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Ah! My garden is full of fire ants (large ones)

 
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Hello! So I made some post here about my garden, which I am still working on!

I noticed I have some rather large fire ants scattered through a few of my beds.

I have 2 questions regarding them.

1) Do they help remove pest from the garden? They seem to patrol the garden itself, but I don't see them patrolling the weeds/grass mix outside of the bed - kind of weird. I'm also scared of touching one - I have yet to be bitten

2) how do I organically get rid of them?? They're like embedded in the garden itself, there's no mound. It's kind of scary actually. Do I have to remove the soil or something? The ants are like inside the actual garden, so I don't want to use any toxic chemicals of course.
 
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Those are probably not fire ants if the ants are larger than 1/4 inch.

We have large red ants that are called Harvester Ants.  These ants will rob your garden for the seeds if that is the kind of ant you have.

I use vinegar to kill ants.  The vinegar will also tell you something about your soil if it bubbles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ant

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvester_ant
 
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I have used cinnamon to repel ants.. I had a large pot that I filled with bagged soil and the ants had lived in one of the bags I guess.. I sprinkled a circle of cinnamon to the edge of the pot on the soil and few days later there were no more ants!

They were the basic kinds of black ants though, I have no idea if it works for other kinds of ants.
 
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Anne Miller wrote:Those are probably not fire ants if the ants are larger than 1/4 inch.

We have large red ants that are called Harvester Ants.  These ants will rob your garden for the seeds if that is the kind of ant you have.

I use vinegar to kill ants.  The vinegar will also tell you something about your soil if it bubbles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ant

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvester_ant



Here's a picture of it.

Will vinegar hurt the soil?
20230325_145639.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20230325_145639.jpg]
 
Eric Wolf
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Saana Jalimauchi wrote:I have used cinnamon to repel ants.. I had a large pot that I filled with bagged soil and the ants had lived in one of the bags I guess.. I sprinkled a circle of cinnamon to the edge of the pot on the soil and few days later there were no more ants!

They were the basic kinds of black ants though, I have no idea if it works for other kinds of ants.



That's pretty cool! I'll try that too maybe! I think I have some cinnamon somewhere in the house. maybe I'll drop it in the holes and maybe the ants will leave
 
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I always used instant grits so my animals wouldn’t ingest anything. The grits will swell upon ingestion and bust their little bodies. It didn’t always work 100% and doesn’t kill the nest immediately, but it’s better than chemicals.
 
Anne Miller
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Using vinegar is just adding acid to the soil.  If your soil bubbles you have alkaline soil.

vinegar can damage plants so you don't want to use vinegar on plants.

A lot of folks on the forum use vinegar as a weed killer.  Ordinary vinegar will not kill weeds.

I can't tell from a picture which red ant that is.
 
Jodie Tinker
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Fire ants are very aggressive. If you take a long stick and poke the mound, the ants will start rushing out of the mound to attack. Their bites sting, then leave little blisters.  Here is some info from a website I found, www.lawnlove.com:

Color: Reddish-brown to bright red with a brown abdomen (back-end)
Size: 1.5 to 5 millimeters long (the size of a sharp pencil point to the width of a pencil eraser); fire ant workers of the same colony will vary in size
Nests: Mounds up to 2 feet high with no hole in the top; one fire ant colony may have several mounds across your property, usually in moist areas or near a food source
Compared to other red ants: Fire ants are smaller than most other types of red ants. Fire ants also tend to be more reddish-brown in color.


B4A97C50-7842-4DB1-80BE-53CB86D77D6D.png
[Thumbnail for B4A97C50-7842-4DB1-80BE-53CB86D77D6D.png]
 
Anne Miller
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Fire ant are not the only ants that bite and sting.

red harvester ants bite and sting.

I feel the only way to tell the difference is the size and only the OP can tell us how large these ants are.
 
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the ant pictured isn’t in the same sub-family as fire ants - in fact, not the same sub-family as any ants with stingers. looks to be in in the Formica genus. they can be annoying but aren’t dangerous to you, or probably anything in your garden.
 
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I will second the comment about these likely not being fire ants.  Simply red ants.  Fire ants have a visible stinger on the back and usually have a gentle banding/stripping around the abdomen.  Red ants typically don't have either of these structural features.

Now ant control in general.  First question I have learned to ask is what does your type of ant eat?  Normal procedure once I know is to mix their food stuff with boric acid powder and feed the ants.  Boric acid converts to boron in the soil which is a desirable trace element in the soil so personally I consider it safe.  Be aware this is a slow game.  Usually the ant traffic increases to the food source for 4 or 5 days and you will begin to think you are losing.  Then suddenly the population crashes and you will have just a trickle of ants for a week or two.  Then you will see another explosion of population and another 4 or 5 day feeding frenzy.  Then another crash.  This one is usually the end of that nest for a while at least.


