Are you searching for a less toxic way to deal with an infestation of the red imported fire ant?
The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), can be a potent pest in your home and garden. They can make large nests that affect the form of turf and can make mowing a hassle. If these ants establish colonies in turfgrass they can end up invading your home and can disturb compost piles, gardens, and even electrical equipment. Not to mention that their sting can be quite painful.
Thankfully, Texas A&M University has invented a method to eliminate this common pest that can be applied organically. The method is affectionately called the “Texas Two Step” and it will give you long term ant control without harmful chemicals.
In 1997, the Texas legislature approved a $2.5 million grant for red imported fire ant research. The research was conducted in the years 1998 and 1999 through the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas A&M University System, the University of Texas, Texas Tech University, and the Texas Department of Agriculture. The Texas Two Step was one of the results of the research.
Later meetings with the National Organic Standards Board helped approve an organic version of the Two Step program, using spinosad as the active ingredient for the first step, and products with a citrus oil extract for step two.
With the Two Step technique, you will first widely broadcast an organically approved, non-toxic bait insecticide, and then later treat the individual mounds with step two.
During Step One, you will spread the organic fire ant killing bait around the affected area in the late summer or early fall. The idea is that the ants will carry the bait back to the nest and when the queen ant consumes the bait, she will either become infertile or die. (You can also put a tablespoon or so of the bait on and around any mounds at any time of the year to improve effectiveness.)
Step Two involves applying a non-toxic, organic liquid insecticide product to each mound to kill any remaining ants that were not killed by the bait.
The process is easy, but before you decide to do the Texas Two-Step, here are some basic guidelines:
The Two Step is most effective if your yard has a large number of red ant nests, so check your yard for a full blown red ant infestation, and make sure that there aren’t colonies of native ant species this treatment may affect.
If you have just a couple nests, you are probably okay using just one type of the organic fire ant controls that we sell. Either one of the products is effective own its own.
Guidelines for Step One:
First, make sure to apply the bait when your grass is dry and will remain dry for several days. Use a brand new container of bait and apply it when the ants are most active.
Fertilome Fire Ant Killer with Spinosad is the Step One organic fire ant killing product. A container of Fertilome can treat up to 10,000 swuare feet, and unlike other dry granular treatments, you don’t need to add water. Remember that late summer or early fall is the best time to apply the bait as a broad deterrent, although you can put it directly onto mounds at any time of the year.
Guidelines for Step Two:
After applying Step One, if you choose, you can actually wait through the winter for the bait to take effect. Then, early the following spring you can apply Step Two.
For treating the individual nests, you can use the non-toxic, organic liquid Orange Guard Fire Ant Killer. Orange Guard is a natural citrus-based liquid fire ant killer that works wonders on individual ant nests. An extra advantage is that the liquid will leave little residue, and is non-toxic to humans or pets. It even smells good, like oranges.
An alternative organic treatment for Step Two is to pour boiling water into the fire ant nest. This method can be dangerous though, as hot water can cause scalding. Also, this is not quite as effective as the above mentioned products as it may not kill all of the ants and they may relocate to form another nest. Boiling water can also damage grass and plants surrounding the mound.
A note on the products: Fertilome and Orange Guard are not considered dangerous to other plants, pets or to your family, so you will not have to worry about any negative health effects. Orange Guard is also quite effective against aphids, spider mites and other garden pests. Greenlight will also help with other pests such as ticks, crickets, fleas, and grasshoppers.
For more information on the Texas Two Step, check out the following web site from Texas A&M University.