Fire ants right now in my raised bed soil. What to do?

anney(Georgia 8)January 27, 2008

I've been involved in heavy labor today, shifting cinderblocks around to rearrange and expand my raised beds. I wore pants and long sleeves -- it's around 50 degrees. And long rubber gloves to protect my hands against scrapes from the blocks. But when I removed the gloves, gradually about six fire ants crawled onto my hands, I think from my sleeves, and bit me! Oh, they hurt at first, then sting-itch later.

These damned critters are left over in my raised beds from last year. I wasn't successful in getting rid of them then, couldn't spray an insecticide in my loaded garden.

I haven't planted anything yet. Can I douse the area with Amdro now and plant in a few weeks? I don't think I can deal with the stings again this year. Or if not Amdro, what?

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fliptx(Houston 9)

Those things sure are persistent, aren't they? I've never found anything that would get rid of them for long. Spinosad granules work to some degree. Boiling water works to some degree. Orange oil, too. (I don't use boiling water or orange oil if there are earthworms around, because I don't want to harm them along with the ants.) I don't know about Amdro in the vegetable garden. My dad uses it in his lawn and the ants still come back after a while.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 3:57PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Thanks, fliptx.

I've been searching on the internet since I posted that, trying to find something that might be safe to use. I'm not going back out to get stung again, at least until tomorrow! I read about orange oil, but apparently it's a repellant. I want to KILL those suckers.

I was able to find the information below that includes the toxicity of various fire ant killers, and I'll probably go with Green Light Fire Ant Control with Conserve, scatter it outside the perimeter of my garden area, though not in it -- I have thousands of earthworms. It's MUCH less toxic to mammals than Amdro. I just hope it works.

And there's a picture in that PDF file of a floating colony of fire ants in a flood. They form a "ball" group and just go with the flow to some other area!

Here is a link that might be useful: Research on Toxicity of Fire Ant Killers

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 4:48PM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

Orange oil is a repellent if you use it to wipe down surfaces, but it will melt the ants' exoskeletons if poured directly on them. The oil I have is from a company called Medina, and I think the dillution rate is something like a couple ounces per gallon.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 6:51PM
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bcomplx(z6VA)

Great detective job finding that link. It's a good one. I have been surprised to find spinosad products at local feed stores, so you might want to check locally. However, do follow directions and use it to treat the colony itelf. It won't form a protective barrier that will stand up over time, but if you check your place often and treat colonies that appear within 30 feet of your raised beds, you should be safe.

Good thing you found that sucker today, when the ants were moving slow. Could have been worse!

Here is a link that might be useful: my website

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 7:00PM
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pnbrown

I made the mistake of harvesting my sweet potatoes bare-footed back in late november when it was still plenty warm in florida. Before I knew what was happening I had a good hundred bites. I finished that job in shoes and long pants wired tight at the ankles. That did the trick.

I think fire ants are simply something to learn to live with.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 7:07PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

fliptx

Oh, okay, I didn't see anything about orange oil destroying fire ants when applied directly to them. I did order some to use as a repellant in addition to the one that works as an insecticide.

bcomplx

I was glad, too, that it wasn't spring or summer today. They were kind of sluggish, only bit me once each before I killed them. They can bite often in just seconds when they're active and aggressive.

pnb

That many fire ant bites sends some people to the hospital! Their bite is worse than a bee sting.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 7:31PM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

If I got a hundred fire ant bites, I'd be in the hospital. I have a pretty severe allergic reaction to them.

Another thing that has helped is wearing tall rubber boots and rubbing the tops with dish soap. Even if I accidentally step in some ants, they don't get past the soap.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 7:34PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

fliptx

You mean that thick liquid diswashing detergent? Not bar soap like Ivory?

That's neat if slathering your boots with it keeps them from your legs. Wonder if it would work just as well on bare skin?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 7:46PM
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oldpea(8)

Oh, a subject I just can't stay out of!
I wear white shoes and white socks, sprayed with "Off" insect repellant, pulled up over the bottoms of my pants legs. So far, the ants haven't attacked me again.
Spray some on your gloves, too.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 10:45PM
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magnolias4ever(8b)

I bought a bag of Diatomaceous Earth at Lowes (in the garden center) and sprinkled it on an ant bed in my raised garden. Within 2 days the ants were either gone or dead. So far they haven't come back and it has been about a month now. The Diatomaceous Earth is safe from everything that I've read. I do not know if it will harm earth worms though. But I don't have any in my raised beds that I have seen.

