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How To Get Rid Of Fire Ants On Your Patio

There are about six known species of fire ants in the United States. Commonly referred to as the ‘red imported fire ants’ these feisty little pests are natives of Mato Grosso, Brazil, but now call most of the Southeastern U.S home.

Apart from the fact that their sting can be rather painful and irritating, there are several other reasons why most residents, from Texas to Maryland, California and New Mexico want to learn how to get rid of fire ants:

First, they are very good at finding stored food and completely decimating your supplies. Another reason is that they tend to build nest mounds outdoors near the structural foundation and in landscape areas. To say that fire ant colonies are extremely destructive would be to understate the matter.

As things stand today, fire ants cause approximately $6.7 billion dollars worth of losses annually in the United States. The best way to fight against these ant colonies is to first identify the type of ant that is causing damage to your property and then finding a qualified pest management professional (PMP).

Identifying the Type Of Ant (Fire Ants)

In general, ants are very social insects with thousands, if not millions, forming part of colonies that have a strict hierarchy within the group.

If you are not very familiar with the different types of ants found in the U.S., it can be very easy to confuse one species for another.  It also doesn’t help that there are several different species within any known type of ant. For example, the carpenter ant, the pharaoh ant, and the fire ant are common and look similar, but they are actually quite different.

The red imported fire ant, however, is by far one of the most common types of ant in the Southeastern United States. If you live in this region, then there is a very good chance that you have seen this type of ant once or twice. Before you can effectively learn how to get rid of fire ants you need to know what they look like:

Typical appearance: Fire ants tend to be dark reddish brown in color.

Size: The red imported fire ant typically ranges from 1/8 of an inch long to about 3/8 of an inch.

Symptoms of their sting: Should you disturb them in any way, fire ants usually attack by stinging. The sting quickly results in a raised welt which later becomes a white pustule. The reactions to the stings depend on whether or not the person stung is allergic to insect stings. Those allergic will typically react more severely.

Habitat: Fire ants will typically build their nest mounds on your front or back lawn. You will also most likely find their trails near your food stores, in cracks on your wall, and holes around the exterior of your home. You can easily find numerous mounds of loose soil above ground that resemble gopher trails as can be seen in this tweet:

Another good way to quickly identify the type of an ant infestation you have is to take a close-up photo of one of the ants. Once you have done that, you can either:

  • Send the photo to your local pest management professional so that they can help you to identify the ant and give you a quick rundown on how to get rid of them, or…
  • Send the photo your local university extension service. The easiest way to find your local university extension service is to enter the name of your state plus “university extension service” on your favorite online search engine. The extension service will get back to you with the exact name of the ant species with which you are dealing as well as where they typically nest.

Like all ants, fire ants are social insects and tend to live in large colonies. So, what might seem like a small problem at first will most likely develop into a full-blown infestation very quickly. They will attack your food, your lawn, your home, your pets, and, ultimately, your family members.

If you suspect any type of congregated ant activity on your property, do not wait to be a part of the ‘$6.7 billion loss per annum statistic’. Call a professional pest management company immediately. It could be the difference between getting rid of the ants in time and suffering major losses around the home.

What Attracts Fire Ants?

Like most ants, fire ants are attracted to food sources. Not only will they forage for their food and eat things like:

  • Small insects
  • Dead animals
  • Sweet materials like plant secretions

They will also actively go after small animals and even kill insects to take back to their nests. They are typically attracted to a wide variety of foods including things like proteins, sweet foods, and grease. So, if you have crumbs in your home and grease in your sink, there is a good chance that you will attract fire ants into your home.

Before you call out the profesionals and set ant baits like Adivon Fire Ant Bait, or use something else like boric acid, there are a number of things that you can do to keep your home ‘less fire ant friendly’ and put a stop to the start of an ant colony in or around your home. These include:

  • Regularly vacuuming your floor and wiping up spills to ensure that there are no crumbs available for the ants to feast on
  • If you have a compost bin in your backyard, make sure that it is tightly sealed.
  • Frequently clean up after any of your pets as pet food has been known to cause any infestations
  • Keep all of your stored food tightly sealed. Fire ants are constantly on the lookout for any available and accessible food sources and could cause an ant problem very quickly.

Although most ants would not enter your home specifically for water, in very dry seasons, they tend to do so indiscriminately. So you need to be on the lookout for moist areas and little puddles of dumpiness on your walls or floors that could attract fire ants when there is excessive heat or a drought.

What are the Social and Breeding Habits of Fire Ants?

Fire ants tend to live in huge colonies that may have anywhere from 100,000 to about 500,000 ants. Ant societies have hierarchies that look something like this:

  • The Queen: This is the most important ant in the colony and lays about 1,500 to 5,000 eggs per day. The Queen never leaves the nest and stays alive for many, many years
  • Worker ants: These ants take care of the Queen and her eggs by bringing her food. They also build the nest and defend it against any outside attack. These are the ants that tend to sting people
  • Winged males and females: These tend to fly off often to mate in the air

Once they have mated, the males die off and the females become Queens who start brand new colonies.

The fact that they are so many in one place and that they just keep multiplying unless something is done about them are the main reasons why these ants are so destructive: they are numerous.

Why are They so Destructive?

Due to their large numbers, fire ants can be very destructive while on their quest to build a nest and to find food. Because they have no natural predatory enemies, these ants tend to completely dominate their home ranges and experience population booms in any area they invade. Other reasons to get rid of fire ants are:

Their stings are a health hazard: Fire ant stings contain venom that has a high concentration of toxins. These toxins cause the stung area to burn and itch for hours and eventually turn into a blister which in turn become white pustules. When these pustules are broken or scratched, they become breeding grounds for bacterial infections and permanent lesions or scars. In the most severe of allergic cases, reactions may result in anaphylactic shock or even death.

They destroy vegetation: Fire ants destroy crops, plants and natural habitats for wildlife. They can easily ruin acres of agricultural land by building various nests and feeding on the crops.

They can cause electrical malfunctions: Some fire ants species are attracted to air conditioners and other electrical machinery. When one ant is shocked, it releases a pheromone that tends to attract more ants that eventually swarm the electrical device and ultimately damaging it.

They cause structural damage: Pavements, basements, building foundations and even walls are not safe from fire ant destruction. These ants build nests in your garden or structural foundation thus weakening the entire structure in the long run. They are particularly disrespectful of landscaping activities as they chew through the soil and ruin your perfectly tended garden in their quest to build more homes for their Queens.

In some cases, they can even cause accidents as this tweet shows:

There is no limit to the level of destruction these little pests can cause if you do not know how to get rid of fire ants from your home.

How do You Get Rid of Fire Ants From Your Patio?

As we mentioned earlier, there are several tips on how to get rid of fire ants:

  • Keep your home clean
  • Clean up after your pets
  • Make sure there are no food crumbs on your patio
  • Keep all your food supplies tightly sealed

But, honestly speaking, the best way to get rid of fire ants from your patio is to call a pest management professional. These are the people who know exactly what to do to ensure that there are no more mounds or nest laying around just to strike at you again once you have used up you can of bug spray on the few openly visible ants.

Give us a call today and let us help you identify the species of fire ant infestation you have in your home. Most importantly, let us help you get rid of those fire ants once and for all.


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