glad you're determined to not use poison, I think use of poison has only made the fire ant problem worse by killing competitors.
 
Denise Lehtinen
Posts: 102
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
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I have a rumor (which I have not tested yet) to pass on.

It is that Turmeric repels ants. I just read that on the internet today. (They were thinking of sprinking turmeric powder in the areas where you wanted to keep the ants out of.)

My half-formed plan at the moment is to GROW the turmeric in strategic spots as a way of repelling the fire ants. That is a workable possibility here in Florida.

In drier areas, like some of Texas is, you'd need to look into waterwise container gardening.


This is the blog of the guy who put me onto the idea of using containers to reduce the need for watering:
http://johnstarnesurbanfarm.blogspot.com/

 
Jeff Mathias
Posts: 125
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
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Dan,

Try grits or corn meal piled up near the entrances. Also you can mix 1tbsp. of yeast (I have always heard bakers) and 2 tbsp. of sugar to a pint of water and set the mixture out for them. The grits and corn meal will swell when eaten and can kill the ants. The yeast is carried back to the nest because it is mixed with the sugar, the yeast is supposed to spread throughout the nest killing out the nest. I believe it explodes the ants also although for slightly different reasons.

The D.E. would be better used on the aphids than the ants. Aphids tend to collect on over fertilized plants so you might look into that as well.

I have never had a real need to use either of these I do not have any fire ants, and I tend to feed the other ants out where they do no harm. When I have had to take action boiling water has done the trick for me.

Also do you have any chickens? If you run the chickens through the plants with the aphids the chickens should harvest the aphids and help cut down on the problem for the other direction.

Good Luck,

Jeff
 
Isaac Hill
gardener
Posts: 356
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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You might also think about planting plants to sacrifice for the aphids. Somebody I know plants a really pretty milkweed species that attracts a specific kind of aphid, but then also attracts the predators of the aphids because of the overabundance of aphids.
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 309
Location: Upstate SC
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Guinea hens will eat fire ants (also other insects and ticks) while doing much less damage to vegetable plants than chickens (guineas just pick at insects and don't scratch up the ground like chickens do). Unlike chickens, guineas will leave most fruit alone.

Fire ants avoid below freezing temps by going below the frost line at night and can't tolerate below freezing temps like most native ants. So any fire ants that can't make it below ground by nightfall on a below-freezing night are killed by frost. On a sunny winter's afternoon, 95% of the fire ants will be clustered under the sunny southwest side of the mound enjoying the sun's warmth on the mound. So the main way that I control fire ants on my property is to wait for a sunny day followed by a below freezing night, then in the late afternoon while the mounds are still in the sun, go around to all of the mounds with a long handled shovel and toss the mound with ants as far downwind as I can throw them. Any ant that can't make it back to the mound site by the time it goes into shadow is dead. Typically I will work across the field staying just ahead of the advancing shadow line as the sun lowers in the sky. It usually takes about 1 to 2 visits to a mound to eradicate it.

For areas where I don't want to lose the soil by tossing it, such as a fire ant mound in a raised garden bed, I will bring a wheelbarrow alongside the mound and shovel the ants into the wheelbarrow, spreading the soil thinly across the bottom of the barrow's tray, then let the night's frost kill the ants overnight before returning the soil, enriched by the nutrient's contributed by dead ants, to the bed I dug it from.

I have been using this winter mound tossing technique for controlling fire ants on my property for 11 years with excellent results.
 
Dan alan
Posts: 96
Location: Tyler Texas
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All interesting thoughts. Fireants seem unstoppable to me. I put out grits and sugar and the den is still happily going.. I tried corm meal, but it did not work. I'll try yeast...
It seems like if disturbing the den makes them move, what about a small mechanical vibrator inserted deep down into the den?
 
Ken Peavey
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Location: FL
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I've dug them up and flooded the colony. They pack up and move a few feet. I get a short respite while they move into their new place.

I've sent the chickens after the ants. Now the chickens leave the ants alone. Probably got stung.

Fire does some damage to the colony. A blowtorch will knock them down fast. This method won't take them all out-they will come back. It's a control method.

 
R. Peacock
Posts: 35
Location: eastern part of West Tennessee
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For fire ants in my container garden I waited to the end of the growing season and poured in several gallons of boiling water. In the lawn I put liquid soap, to help the 'wetting' action, on the nest before an expected heavy rain or flooding with a hose. A lye solution might work instead of soap, but consider your soil conditions and surrounding plants before adding soap or lye. I have had some success with a mixture of alcohol and liquid soap injected into the nest.
 
Dan alan
Posts: 96
Location: Tyler Texas
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Well, thing is that these ant dens are right in my grow beds and paths. So I really need to not destroy the soil life if at all possible.

I planted a tree in a big ant den. The soil is so aerated, lol. Don't know if they will kill the tree though..
 