Judy

Here is a link that might be useful: Ft2Garden.com

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 2:01AM
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pnbrown

Gotta be really careful with that DE - it gets airborne really easily and I heard it's very unhealthy for the lungs.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 8:00AM
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fliptx(Houston 9)

"You mean that thick liquid diswashing detergent?"

Yeah, I use whatever liquid soap I have handy. Even hand soap in a pump will do. I just slather it on the shafts of the boots, starting at the ankles and going up. I haven't tried it on bare skin because I think once they get onto your bare skin, it's too late. They'd probably eventually get across the soapy boots, too, but it at least gives me that few extra seconds to get away from them.

About DE--I think it's the kind you get for swimming pool filters that's especially bad for your lungs. Not that I'd want to suck down ANY kind of DE, mind you.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2008 at 8:48AM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

DE isn't harmful to the lungs unless you make a point of fluffing it into a cloud and then inhaling it. DE from fresh-water sources (Food grade) is less irritating to the lungs than DE from salt-water sources. You can use one of those common dust masks if you want.

I've used DE on our version of the fire ant, the thatch ant. I tried everything I could think of: boiling water, vinegar, bleach, poisoned sugar water, poisoned meat. I got a pound of DE and sprinkled it over the mounds. It slowed them down, but didn't stop them. Then I found a fifty-pound bag of DE for $15 and got it. Since DE is quite light, it's a BIG bag.

I took a 3-lb coffee can and coated the mounds with DE half an inch thick. If it didn't penetrate their carapace, by golly, I was gonna make 'em CHOKE on it! Well, I guess I had put it on thick enough (!) so all the ants were forced to wade through it and take it into the nest area to the queen. It got them, and they haven't come back. And I see no mounds anywhere else, either (in the past, I had annoyed them so they moved).

The stuff is cheap, and non-toxic to earthworms, bees, pets and kids. It's safe to eat, and it even contains trace amounts of desirable minerals.

It works by sucking the moisture from the insects' bodies, including fleas and cockroaches. If you looked at DE under a microscope, you would swear you were looking at sharp shards of glass. Some information says it takes one to three days to kill the insects. DE only works when it is dry. And because it acts physically, not chemically, the insects can't become resistant to it.

To make sure you're getting the non-toxic kind, make sure it says something like CODEX FOOD GRADE. Call around to your local farm supply stores -- some of them should carry it, as farmers like to mix it with grain and feed it to their livestock, as it's also supposed to help keep flies down.

NEVER get the kind that is mixed with an insecticide, or the kind that is used for swimming pool filters. Stick to the food grade kind.

Sue

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 2:59AM
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pnbrown

It's those sharp glass-like tiny shards that apparently get lodged in the lungs and don't come out. It's always good to have a box of those double-thick paper masks around, for any such tasks. I've learned the hard way about breathing stuff.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 11:59AM
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roxy_girl(7b Weatherford TX)

I've waged war against fire ants now for 3 years in my gardens and lawn and the only thing I've found that does any good is Amdro Fire Strike! Last year I hardly had any fire ants in my yard, it was great!!! And to be able to say that here in the middle of the country in Texas is unbelieveable...trust me!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 5:54PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

roxy

Fire Strike is new, isn't it? I'm having to figure out how to first drive them and the queen out of the raised bed, and then to kill them without their taking the bait BACK into the bed to be taken up by the plants and poison US.

I think I'll first spray a dilute mixture of orange oil on top of the mulch that's there to drive them away. I know that's where they've taken up residence. Orange oil is a killer for earthworms, but if I can get rid of the fire ants, I'll ask forgiveness and hope that it isn't so much that it will kill all the earthworms for a long time.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 7:24PM
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roxy_girl(7b Weatherford TX)

Go with the orange oil for the veggie garden, better safe than sorry!!! I use the (yes new Fire Strike) in all my flower gardens and on my lawn with great results. I have raised veggie beds as well and I didn't use it in the beds themselves either...better safe than sorry...but I guess having spread it around them did the trick as I had no fire ants in the veggie beds.

P.S. You can go and buy earthworms after a few weeks to replace the ones that are victims of war.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 8:10PM
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