One cannot live in the Cayman Islands without at least one story about a fire ant encounter. Mine happened many years ago while living in a duplex next to Fay and Dickie Black, Dickie, of course being the founder of Vigoro Nursery.
He had a special Cayman parrot that lived in a cage under the tree in our collective back yard. One morning, very early, having coffee still in night clothes, the parrot was spotted out of the cage. Its wings were clipped so we all went running to catch the bird. In the process of reaching for the bird, I slipped and fell, missing the parrot entirely but managing to sit on the home of about a thousand ants! You can be assured a plan was undertaken to get rid of the mounds that day!
They are tiny and live in colonies of thousands in mounds and underground tunnels in the garden and they are vicious when disturbed! But guess what folks, with the rains coming, the ants start moving closer to the surface and such conditions arise for a possible “ant in your pants” scenario! So now is the time to wage war before the little devils have an opportunity to wage war on you and your family!
There are very effective and good, packaged products you can use to get rid of the fire ants in your garden. A newer one is by Green Light and is called Fire Ant Control. This is one we highly recommend at our Vigoro stores as it is designed to be organic and environmentally safe. In today’s world many people are concerned about the use of chemicals in the environment, as we are at Vigoro, so when there is a product that is effective and safe, we think it should be the product of first choice. Green Light Fire Ant Bait uses a substance called Spinosad as its main ingredient. Spinosad is a natural ingredient derived from bacteria that lives in soil. Basically when the insect ingests this product it causes damage to the nervous systems and kills it within a day or two. The good news is that only certain kinds of insects can eat it and for the most part it is the pest insect variety, so little damage is done to the friendly insects in gardens and yards. It can also be safely used on fleas, scorpions, ticks and mosquitoes. The product comes in concentrate, hose end sprayer and granular forms so there are several ways to broadcast it.
For those who really enjoy the challenge of using other types of natural killers or deterrents, this section is for you! In some cases the methods are only a means of getting the mounds out of your garden as the ants move their domiciles elsewhere, so make sure the ants are not moving into your favourite neighbour’s garden or you may not be the favourite neighbour thereafter! Remember also to be careful when treating fire ant mounds. When the workers are disturbed they get very angry and thus you do not want your foot nearby!
Getting rid of mounds
Next time you have a cup of coffee and reach for the Splenda, sprinkle a little around the fire ant mounds as well.
Pipe Tobacco is one I found while researching home remedies. Soak the tobacco in water overnight and make a tea with it. Discard the wet tobacco. Then pour the liquid over the ant hills and soak them. Supposedly the ants will die and they are not particular about having their tea hot or cold!
A paste made out of boric acid and sugar. For the paste use one tablespoon boric acid and one cup of sugar. Drop pieces of the paste near the hills or anywhere you see ants. The ants will feed on the sugar, take it back to their beloved queen which will eventually die, therefore wiping out the whole colony.
Sprinkle cinnamon on the mounds. The cinnamon trick can be used indoors as well for sugar ants.
Pour boiling water on the mounds. Add a little vinegar too if you like.
Sprinkle Tide detergent granules on and all around the mounds. I have personally tried this one and found out that it works. You can use a little water or not. The ants move using this method so each time they move you have to apply the Tide again. Honestly, I am not sure where they moved to but we got rid of the ants in our backyard!!!
Baby powder is thought to be effective by some people.
Corn Meal: The theory is the cornmeal will expand and kill the ants and of course the Queen whom they fed.
Sprinkle the mound with dry instant grits. Workers will deliver it to the Queen.
Sprinkle a packet of Equal, Nutrasweet or Aspartame on the mound.
Personally, I love natural approaches to pest problems in the garden, however I also caution readers that they may not all work. I remember hearing that if we soaked chicken feed in rum and fed it to the chickens in our garden and we had lots of them, they would get really drunk, stagger and pass out so we would be able to pick them up and move them to an empty area away from our garden. This was going to be the humane approach of course. We watched with baited breath waiting for the first chicken to start staggering. They loved the feed, they never staggered and we have chickens in our garden to this day. So, not all home remedies work on all things but it is certainly worth a try! I do believe that out of all these remedies you will find one that works and will not have to face the possibility of “ants in your pants”!