fire ants in compost pile

veg_grower964February 28, 2007

yesterday I started turning my compost pile and it was full of fire ants.Will they go away or will they keep populating? what can I do to elemanate the problem? thanks for any answers.

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gonefishin(z7bTx)

Stir them up every day and wet the pile. They do not like it wet and they like to maintain structure of their nests and tunnels. You can usually flood the nest and see about a kazillion little white eggs or larvae float up to the top. They do not like that and will find a better place to build their home if you keep disturbing them. Just use a long handled hoe, shovel or rake and do not let them swarm all over you. They sting in concert or unison and can be pretty bad.

Or, there are a number of chemical products that will take care of them if you care to go that route. I saw some Ortho Fire Ant Killer at Wallyworld yesterday.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 2:51PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

No toxic chemicals in the compost pile.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 4:01PM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

I read a post a few weeks ago where "Brdldystlu" said to put used coffee grounds on the mounds. I have done this to three mounds so far and the ants left. I also had ants in one of my storage bins; again I used the coffee grounds to cover the area they were in. They left and went I know not where. You may want to try this to see what happens in your pile. I did use enough grounds to cover the entire area they were crawling on, and left the filters on the area as well.

One other thing I have stopped doing with good results. I no longer put anything in my pile that fire ants may wish to eat. Absolutely no sugary foods or snacks can go in the piles. Also, what "gonefishin" said about keeping the pile moist and turned helps. Make sure you keep the back of your pile moist, this is where most of my fire ant problems start. The back of the bins a very quick to dry, so give this area special attention.

By all means be careful when dealing with fire ants; they can and have sent people to the hospital after suffering being stung a number of times. If any ants get on you do not swat them, this only makes them frantic. Smash them by rubbing where they are spotted. I do trust this helps in some manner, for it is the best I can offer at this time...

Blutranes

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 7:21PM
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elphaba_gw

Yes, by all means, add some coffee grounds to your compost pile. It does double duty adding nitrogen plus keeping the fire ants away.

Don't know where they go. I've got rid of ants in my compost pile and also I put some grounds on a small fire ant mound in my front yard and bingo, they left and I didn't see any trace anywhere nearby that they had re-established. They must have moved much further down the neighborhood.

This was SO much better/easier than using toxic chemicals IMO.

Coffee grounds I used came from Starbucks. Maybe they have something magical they add? or maybe it's the extra caffeine that is reputedly in every cup of Starbucks, do ya think?

FYI - Didn't have to reapply numerous times. I gave each location just one healthy dose. I can't tell you how long it took but I don't think it took too long. (Probably at least a couple days.)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 11:14PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Look at the Texas A & M Fire Ant web site for good information on control of these buggers

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas A & M Fire Ant web site

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 7:22AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I thought I had fire ants in my pile once. Someone suggested they were a look-alike ant and that if I plunged my arm into the pile, the ants would avoid it. Sure enough, they were not fire ants. I didn't plunge my arm into it but I did stick a finger in.

But even if you did get fire ants, fire ants are a protein eating ant and will avoid sugar like the plague. A good drench with sugar water (either sugar or molasses) will cause them to leave the pile.

Generally you want to keep any critter that comes to your pile. All critters are decomposers of one kind or another. You should see lots of ants, roaches, flies, and the various maggots of the critters who decompose your pile.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 8:25AM
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veg_grower964

thanks for all the reply's 'will try coffee grounds and keeping the pile wet.

dchall' mine are fire ants for sure'a few got on my leg and WOW!! you know the rest of the story.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 11:17AM
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gonefishin(z7bTx)

I think that perhaps he has not had the pleasure of personally experiencing fire ants. They do leave a memorable, lasting impression on you.

They are not beneficials and do not co exist with other life. If you have a compost pile full of fire ants, you will not have any worms, or the other little critters that he mentioned. The fire ants will eat them. They are responsible for the death of many newborn calves, foals, as well as lots of wild life like deer, quail, turkey and on and on, not to even mention their toll on humans. Read thru the info on that A & M website.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 12:09PM
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sylviatexas1

If you flush them out of one area, they'll tunnel a short distance (most likely on your property) to another area & set up housekeeping there.

I've heard that sugar is wonderful, haven't tried it yet.

I *have* had good luck mixing 1 ounce of orange oil in a gallon of water & pouring the entire gallon over the undisturbed area (you get more of the colony if they haven't been disturbed).

