Fire ants in my compost pile!

kylerbolinDecember 19, 2007

Help! I'm trying to create an organic compost pile and it has been overrun by fire ants. Any idea how to get rid of them without compromising the integrity of my organic regimen? I intend to use the compost on my tomatoes. Thanks for any help!

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Did you read the other posts on ants?

I don't even know what a fire ant is, never seen one! How sad is that.


Here is a link that might be useful: Ants

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 11:49AM
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I have had this painfull problem. 1st If the pile was hot they wouldn't be there. 2nd it is hard to get hot when yoiu are being nailed by the little beast when you try to turn the pile.

Two organic products I recomend you having around for fire ants anyway. Green light fire ant bait with spinosad can be placed in the pile and they will die from that. 2- Orange oil watered into the pile as you mix it will also kill most the suckers. The stuff can be used many otyher places. Look up "Anti fuego"

Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 8:27PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

If you decide to get rid of them, then I agree with bryanccfshr. I just leave my pile alone, ants and all. I figure if they are decomposing something, they can stay. You could also dissolve a cup of sugar in 5 gallons of water and soak your pile. Fire ants hate sugar and will leave fast. Or soak/spray with molasses.

Are you absolutely positively sure they are fire ants. I thought I had them but they were a painless look-alike ant.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 9:46PM
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UCG - used coffee grounds will run them off. Don't know where they go but they will leave your compost. I'm talking about a fair amount of coffee grinds. Worked for me and I never found any ants in other parts of my yard (which is fairly small).

Pick some UCG up from a Starbucks near you, ask for their garbage can full and not just one of those little foil packages they put out front, that's what I do and they usually are pleased to not have to do the packaging. I look like Santa as I leave the store with the garbage bag (best if double bagged) slung over my shoulder.

Also, as has been reported in several places in this forum, ants don't like water so after you add the UCG, be sure to wet down. Your ants should be gone in no time with no toxic threat to your compost.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2007 at 11:28PM
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rivers1202(Z8a South Carolina)

We've battled fire ants on our property since moving here nearly 5 years ago....however, they don't go near my compost pile. I'm in agreement with elphaba....the used coffee grounds seem to do the trick. My hubby and I drink coffee in the morning and I toss the used grounds onto the compost pile daily. It couldn't hurt to try them, since the grounds will be good for your compost pile anyway.

Good Luck~

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 4:14AM
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If you were to get that compost wet enough to discourage the Fire Ants it would be too wet to be digested by the aerobic bacteria. The single best place to find out about Fire Ants and their control is the Texas A & M web site linked below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fire Ants

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 6:57AM
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west_texas_peg(8a West Cen TX)

For us the fire ants are much worse when it is damp. This last spring we had more rain than usual and had fire ants all over the garden. When we became drier, they moved on.

We have used boiling water, coffee grounds, various products containing poison but Diatomaceous Earth seemed to do the most good.


    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 1:55PM
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The Texas A&M website has plenty of good fire ant info, but only endorses chemical control of fire ants. I believe most of us here try to eschew chemical solutions as much as possible. Those of us in the south are pretty much stuck with the vicious little pests for the foreseeable future, so the question is how to keep them out of our gardens and compost piles without resorting to poison. That's why this forum is so valuable to me. Just in my opinion every "homegrown" method of control is probably worth trying out - some will work, some won't. (one exception - please don't try the "gasoline and a match" tactic) I've had some success with coffee grounds piled high on the mounds, boiling water from drained pasta, simply flooding them out, and whispering sweet nothings in the queen's ear. Last year my yard and garden were all clear of the devil ants. I thought I was invincible. Then somebody bought the vacant house next door and promptly began a chemical rampage on their yard, unleashing a massive fire ant migration right at me. Think I'll try some molasses this time.....

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 3:22PM
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Having dealt with fireants for 52 years here in Alabama, I can tell you I've tried everything and only one thing works. Amdro. It's a bait and will kill the ENTIRE BED if instructions are followed to the letter. Not sure if it's "organic" or not, but it works. The small amount that is required to use on a bed of fireants would be insignifcant in my opinion.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 11:09PM
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Hydramethylnon, the active ingrediant in the product, is slightly toxic to humans, birds and animals, and aquatic life and is better than many of the more toxic poisons many people use. This forum is about Soils, Compost, and Mulch and is not a strictly organic forum. If what you want is a more organic forum then go to the Organic Gardening forum.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 6:56AM
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buford(7 NE GA)

Hot water or sugar will only drive them off and they will nest somewhere else. Fire Ants are not native to the SE US so I don't see a problem eliminating them. They can also be dangerous to people who are allergic or small children and pets.

Andro kills them, they don't come back or go somewhere else.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 7:40AM
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Excuse the heck out of me, kimmsr, for daring to state the obvious. From my perspective most people who post on this forum do not want to use poisons if they can avoid them. I simply said that in my opinion non-chemical options were worth a try. Hydramethylon may be "better" than other poisons but according to the label it is still toxic to humans, birds, animals, and aquatic life, not to mention the "soil food web." Don't try to send me to a different forum just because we also like to discuss non-toxic solutions here. Have a nice day.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 9:09AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Fire ants will absolutely devour sugar and sweet-based baits. They are very happy omnivores!

alan8, Amdro isn't 'organic' and is not recommended for use on soils that will be used for food crops. I agree with you, it works like a charm!

There is another bait product out there that IS registered for organic use. Spinosad is the active ingredient. Several manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon of producing granular ant baits containing Spinosad. I have NOT tried it myself, but will probably do so this summer.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 9:38AM
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