Tyler Ludens
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Flooding the nest repeatedly with a hose is probably the least destructive method but it won't kill the ants, just make them move away. If you're persistent enough, eventually they may move out of the garden completely, but you have to keep after it.

 
Mike Turner
Posts: 309
Location: Upstate SC
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Dan alan wrote:Well, thing is that these ant dens are right in my grow beds and paths. So I really need to not destroy the soil life if at all possible.

I planted a tree in a big ant den. The soil is so aerated, lol. Don't know if they will kill the tree though..


Considering that the ant's burrowing and subterranean predation of soil insects and worms has already greatly disturbed the soil life. I find the winter wheelbarrow freeze-out the least intrusive method of removing fire ant nests in the garden. The warm season alternative is to repeatedly disturb the nest to get them to relocate out of the bed or path and then deal with them in a more intrusive fashion.

If the tree is small enough, the ants can kill the tree through dehydration. The ant's continual burrowing in the soil around the roots disrupts the formation and maintenance of root hairs.
 
Dan alan
Posts: 96
Location: Tyler Texas
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Any idea how deep fire ants dens go? Perhaps I could dig out the den into a wheelbarrow and deposit them elsewhere until they leave that soil?
 
gani et se
Posts: 215
Location: Douglas County OR
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paul stamets has been doing some work on termites and carpenter ants. Not specifically fire ants, but a direction to look into
http://www.wired.com/geekdad/tag/termites/
 
                          
Posts: 25
Location: Marble City OK
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Ants are very territorial critters, each mound is a different tribe ,and have and invisible border . Thats how an ant war can get started : Take a showel full of ants from one hill and put it around the other hill , take a shovel full from the receiving ant hill and put it in the hole of the opposing hill . Take a chair a few feet away and watch the carnage.The winner will take the leftover eggs and pupae from the looser .Thou winner but still in a weakened state is ready for you to start the thing over ...you ll get the drift....
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 309
Location: Upstate SC
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Dan alan wrote:Any idea how deep fire ants dens go? Perhaps I could dig out the den into a wheelbarrow and deposit them elsewhere until they leave that soil?


The nest goes down several feet, but the ants don't occupy the entire nest at any one time. They move to the level of the nest that has the best temperature. At night they are down in the lower parts of the nest where it is warmer, then in the day most of the ants are up in the sun warmed parts of the mound, but will retreat down into the nest a bit on the hottest summer days.

In the absence of frost, you could dump the soil elsewhere, but unless you dump the soil in a shady area (fire ants don't like shady locations) you'll likely have to keep disturbing the dumped soil to get the ants to relocate out of it. Left to their own devices, the ants would just start building a mound in the dumped soil.

When I first started getting rid of fire ants I used to mix ant colonies to get rid of them during the frost free portions of the year, but the winter eradication program has been so successful, I haven't had to do any summer fire ant eradication for many years now.
 
Devon Olsen
Posts: 1066
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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i hear guinea fowl will devour an ant hill
could also try cordyceps militaris, its a fungus that eats ants and cordyceps fetch top dollar for their medicinal properties
also if your in a warm enough place, SAND LIONS burrow into loose sand and make a little funnel like trap that causes ants to fall down to their hungry awaiting mouths
and horned lizards which eat lots of ants every single day
 
John Alabarr
Posts: 78
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Tyler Ludens wrote:In my experience fire ants tend to like sunny open soil, so anything you can do to get plants up and shading the soil might help keep down their numbers. If you have ant nests already in your growing beds, you may have to sacrifice some of your plants in order to kill the nest. Pouring boiling water on a nest can kill it, but you have to do it repeatedly until the nest doesn't come back. Continually disturbing ant nests may cause them to move out of an area, though they may just build a nest somewhere else. Flooding the nest with a hose might help drive them away. Unfortunately this is destructive to your planting bed as well. Foraging chickens will sometimes dig up and eat fire ants, and armadillos will dig out nests, but of course both these kinds of critters will also wipe out your plants. I wish I had more encouraging things to say. We have fire ants on our place but not many of them. Mostly we try to encourage native ants and other critters that might compete with the fire ants. I'm glad you're determined to not use poison, I think use of poison has only made the fire ant problem worse by killing competitors.


This is true. YOu don't find fire ants in deep woods, even in Georgia.
 
Dan alan
Posts: 96
Location: Tyler Texas
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As a follow-up to my idea I wanted to share my findings. Our soil is hard rocky red clay that is difficult to plant in often requiring removing large rocks.

In early spring as soon as vegetation starts getting good a green but the nights are cool any place I put weed mulch and cover with a black bag or clear plastic dome, I get fireant mounds consistently. They like the warmth and moisture for their eggs.

I then apply water every day for 4-7 days and the den moves away leaving behind highly aerated soil and their own deep compost pile. Even in this hard ground they dig enough tunnels that I can put 6-8 five gallon buckets of water into the den before water stops going in!!