Best luck.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 5:04PM
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bryanccfshr

I just use a Spinosad bait. Fertilome "come and get it" is a good one. Direct application I like mollasses and orange oil mixed in water and used as a drench. Probably fire up a compost pile real nicely. All I do for fire ants is turn the pile and wet it. Mounds that pop up get The spinosad bait. I have even killed or displaced ant beds with old sodas. The sugar and carbonic acid isn't a bad addition to the soil and it kills ants.

I try not to bother any of the other ants I find. I have no leaf cutter or wood ants and the other species don't sting or seem to cause any damage.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 5:37PM
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hoorayfororganic

fireants are sweeping the nation from bottom up. one day we'll have them in New england. woohoo..

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 5:47PM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

I have seen electrical line workers peeling off clothes on the side of the highway after stepping in a fire ant bed and not knowing it. We don't do the "fire ant test" around here Dchall, if one fails the test there will be lots of tiny blisters that itch to hells' gate in ones' future.

I tried molasses when it was first suggested a few years back, but it didn't work for me. The coffee grounds did the trick, although Sylvia may have a point about the tunnels. All I know is that they left the area I spread the grounds. We will never be rid of them completely.

But I would rather have them than kudzu, the fire ants can be controlled to a certain extent...

Blutranes

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 7:17PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

They [fireants] are responsible for the death of many newborn calves, foals, as well as lots of wild life like deer, quail, turkey and on and on, not to even mention their toll on humans. Read thru the info on that A & M website.

From what I've read, and there is not very much to read, this idea falls somewhere between idle speculation and an old wives tale. In any case it does not seem to be a documented crisis. There are 97 million head of cattle in the US with 14 million in Texas. If anyone knows of written reports of this stuff happening, I'd like to read about it. The TAMU list seems to go on and on - I didn't see anything like this but can't say it didn't happen.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 10:14PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

They have changed the website, Dave, but it still has the best information about Fire Ants of anywhere.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 6:39AM
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hoorayfororganic

Fire ants can kill, and have, and will. Not quite an old qives tale as far as im concerned

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 8:25AM
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sylviatexas1

not an old wives' tale at all.

A friend nearly lost her mare when the mare stepped in a fireant bed & had stings the length of her leg.

The leg was swollen to twice its normal size by the time they got to the vet.

& newborn barn kittens, & baby birds that fall out of the nest, & small ground-nesting animals like field mice are all at risk.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 10:02AM
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oldmainer(z5 Maine)

Hi all...will fire ants survive the cold winter temps of New England? Never thought I would see possums here in southern Maine either...but they are here....:-) Franklin

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 10:25AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I very much agree with using a bait to kill a fire ant colony, when necessary. The Spinosad products have a lot of promise, and I've used Amdro for years.

Fire ants have very cosmopolitan appetites, and will feed on practically everything. They are absolutely attracted to sweets....and will even fiercely protect scale insects and aphids in order to have a ready honeydew meal. They've been known to swarm reptile nests (loggerhead turtles, for example), birds nests (in trees!!), bee hives, and a wide variety of crops.

Compost piles attract them because of the warmth it lends to their nests under the ground, as well as the food source.

My favorite fire ant sting remedy is Adolph's meat tenderizer granules. When applied within a few moments of a sting (make a paste and leave it on), it works like a charm to neutralize the chemicals in the venom. At least it does for most people. The pain and other symptoms disappear in a few minutes. Works for other stings, too!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2007 at 11:16AM
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gonefishin(z7bTx)

David said:"From what I've read, and there is not very much to read, this idea falls somewhere between idle speculation and an old wives tale. In any case it does not seem to be a documented crisis. There are 97 million head of cattle in the US with 14 million in Texas. If anyone knows of written reports of this stuff happening, I'd like to read about it. The TAMU list seems to go on and on - I didn't see anything like this but can't say it didn't happen."

That is not old wives tales or idle speculation at all David, if not for fire ants there would be quite a few more head of cattle in Texas, and such a statement makes you look like someone with a closed mind, perhaps thinking that if you ignore the problem, it will go away. I would think that someone in your position would want to be more in touch with reality.

No one said that it was a crisis, perhaps what constitutes a crisis depends upon whose ox gets gored. However it is a big enough of a problem to cause state and federal governments to spend money to try to eradicate or at least control them.

