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Fast Facts on Little Fire Ants

By April 10, 2009

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These tiny ants, only 1/16" long, pack a powerful sting although they are relatively slow moving. Light orange or light red, they tend to travel along well defined foraging trails. Heavy infestations can blind pets, kill nesting birds and ruin backyard picnics so immediate action must be taken when LFAs are found. In the meantime, the perimeter of the property can be monitored with bait stations. See "Baits" below.

Are They in My Yard?
If you suspect that your yard is infested with Little Fire Ants (LFA), smear chopsticks or pencils with peanut butter and place them in suspected areas. Check the sticks after one hour, drop them into a sealable plastic bag and freeze overnight. Take the specimens to the state department of agriculture, county extension service or department of entomology at a local college for positive identification.

My Neighbors Say That They Have Them
LFAs seldom forage more than 10 feet from their nest, but nests can multiply rapidly so urge your neighbors to control their infestations or soon your yard will become a LFA Shangri-la.

Control of LFA
Map the infestation as if it were an Indiana Jones' dig by placing chopsticks in a grid pattern every 10 feet. Do not spray the ants as this will only kill a small portion of the workers. To date, organic baits and controls like Boric Acid are largely unproven so use commercial ant baits mixed in soybean oil or cornmeal to help their broadcast dispersion. Note that all baits will have at least some effect on other insects. Although research to control the LFA is at a feverish pace, this author knows of no effective biological controls. However, pastes derived from lipids, proteins and carbohydrates have been used in Australia with some success. As always, read labels BEFORE applying any bait products, observe all safety precautions rigorously and contact the manufacturer if you still have questions or concerns.

More Reading

Little Fire Ants
The LFA as a Featured Creature
Control of the LFA
LFA Threaten Organic Farms in Hawaii

Comments

May 1, 2009 at 3:07 am
(1) Toronto LFA victim says:

I had a number of infestations in my basement. Ant traps (5%borax) helped to attract LFAs, but did not kill them. However, 99% isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) killed them very quickly (within 20 seconds of contact) when they were sprayed. I have tile in my basement, and they were heading into a few cracks in the tiles, so I doused these areas with almost half a bottle (250ml) of 99%isopropanol and no ants have reappeared in those areas! I recommend opening the windows before doing so as it has a potent smell… but is extremely effective!

May 1, 2009 at 2:01 pm
(2) pestcontrol says:

Thanks very much for your tip to control the little fire ants when they invade your home. I had not heard of that one.

Take care and please visit again anytime.

May 1, 2009 at 2:19 pm
(3) pestcontrol says:

Hi Toronto,

One other note: once you have rid the area of ants, you can prevent or at least delay, their coming back, by caulking any cracks, or points of entry with concrete caulk. It is/can be tinted to match the color of the tile grout if that is a concern.

Caulking a basement area, which I assume is protected from the weather, should be effective in barring ants for a few years, unless it is constantly damp from water leaks or seepage, which is another problem entirely.

Thanks for visiting and sharing.

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