Control Fire Ants in Fall

— Written By
Fire ant mounds along sidewalk

Red imported fire ant mounds. Image by: Jake Farnum,

Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA), Solenopsis invicta, is an invasive species first introduced into the United States in the 1930’s from South America. RIFA have infested 330 million acres in the southern U.S., and are currently found in much of the NC piedmont and coastal plain. The Global Invasive Species Database categorizes red important fire ant as one of the 100 worst invasive alien species due to their impact on humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, seven billion dollars are spent each year in the U.S. on medical expenses, damage repairs, and control efforts as a result of RIFA.

If you need to control fire ants this fall, consider using baits. Baits are the most environmentally friendly fire ant control product and are particularly effective when applied in fall (Sept-Oct) because fire ants are actively foraging at this time. Baits containing organic ingredients as well as synthetic are available, but all must be used correctly to work. Tips for using baits successfully include:

  • Only use fresh baits. Fire ants will not pick up spoiled bait.
  • Apply baits when the ground is dry and rain or irrigation are not expected for at least 24 hours.
  • Apply baits when ants are actively foraging, when temperatures are between 70 and 85 degrees.
  • Never disturb the mound when applying bait.
  • Apply bait in a circle around, not on, the mound.
  • Be patient. It typically takes a couple of weeks for baits to begin working.

To learn more about controlling red imported fire ants, review the slides from a class held at the Chatham County Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension on Sept. 4, 2014. The slides, along with links to recorded webinars, publications and other Extension resources, are posted online here: