Got fire ants? Invite them to tea…

April 17, 2008 at 6:18 pm 5 comments

So are you ready for Fire Ant Week? 

By our favorite South Austin contributor, Patti P.

Here in Austin it’s kind of the reverse of Cow Plop Bingo…you DON’T want the plops, or in this case mounds (of fire ants) on your “grid” of the neighborhood.  Of course your neighbors don’t want ’em on their lawn either.  

But if your neighbor works her magic ant herding brew on her lawn before the whistle blows and drives the dreaded red imported fire ants over to your pad when you’re not ready, you won’t be yelling BINGO (unless you have kids under 3 and are really trying hard to clean up your language).

My SW Austin neighborhood (Shady Hollow) has fairly declared May 4-10 to be Fire Ant Week.  Which means cancel all vacation plans, move your birthday to June, start limbering up, and get out your favorite ant baits & killer brews. 

It’s time to protect your turf from Fire Ants which–if they’re not already there–will be attempting to breach your green stuff from the north, south, east & westerly neighbor’s yards.  If you tend to get dizzy from turning full radius, now’s the time to get some balancing pills from your doc; you’ve got to be on an even keel all week–leave a hole in your flank and you’re toast (jam & tea) to waves of evil stinging fire ants.  

My sister from Long Island is so terrified of these critters that she mistakenly or maybe aptly referred to them as “snapping ants” on a recent visit when questioning a tour guide in San Antonio…in Long Island accent: “Hey, you, do you have any of those snapping ants around here?” But I digress, back to the battle…

Fire Ants are for real and are a serious problem.  They smuggled in to Texas around the 1930’s in soil piled in the bottom of ships from South America to help keep them balanced.  Red imported fire ants eat almost any animal or plant and do major damage to electrical systems & mowing, tilling & harvesting equipment.  When disturbed (oh, excuse me for stepping on your precious mound) the ants will emerge aggressively from their pile of soft soil around the queenie ant and they WILL sting you.  Many at one time often leaving white pustules on your skin.  Lovely image, no?   

Many a realtor in Austin has battled fire ants while pounding a FOR SALE or SOLD sign on clients’ lawns–seems the vibration of the sledgehammer disturbs close by mounds and up the leg or into the shoes come waves of fire ants.  One of my favorite rookie (at the time) realtors did not discover he was invaded by fire ants until he was driving his car up the Capitol of Texas Highway…he reportedly pulled his car over to the shoulder and proceeded to disrobe right there on this busy highway.  He drove home in his boxers.  I’d say commission earned.

So how do you battle these non-native fire ants?  In the case of realtors & brief/boxer encounters, I would recommend bringing baby powder, vinegar, baking soda or comfrey in your tool kit.  At the very least, sprinkle a little baby powder on the legs of the sign–reportedly the ants can’t get good traction on baby powder.  If stung, the vinegar, baking soda and comfrey can help soothe the sting.  Of course, if  you’re highly allergic to fire ant stings, get to a doctor immediately.

When participating in your week-long neighborhood mound moving battle,  I’d recommend using organic concoctions rather than synthetic chemical brews (which you surely want to keep out of the water system that you brush your teeth with, eh?).

Your local natural organic gardening center will be a good source of recommended baits & brews.  Some will offer a fresh compost tea (made from manure that is wrapped in a huge tea bag/pillow case over a bucket of water/ teacup).  This “tea” can be mixed with some molasses and citrus oil as a control method.   (You can make your own citrus oil by soaking citrus peels in equal ratio with water for 10-14 days…)

During battle week, many Texans swear (often) by the “two-step” fire ant control method. 

Step 1 is to spread an organic bait laced with a bacteria called “spinosad” on your yard.  Feeding ants will bring the bait back to the mound.  The bacteria in the bait paralyzes the nervous system of the ants and they die–sorry, but they are fire ants.  (But get this, before you spread the bait, you want to be sure that fire ants are on your property and are ready to eat…because the bait can kill the native (good) ants too.  Please don’t kill the beneficial/ good ants unnecessarily because you THINK you have fire ants.  A piece of potato chip or (ugh) hot dog left out near suspected infestations will give you direct evidence that fire ants are present & ready to feed if you soon find it crawling with fire ants.)  Check out pictures of red imported fire ants on the web so you can be sure in your identification.  Then spread the bait.

Step 2 is to directly treat any visible fire ant mounds.  On mounds, an organic method is to use “d-limonere” which is an extract of orange oil.  The oil reportedly destroys the wax coating of the ant’s respiratory system and it suffocates.  Again, I’m sorry but these are Fire Ants. 

If you’re from or in Texas, you surely have some anti-red-imported-fire-ant brews and teas of your own.  Best of luck using them in your reverse neighborhood BINGO. Hopefully your “teas” are organic and you’re willing to share your most successful recipes.  Give us your tea!  We’d love to hear from you.  Thanks.  Patti P.


 © Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Reatly, 2008-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Entry filed under: Austin, Green, Organic Gardening. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

Austin Quick Facts Selling it yourself? Think again.

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. pcshamus  |  April 17, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Really love that title!

  • 2. Stephen Tvedten  |  April 18, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    You can repel fire ants with talcum powder and kill them with aspartame or orange juice – learn how to kill pests without killing yourself or the earth……

    There are about 50 to 60 million insect species on earth – we have named only about 1 million and there are only about 1 thousand pest species – already over 50% of these thousand pests are already resistant to our volatile, dangerous, synthetic pesticide POISONS. We accidentally lose about 25,000 to 100,000 species of insects, plants and animals every year due to “man’s footprint”. But, after poisoning the entire world and contaminating every living thing for over 60 years with these dangerous and ineffective pesticide POISONS we have not even controlled much less eliminated even one pest species and every year we use/misuse more and more pesticide POISONS to try to “keep up”! Even with all of this expensive and unnecessary pollution – we lose more and more crops and lives to these thousand pests every year.

    We are losing the war against these thousand pests mainly because we insist on using only synthetic pesticide POISONS and fertilizers There has been a severe “knowledge drought” – a worldwide decline in agricultural R&D, especially in production research and safe, more effective pest control since the advent of synthetic pesticide POISONS and fertilizers. Today we are like lemmings running to the sea insisting that is the “right way”. The greatest challenge facing humanity this century is the necessity for us to double our global food production with less land, less water, less nutrients, less science, frequent droughts, more and more contamination and ever-increasing pest damage.

    National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24,2007 was created to highlight the dangers of poisoning and how to prevent it. One study shows that about 70,000 children in the USA were involved in common household pesticide-related (acute) poisonings or exposures in 2004. At least two peer-reviewed studies have described associations between autism rates and pesticides (D’Amelio et al 2005; Roberts EM et al 2007 in EHP). It is estimated that 300,000 farm workers suffer acute pesticide poisoning each year just in the United States – No one is checking chronic contamination.
    In order to try to help “stem the tide”, I have just finished re-writing my IPM encyclopedia entitled: THE BEST CONTROL II, that contains over 2,800 safe and far more effective alternatives to pesticide POISONS. This latest copyrighted work is about 1,800 pages in length and is now being updated at my new website at .

    This new website at has been basically updated; all we have left to update is Chapter 39 and to renumber the pages. All of these copyrighted items are free for you to read and/or download. There is simply no need to POISON yourself or your family or to have any pest problems.

    Stephen L. Tvedten
    2530 Hayes Street
    Marne, Michigan 49435
    “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” –Victor Hugo

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

  • 3. patti p  |  April 20, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks to Steven from MI for adding his organic
    fire ant remedies: talcum powder, orange juice
    and aspartame–now that you mentioned aspartame
    I finally have all the incentive I need to
    stop drinking diet sodas–eeek, if a packet of
    this articial sweetener can kill a fire ant
    mound, I’d be a noodle head if I continued
    to ingest the stuff! And hey Steven, thanks for the
    link to your wonderfully resourceful online
    IPM (integrated pest management) encyclopedia.
    Patti P.

  • 4. How to Get Six Pack Fast  |  April 15, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    If you ever want to see a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this article for four from five. Detailed info, but I have to go to that damn yahoo to find the missed bits. Thank you, anyway!

  • 5. Rose Marie  |  April 18, 2009 at 4:41 am

    I think orange oil, mixed with soap and water then sprayed would be as effective as juice or rinds and maybe a bit easier. I seem to recall seeing some research on this some years ago. Just glad we don’t have them in Oregon…yet


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Email Us

Call US


© Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Reatly, 2016-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Nelson and The Nelson Project at Keller Williams Realty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

%d bloggers like this: