Ah, summer at last – the long days, the pool, and, uh-oh, the stinging fire ants. Nothing puts a damper on playing outside like ants. Sure, it’s funny to watch somebody do the frantic ant dance after accidentally standing in a pile, but it’s no fun when you’re in that disco. Thus, the ants must die!
But surely there’s an easier, inexpensive way to get this done. After many years of fighting the ants, I’ve come to use a simple, instantly effective and very affordable method of controlling these pests.
Here’s how most people fight the ants: Purchase very expensive ant bait poison, spread poison and hope it doesn’t rain, wait a week for ants to die, ants come back, repeat all Summer long. The ants are minimized but you’ve blown a big wad of cash. Literally, you can drop hundreds of dollars per year fighting these buggering bugs (where I live the fire ants are especially bad). So what’s a better way?
First, you’ve got to realize that the ant fight is always a Summer long war. Unless you wipe out every last ant in your state, they’re definitely coming back again and again. So, what we need is a cheap and easy but still effective way to mount our attacks.
The answer is an inexpensive, white powdered chemical called carbaryl, which is sold everywhere as Sevin. Sevin is widely used in the garden, but you probably didn’t know how effective it is against most insects including ants. Almost any six legged creepy crawly will immediately keel over after they touch this stuff. And Sevin is an incredibly safe chemical for people and animals. Fatal to insects but virtually harmless to anything else. People have literally eaten capsules of this stuff regularly with no ill effects (although I don’t let my kids try that). In fact, it is so harmless that Sevin is what flea powder for cats and dogs is typically made from. If it’s safe enough to dump all over FiFi and Fido who regularly lick themselves, it’s a pretty darn safe product. It’s non-toxicity is a big reason why it’s so popular for use among gardeners on their produce. (However, I understand it can kill aquatic life so mix it with water as described below before applying around ponds to keep the breeze from blowing it into the pond.) Best of all, Sevin is cheap and one $10 bag always lasts me all Summer long.
The traditional way to apply Sevin is simply to sprinkle the buggy area with the dust. It makes a great barrier this way and feel free to use it at doorways and windows to your home. This is pretty effective for most bugs but since ants live underground, they can just avoid it. Sevin is a contact killer so they have to touch the poison for it to do its job. Otherwise, the ants can just stay home and avoid it. So, to hit them where it hurts, we need to get the poison down there in contact with them.
The ideal application method is to mix the Sevin with water. A little powder goes a long way so just guesstimate a couple of tablespoons of powder to a quart or liter of water. Now pour the poisonous concoction over the ant hill. Since Sevin is a contact killer, be sure to wet all avenues of escape which creates a barrier around the nest (for example, if the ants are in a crack in the sidewalk, pour not only on the hill but also throughout the crack and especially the ends of the crack so the ants have no escape). Now, rather than just laying atop the mound, the chemical has soaked deep into the ant hill killing off a large majority of the colony. The whole mound is turned into a deadly muddy mess. The remaining ants will rush around to clean up and rebuild but, you guessed it, by touching their wet home, those ants will die now too. Unlike the week wait for bait poison to take effect, the ants are immediately killed and the field is now ready for play. If you don’t like the white residue left on surfaces, you can easily just hose it away later.
The drawback to this method is that it doesn’t always knock out the entire colony. The queen may be too deep for the poison to get to her and the few remaining ants may tunnel a new opening outside the death zone that was formerly their hill and start over. However, they’ll be so depleted in number that they won’t be the threat that they were anymore. Remember, no matter what poison you use, they’ll be back to fight another day. This is just another battle in the Summer long war. The main point is that you kicked their butts in this battle and it only cost you pennies! If you want them completely gone, wait for two days for them to regroup and dig new holes, then re-apply. They absolutely will not be able to withstand your multiple attacks. Since each application only costs next to nothing, you can afford to give Mother Nature a good fight.
I’ve used the same cup and spoon to mix up the Sevin solution for years. So my only expense for killing fire ants all summer long each year is about $10 for a single bag of Sevin. It takes care of them quickly, effectively, and inexpensively. In my yard, the only good ant is a dead ant. The question is whether you want enough money left over from killing them to have steaks on the grill or just hot dogs.