Q: I have a pet pig; recently I found a big fire ant mound in the pen. What can I do to control them?
I also have a vegetable garden and there are fire ant mounds in it. What can I do to kill them without hurting my vegetables?
A: Managing fire ants in a garden (or in a pig pen) is a challenge. One option would be to pour boiling water on the mounds on a warm morning when the pests are working in the top of the mound. Scalding water will kill an ant mound 60 percent of the time but take care not to cook your vegetable plants (or burn the pig) in the process.
If you work quickly, you could simply shovel the mound out of the garden or pen. Fire ant baits are effective but the label on bait products does not allow them to be used in gardens. There is no prohibition on scattering the bait around the perimeter of an area and allowing foraging ants to take the bait granules back to their mound.
Baits have a very good environmental safety record but they act slowly. The mounds won’t disappear for several days. I have seen “organic” insecticides that contain pyrethrin and diatomaceous earth. Some (but not all) outdoor insecticides are registered for use in gardens to eliminate soil insects.
Remember that fire ants are attracted to the conditions that make a good garden: soft soil, ample moisture, plus oil-containing seeds and seed pods. A combination of a bait and a mound treatment will suppress the ants for several months but they will eventually come back. A regular inspection for mounds and prompt control measures will keep your ant problems to a minimum.
Controlling Fire Ants in Urban Areas (broken link)
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