Ant - Fire
Common names: Fire Ant, Imported Fire Ant, Red Imported Fire Ant
Scientific name: Order Hymenoptera, family Formicidae, Solenopsis invicta
Size: Adults--1/12" to 1/3"
Identification: Four fire ant species are found in Texas. Three are native. The imported fire ant has just about wiped out the natives. The imported fire ant builds its mounds out in the open. Mounds have no visible openings. Stings are painful and sometimes produce a unique white pustule.
Biology and life cycle: Colonies consist of the brood and several types of adults: winged males, winged females, one or more queens, and workers (which are wingless). The brood is made up of cream-colored eggs, larvae, and pupae. The reproductive winged forms are most prevalent in spring and summer. Mating flights usually happen between April and June. Males die after mating. A queen in a large colony is capable of producing her own weight in eggs every day (1,500 to 2,000). A typical mature fire ant colony will contain 80,000 workers, but some mounds contain as many as 240,000 workers. There can be anywhere from 20 to 500 or more queens per mound. One giant mound was discovered that contained 3,000 queens. Queens can live five years or more. Complete metamorphosis.
Habitat: Almost any soil but mainly open, sunny areas such as pastures, parks, lawns, meadows, and cultivated fields. Will also infest the vegetable garden. They love eggplant, okra, cabbage, and broccoli.
Feeding habits: Omnivorous, will feed on almost any animal or plant. They eat other insects, oils, sugars, and young seedlings and saplings.
Economic importance: Tremendous economic problem due to electrical device damage. They also kill baby animals. They do have a beneficial side, however. They eat ticks, chiggers, termites, boll weevils, flea hoppers, cotton bollworms, pink bollworms, tobacco budworms, pecan weevils, hickory shuckworms, flies, fleas, cockroaches, and corn earworms. They are a beneficial predator in controlled numbers.
Natural control: Lizards, birds, other insects, and microorganisms.
Organic control: Beneficial nematodes, and diatomaceous earth. Beneficial microorganisms in the compost tea and in the gut of nematodes seem to be doing the actual control. Laboratory tests have shown that the beneficial fungus Beauvaria bassiana is effective against fire ants. Diatomaceous earth on dry days or mixture of compost tea, molasses, and citrus oil any time. Many gardeners report good results with instant grits and other instant breakfast cereals. Spraying products that contain molasses helps keep them away. Applying ground-up orange and grapefruit rinds to the mounds is another excellent control.
Insight: Research on a parasitic fly from Brazil is being done at the University of Texas at Austin by Dr. Larry Gilbert. It's the native natural control. Texas A&M has also been studying a flylike parasite, Caenocholax fenyesi. Spencer Johnson, an entomologist, discovered it while dissecting fire ants.
Photo shows a mound treated with Andro - a procedure I do not recommend.
Before the chemical pushers started throwing Diazinon, Dursban, Myrex and Orthene at these insects, they weren’t much of a problem. The queens were territorial, there was only one queen per mound and there were very few mounds per acre. After the toxic chemical assault, the ants altered their behavior so that there are hundreds to thousands of queens per mound and large numbers of mounds per acre – except on organic sites. Here's the 3-Step organic program that actually works to control this man-made problem.
Ant Control Program
It’s important to understand that first the fire ant issue is a man-made problem.
Homemade Fire Ant Mound Drench -
Pour the mound drench formula into the center of the viable mounds and apply beneficial nematodes at label directions. Here's the mound drench formula. Mix equal amounts of compost tea, molasses and orange oil. Use 4-6 ounces of this concentrate per gallon of water and use as a drench to kill fire ants and other pests in the ground. Use a container that pours a solid stream of liquid. Pour into one spot in the center of the mound. This causes the mix to go quickly to the bottom of the mound where the queens will probably be kept. Then pour the remainder of the mix in a circular pattern covering the entire mound. You might want to save a little to splash those ants trying to run away or worse, up your legs.