With the ants gone I can plant potatoes and other crops that enjoy deep soil. Almost no work at all. It's great!

The ants do not really want to build dens closer than 51 feet apart. So, it takes planing. It works well for planting trees.

If I prepare another warm spot with Compost the den will move about 10 feet over. I can get the soil deep tilled about 3 times before it get so hot here in Texas that I cannot lure them to a new spot of my choosing.

So, in summary:
1) Place weed mulch in the fall where you need the ant tractor next spring. Each den 51 feet apart and three alternative sites 10-20 feet apart.

2) In the cool early spring nights after rain, place black plastic or clear plastic domes over mulch piles, add some kitchen scraps to the bottom of now composted mulch pile.

3) Wait for ants to build den that reaches 1 foot or higher.

4) Remove cover and place at next compost pile, add kitchen scraps and wait for any to find.

5) Water ant den every day until it floods, many many gallons. If water does not take, punch home with hose and fill den. Repeat until ants abandon the den.

6) Plant tree or potatoes in now soft soil. Plants will not flood as the old den drains very well.

7) Repeat above as often as ants can be drawn.

In one year you could plant 64 trees spaced 20 foot apart on an acre in this way. If you had hard rocky clay soil like I do you would understand how amazing this is.


So, anyway, there you go; ant tractoring.
IMG_20160324_193459.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20160324_193459.jpg]
Attracted ants under plastic
IMG_20160324_191514.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20160324_191514.jpg]
Aerated soil
 
Miranda Converse
Posts: 239
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Awesome way to use ants to your advantage! I have also noticed that the fireants around me will make a nest under any piece of wood that gets left on the ground. I however have soil more on the sandy side so this doesn't help me much. Still looking for the perfect solution to get rid of them...
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Excellent use of those darn ants!
 
Tracy Kuykendall
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This solution is recommended for several pest and unfortunately it is probably your only recourse;
Two nuclear explosions 90-160 days apart in extreme cases a third treatment may be necessary.
 
Casie Becker
pollinator
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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As I have a niece who is extremely allergic to fire ants, we've had to treat every time their population starts growing. It is as simple as spraying beneficial nematodes across the yard. As I understand it; they prey on the larval stage of a lot of different insects including ants, fleas, and grass grubs. We try to time it to coincide with a wet spell as the nematodes need soil moisture to survive and travel in search of prey.

I post this suggestion every time I see an ant thread. I'm not seeing other people suggest it. Please, if you have had a failure with this, let us know so we can identify the limits of this response.
 
Miranda Converse
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What specific nematodes do you use and do you have a source for them?
 
Marco Banks
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Any side effects to adding nematodes? Do they adversely effect other plants?
 
Casie Becker
pollinator
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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http://www.naturescreation.co/live-beneficial-nematodes.html

This is the particular kind I've used. I just pick it up a local nurseries. Strangely, neither nursery where I've bought it is listed in their dealers. When I first researched the subject I found several online companies who will ship nematodes. It was just more convenient for me to pick them up during one of my frequent trips to Red Barn. (small local nursery).

There are no side effects that I know of when applying these nematodes. They're not interested in plants, being purely predatory. The container specifically says they're safe for earthworms.

I would guess that there could be some kind of beneficial insect with a soil based life stage that they could harm, but I don't know what that could be. My garden and yard is always crawling, buzzing, and slithering with a wide variety of insects and small animals. I think from our perspective these are like a wider spectrum application of BC. It is important that you apply them to wet soil, if this is your first time doing so. I time my application to the weather forecast.
 
Michael Cox
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Having suffered a reaction to a fire ant bite I would have no problems doing as shown in the video below. A permanent solution to a nest!

Plus you get a cool sculpture at the end. NB: you can melt and cast aluminium at "low" temperatures easily achievable in a yard.


 
Miranda Converse
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Well these past couple days we had non-stop rain that basically brought the water table up to ground level. Every time this happens, the ants will build their mounds way up to get out of the rain. So, I decided to take advantage of this and used a modified version of what was described earlier in this thread. I went and scooped up the above ground portions of the nests with a shovel and tossed them into a puddle of water. Whatever ants didn't get scooped up, I stomped a bit to turn the area into mud. I felt a bit like Godzilla.
I started this on Saturday and did a few more on Sunday. Some of the nests I did on Saturday were completely abandoned when I checked on Sunday, a couple still had some life in them. I'm hoping I put a big enough dent in their population to wipe them out or at least slow them down. I'll report back if it worked or not.

Side note observation; Ants are very hydrophobic. After tossing their nests into the puddles, they would all float and start to link up with each other forming these little ant islands. They would hold onto as much larva as they could and form these big protective island-balls around them. I just found this kind of fascinating but it made me feel kind of bad about messing up their homes.
 
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