For many of you lucky farmers and gardeners out there, you have no idea what a fire ant hill is. Neither did I until I moved south. They are the nastiest of creatures, and their bites (yes, plural) are brutal! You can feel them bite you, then the bites itch for days on end, and the bite marks last for weeks (unless you put apple cider vinegar on them). The hills pop up almost overnight, too – especially after a rain. And the worst thing is when they decide to place their ant hills right in your garden, among your crops, where ant poisons are not an option. What are you to do??
Last year, I wrote about my quest to kill fire ants. (For more info about fire ants, see I Want to Be an Ant Killer.) I’m still on that quest. Last year, I used neem oil to kill fire ant hills in and around my raised beds. The neem was effective – even if it just caused the ants to move elsewhere (and get them away from my food) – but the amount of neem oil I used became expensive. Plus, it took up the neem oil I needed for other things. So, this year I started searching for another method, and I think I found it.
Introducing….orange oil. Yes, that wonderful-smelling essential oil that is a safe cleaning product for us humans is actually deadly to fire ants because it dissolves their exoskeletons! The key is drenching the fire ant mound sufficiently to not only kill the worker ants but also kill the queen – so the ant hill will not be recreated or moved elsewhere. And, the orange oil is safe to use around plants.
There is a product on the market called Orange Guard that you can use to kill fire ants, but then you’d be spending your money on that – over and over again. It’s easier and cheaper to make your own fire ant drench.
FIRE ANT DRENCH
- 6 ounces orange oil (I used Medina brand – a 32 oz bottle will make 5 drenches)
- 1 Tablespoon molasses
- Large squirt of dish liquid
- 1 gallon water
1. Mix the orange oil, molasses and dish soap into a gallon jug of water. Shake well.
2. Pour the entire gallon onto the ant hill (preferably before the hill gets too large), drenching well. Be sure you do it when all the ants are in the mound. They prefer mild temperatures to go “out and about,” so they’ll hide in their mounds in the middle of a summer day or in the cool of spring/autumn mornings and afternoons.
This past Sunday afternoon, I poured this mixture on a mound growing near my front door walkway where I planted herbs (and flowers). I wanted to try the mixture first on a small mound.
Before I poured it, I lightly ran a stick across the mound and dozens of ants rushed out. I figured that meant the ants were home. A one-gallon application drenched the mound quite well. About fifteen minutes after I drenched the mound, I noticed a handful of ants moving around but very slowly. It looked like they were moving in slow-motion. Hmmm….
Two days later (last night), the mound has not been recreated! I took a stick and stuck it into several places where the mound had been, and I saw absolutely no ants! I think it’s a success!
Next, I’m going to drench the large fire ant hill in my raspberry bed (shown in the main picture at the top of this article). I’ll update this post with an “after” picture next week.
Do you have fire ants in your yard or garden? Have you tried an orange oil drench?