Another attack method is if you can flood a fairly large area around the nest and keep it flooded for weeks or months.  Watch for break outs where they tunnel out from under to the side.  Your goal here is to starve them to death so you can't allow these break outs.
 
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I second the boric acid method. We mix 50/50 sugar and borax and liberally sprinkle the mounds and around them. It takes a few weeks to get results. If they're outside our normal traffic, garden areas we just ignore them, the chickens and ducks venture over to the mounds occasionally but not as often as I would think since the ants are a constant presence somewhere in the yard. We don't have fire ants in our area, but they were a constant presence in S.C.
 
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I intentionally leave ants alone unless they are fire ants. If there's a mound of more benign ants claiming a piece of territory, it helps push the fire ants out.
 
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Apparently mixing baking powder with sugar makes them "exploding" is said. My Grandparents were swearing it works but I stick to cinnamon as I have proven it woks as well.
 
C. Letellier
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Robert Ray wrote:I second the boric acid method. We mix 50/50 sugar and borax and liberally sprinkle the mounds and around them. It takes a few weeks to get results. If they're outside our normal traffic, garden areas we just ignore them, the chickens and ducks venture over to the mounds occasionally but not as often as I would think since the ants are a constant presence somewhere in the yard. We don't have fire ants in our area, but they were a constant presence in S.C.




It is important to know the desired food stuff of the ant in question.  My household problem ants are a grease ants(little and black) so they get peanut butter mixed with boric acid powder.(ps here peanut butter has been more effective than lard for my ants)  Most of the outdoor ants like sugar so mixing it and boric acid works.   I usually build a covered bait station right near the entrance to keep the sugar dry but really handy for them to haul home.(it seems like it always rains if I am simply sprinking the powder around)  Have found powdered sugar works better than granular as it is nearly the same consistency as the boric acid powder. Had some black ants in the garden that didn't like either.  Ground some corn meal finer and mixed the boric acid in and they went for it.  The key is the ants have to carry the bait back to the nest so it needs to be mobile and something they like.  Usually need about half a cup of bait/boric powder mix at roughly 50/50 by volume to wipe a nest out.  Peanut butter dries out  so if that is happening a tiny bit of moisture or peanut oil added to it keep it mobile.  Mixing that much powder with peanut butter dries it out too so I often mix that a little less.  For peanut butter do a really flat patty with a lot of perimeter.  Once they get going on it, it should be low enough that they can step from the back of the ant eating on it off onto the top of it.
 
Anne Miller
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C. Letellier wrote:It is important to know the desired food stuff of the ant in question.



I agree.  What plants are the ants eating or like the ants I have, are the ants carrying off the seeds?
 
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Agreed, Boric acid is a tried and true solution,  and I have a little trick I learned 25 years ago as a bug guy.   When you determine what is an attractive food source, and mix it up, try using a straw, to draw it up into.  Be mindful not to get it in your mouth, but don't freak out if you do, its pretty mild.   Once you have a full straw, cut it into about 1 in sections and place them in strategic spots where you see trails.  They follow a pheromone trail, and this helps spread the word they found "good" food.   It makes the whole job easier , with less mess.    Hope this helps!  
 
Eric Wolf
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Anne Miller wrote:

C. Letellier wrote:It is important to know the desired food stuff of the ant in question.



I agree.  What plants are the ants eating or like the ants I have, are the ants carrying off the seeds?



I don't think they're eating any plants - they're just roaming around!
 
Eric Wolf
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greg mosser wrote:the ant pictured isn’t in the same sub-family as fire ants - in fact, not the same sub-family as any ants with stingers. looks to be in in the Formica genus. they can be annoying but aren’t dangerous to you, or probably anything in your garden.



Then whats their purpose if they're absolutely harmless

Heres another picture

20230328_120955.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20230328_120955.jpg]
 
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Fire ants! HATE THEM! My daughter and I are often attacked by the evil things. No poking their mounds here. We can be sitting some place minding their own business and they seem to come out of hiding to bite us!
Whenever we see their mound we boil hot water and pour it on them as long as it’s not too close to a plant. I have heard  that my Native ancestors would use them to make dressing but I haven’t done that yet.
 
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Fire ants can definitely help keep some bad bugs away but I totally get why you don't want them around for the fear of getting bit. Have you tried a natural solution like diatomaceous earth? That may help, but if not, you may have to get your hands dirty and try to remove the soil and relocate the colony - but be careful!
 
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