The Discovery Channel recently had a very interesting program about some tiny parasitic flies that show promise in helping to control the ants, and were working with a group of Texas Ranchers who spent considerable money to buy and try the flies. Apparently they consider them a bit more of a problem than you do.

Here is a link to an article that might hold your attention long enough to glean some facts. It also has links to other sites and articles of a similar nature, and a simple google search on fire ant damage will turn up many more.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 5:10AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

What in the world would someone from the University of Minnesota know about Fire Ants that the researchers from Texas A & M would not. Most everything I have seen on the northern universities web sites about Fire Ants is copied from TAMU.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 7:17AM
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gonefishin(z7bTx)

Well, I dunno kimmsr. I suppose that anyone that does research and study would learn something, and that was just linked as one of the many references on the subject which in no way deminishes TAMU's contributions. However this:

Timothy C. Lockley
Imported Fire Ant Station
USDA/APHIS/PPQ
Gulfport, MS 39501

In the heading might give rise to speculation that some research was conducted in or around Gulfport, MS which is definitely in the south.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 9:38AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

That's actually a pretty good article. I could nitpick a few points but that wouldn't change anything. It was written in 1996 and based on info we had prior to 1996, but still pretty good. But it's not saying there is a problem in the livestock community.

The ranchers I talk to are not doing anything about fire ants anymore. They used to use chemical baits but not any longer. If that makes me look ignorant, so be it.

And I got my first fireant sting of the year today - under my watchband. Apparently after 15 years or so of getting stung, I've acquired an immunity, because there is no residual itch or even a red spot.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 4:35PM
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vance8b

I'm from Florida and here it pays to keep an eye on your feet while working outside. I speak from experience, fire ants are like little piranha. As a parent of a three year old, they are scary. My kid was taught from day one that ants are mean, mean, mean.

My experience is that anything you do will cause a mound to disappear. But usually one will appear nearby within a few days. I do just as well with a water hose as I did with chemicals. How and if I deal with ant mounds depends on location. It is not worth my time to try to eradicate every pile on my property. Other that a few instances, most of the time the piles are just that, piles that are easy to identify and avoid. Occasionally you get surprised, such as colonies hidden in compost, etc. But as long as you are able to move, they are nothing more than an annoyance. Two year olds and elderly may not share this opinion.

I am now curious about the sugar thing. Do they or do they not like sugar?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 9:03PM
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primo_pomodoro

I had them and got rid of them by:

a) turning the bins at least once a day
b) granular organic molasses
c) a lot of coffee grounds

I didn't see really see results until I added the molasses. They were gone within 48 hrs after adding the stuff.

ciao,
primo_pomodoro

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 9:47AM
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fenren03_hotmail_com

Hey I am a northern novice living on the gulf coast so fire ants are a new thing to me. One of my compost piles had thousands of fire ants. The coffee and molasses worked for me.
I called Starbucks and got about 20 lbs of grounds and did the liquid molasses 4T/1ga h20. I stirred up the pile and poured a few gallons of boiling water where I saw lots of ants and then applied the coffee and molasses. Within two days they were gone.

So now the big question, how often do you reapply and can you put too many coffee grinds in the pile?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 10:14AM
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richtrix_yahoo_com

I know this is an old thread but I found it helpful. My favorite remedy for fire ant piles in general is to find a second colony of ants and dig the whole thing up with a shovel and drop in on top of or next to the other ant pile. Stir them both up real good so both colonies are nice and mad. Ants are territorial and more often than not they just annihilate each other. After a day or two of carnage if you go back to the site usually there are just a straggler or two creeping about the rest are dead. No chemicals, no coffee grounds.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 1:44PM
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JDinFL

I freaked also when I found ants in my new compost bin, especially after all the money I spent to seed it with some good european red wigglers. I didn't need ants killing off my expensive worms. first, I followed the suggestions to keep it a little more moist, but comming from a little background in pest control, I investigated a little more. I found the trail they were using, but couldn't follow it into thick covering. So, I placed a tray of Terro liquid ant bait on the trail they were using (no poison, just borax mixed with a sweetener ants love). Within days, the compost was ant-free, the ant nest was dead and my worms survived to continue composting for me. The covered trays are available at many places, but domyownpestcontrol is a good place to start. I just personally prefer a Best Management Practices act that controls a pest without pesticides when available. The trays are actually 3 separate trays and I cut them apart with sharp scissors, using only one as I need.

Here is a link that might be useful: Do My Own Pest Control

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 10:02PM
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