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Managing Fire Ants In Your Yard

S. Bambara, Extension Entomologist

CAUTION: This information was developed for North Carolina and may not apply to other areas.

Red Imported Fire Ant , Solenopsis invicta , Formicidae: HYMENOPTERA


fire ant mound in lawn

Fire ants were accidentally imported into Mobile, AL about 1930.  Since then, they have spread rapidly into most of the southeastern states and a few western states primarily through commerce.  They are now in most of NC except some of the northern tier counties.  You should accept that you will never get rid of them, but you can manage them. This note will help the homeowner take control of his home lawn. Professional lawn care businesses are also an option and they have a few additional products available that are not sold in stores.
Fire ants produce mounds that may continue to enlarge as the population grows. Young colonies may not have mounds. Mounds are located in sunny areas and often next to sidewalks, driveways or other heat absorbing masses.


The best seasons to treat fire ants are late spring and early fall (late Sept-early Oct) before the temperatures become too cool.  However, if you have an active mound in an inconvenient location, you can mound drench on any warm day.   The most effective management program will combine a two-step process combining direct mound treatment and baits.  If you have too many mounds, baiting may be your best solution if you can be patient.  It is better to use a bait first and follow up with mound treatment a few days later if you can't wait for a slower bait.  You can test for activity with a potato chip. DO NOT use both mound drench and bait at the same time.  You will waste your bait.  You may also mound drench and follow with bait 5-7 days later if there is still activity or a satellite mound has sprung up.  Some products are made for application across the entire lawn.  An effective management program also requires monitoring several times per year.  Fire ant control measures will not be successful if you think you can make one application of something and they will be gone forever.

Bait Treatment -

ant eating baitBaiting may be done near specific mounds, or broadcast across a large area.  Baits generally, should not be applied directly onto the mound.  Ants do not forage on top of the mound.  Fire ant entrances are located around the outside edges of a mound.  Not all baits that can be used at a mound may also be used as a broadcast. Read the label.  Baits are actually food and depend upon that food being attractive for the ants to take it in.  Some baits are direct poisons and some are insect growth regulators which, instead, cause the colony to die out more gradually.  Baits are slower acting than direct mound poisons so do not expect results overnight.  Baits rely on foragers to collect the food and bring it back to the rest of the colony to eat. In mid-morning before baiting, drop one or two potato chips near a mound.  If ants are consuming the potato chips at 20 minutes, it is a good time to apply bait.

Tips for success!:

Bait Product Name  Active Ingredient   Formulation 
Amdro Fire Ant Bait
Amdro FireStrike baits
hydramethylnon + methoprene
Come 'n Get It Fire Ant Killer by Fertilome
GreenLight Fire Ant Control with Conserve
Ortho ecosense brand
Over 'n Out Mound Treatment
Spectracide Fire Ant Once and Done

Direct Contact Treatment (nonbait insecticides) -

Directly treating a mound is the fastest method for killing a specific mound.  Even so, it is hard to kill every ant and more importantly the queen(s), with certainty.  Mounds can be treated directly with insecticide.  The insecticide could be powder or granules that are applied atop the mound and then watered into the soil, or they may be dry or liquid insecticides that are mixed with water and then drenched onto the mound.  Read the directions carefully for the product you are using.  If it is too cold or too hot, ants may not be near the top of the mound.  Mid-morning is a good time when temperatures are not too hot nor too cool and mound ants are near the surface.  Somewhere near 70 degrees F would be good.

Tips for success!:

Mound Treatment Product Name  Active Ingredient   Formulation 
Amdro Quick Kill Fire Ant Mound Drench z-cypermethrin
hose end spray
Basic Solutions Fire Ant Killer by Ortho deltamethrin
Bayer Advanced Powerforce Multi-insect Killer cyfluthrin
Bonide Stinger Fire Ant Killer bifenthrin
Eliminator Fire Ant Killer Plus! permethrin
Hi-Yield Imported Fire Ant Control Granules deltamethrin
Ortho Fire Ant Killer Mound Treatment bifenthrin
Ortho Max Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules bifenthrin
Over 'n Out Fire Ant Killer Granules  (broadcast) bifenthrin
Orange Guard d-limonene
liquid concentrate
Spectracide Fire Ant Killer Granules Mound Destroyer L-cyhalothrin

View a short movie about treating fire ants.


Helpful Links

Managing Fire Ants in Urban Areas
Compare costs of some homeowner fire ant pesticides

Red imported Fire Ant in North Carolina
Mississppi State- Fire Ants in Home Lawns

*Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your county North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service agent.

Other Resources

For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Employment and program opportunities are offered to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

© 2008 NC Cooperative Extension Service

Prepared by: S. B. Bambara, Extension Entomologist. Ant photo by Charlotte Glenn, CES Pender Co.

ENT/ort-145 September, 2009.
Web page last updated January, 2011 by the webperson.