By: Molly Keck
The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), can be a serious problem for anyone planting and caring for a garden in infested parts of Texas and the South. Fire ants are attracted to the abundant moisture, rich organic soil, and the wide variety of foods available to them in gardens.
Fire ants are social insects. Their colonies are usually found outdoors, although some have been found in homes and in other structures. Outdoors, their mounds can be up to 18 inches tall and several feet in diameter. Each colony may contain one or more queen ants and more than 200,000 worker ants. Each queen ant lays as many as 800 eggs per day.
Worker ants forage for food and love to eat greasy or oily materials (see Fire Ant Biology). In gardens, this includes oil-containing seeds, seed pods, and insects (pests and beneficial insects).
They have been reported to feed on okra pods and tunnel into potato tubers, particularly during periods of dry weather (see What do fire ants eat?). The following chart outlines options and strategies available to combat fire ants in vegetable gardens.
This fact sheet was originally written by Nathan Riggs, Extension Agent—IPM as Fire Ant Plan Fact Sheet #004 in 1999 and revised in 2002.This current revision was reviewed by Bastiaan M. Drees, Professor and Extension Entomologist, and Paul Nester, Extension Program Specialist, Harris Co.
Fire Ant Biology www.extension.org/pages/60963/fire-ant-biology
What do fire ants eat? www.extension.org/pages/60922/what-do-fire- ants-eat
Broadcast Baits for Fire Ant Control www.agrilifebookstore.org/product-p/e-628.htm
Natural, Organic, and Alternative Methods for Imported Fire Ant Management u.tamu.edu/ento-009
Are there any home remedies that will kill fire ants? www.extension.org/pages/34814/are-there-any- home-remedies-that-will-kill-fire-ants
Managing Red Imported Fire Ants in Urban Areas www.extension.org/pages/11004/managing- imported-fire-ants-in-urban-areas-printable- version
Fire Ant Control: The Two-Step Method and Other Approaches www.agrilifebookstore.org/product-p/ento-034. htm
Download a printer-friendly version of this publication: Managing Fire Ants in Vegetable Gardens
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