Be a Savvy Shopper!
There are many products which claim to take care of fire ants. Remember, however, that there are many different species of fire ants in the world (two species have made it to Hawaii), and not all products will work on all species. Little fire ants (Wasmannia auropunctata) do not build mounds, and they live in cooperative colonies which can span over large areas, in the trees, in rock walls, and in many small crevices and spaces. Their unique ecology requires a special approach to treatment that is based on their behavior and appetites. The Hawaii Ant Lab has been studying LFA in Hawaii for more than a decade, and the University Cooperative Extension service has independently tested many ant products as well. BIISC relies on the results of years of scientific tests from these research bodies to inform our recommendations for treatment of LFA on the Big Island.
There are multiple products which have been shown to be effective in treating for LFA. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that there is no “one-step” method to eradicating an LFA infestation. Colonies can recover after a single application, so any effective plan will involve multiple applications, timed for best impact. Planning and implementing your treatments carefully can lead to a “zero-detection” around your home, and regular surveying every 2-3 months after that can help you find and extinguish outbreaks quickly, before the ants take over.
There are several different types of products that you can use to control LFA. Your path will depend on your landscape, amount of area, and type/amount of vegetation. Be sure to carefully read all the label requirements of any product you choose to use.
A. Contact Pesticides: Substances life Raid, Sevin, and Orange Guard fall into this category. These are made to kill a wide range of insects and bugs, which includes beneficial insects if they also come in contact with the spray. These pesticides are only a short term fix, and are mainly used for keeping ants out of a certain area. Using contact pesticides will not kill the colony, only the ants that come in contact with the spray. These are best used in the house where you just need to get rid of the few that are biting you.
If you have a potted plant that is infested with LFA then creating a drench using contact pesticides is a good way to get rid of the LFA. Homeowners can use Sevin to create a drench. Create the Sevin mixture using the adequate amount of water as instructed on the label. Place the infested potted plant in your lawn or over a screen and bucket. Pour the mixture into the potting media until all of the potting media is completely soaked. The excess mixture will flow into the grass or into the bucket. Use the extra in the bucket to spray onto other plants in your yard to treat common garden pests.
B. Baits: Insect baits are very different from contact sprays or liquids. Baits have a lower toxicity so that they don’t kill the insect outright, and they are disguised as attractive food, encouraging the worker to share the pesticide with the rest of the colony, including queens and developing larvae. There are two different types of action for the recommended LFA products: toxicant and growth regulation.
- Toxicant Baits: These kinds of baits are meant to kill insects a short time after ingestion. Granular baits are normally made of corn grit that is infused with oil and the active ingredient. Worker ants suck the oil out of the corn grit and share the food with the queen and the rest of the colony. Normally worker ants die a few days after taking the bait. Toxicant baits that work on LFA will contain one of these active ingredients: hydramethylnon, indoxacarb, and metaflumizone. They many come in a granular form, good for spreading on lawns or open areas, or they may come in a powder form that can be mixed into the protein gel bait, which can be used in areas of heavy vegetation. Please note while all of these products are safe for mammals and birds, they are not approved for use in all types of vegetation (for instance, some are not labeled for use in fruit trees, while others may be labeled for use in avocado or citrus trees only). Please read the label to ensure you have the right product for your landscape. Below are some examples of toxicant baits:
Amdro Brand (granular bait)
Amdro is a big company and has many different kinds of pesticides. Make sure to read the label to make sure that you’re buying an ant bait.
- Amdro Fire Ant Bait Kills Fire Ants EPA Reg No.73342-1
- Amdro Ant Block Home Perimeter Ant Bait EPA Reg No.73342-2
- Amdro Pro EPA Reg No.241-322
Siesta (granular bait)
EPA Reg No.7969-232
Provaunt (powder, needs to be mixed into a bait)
EPA Reg. No. 100-1487
MaxForce Complete (granular bait)
EPA Reg No.432-1255
Altrevin (granular bait)
EPA Reg No.7969-270
Can be used for citrus and nut trees
Do not get granular baits wet, or they will lose attractiveness to the ants. Try to apply on a day when it appears you will have a few hours of dry weather. The product will decompose (break down) within a couple of days of application. Applications should be 5-6 weeks apart.
You can find more comprehensive information about available baits on this Hawaii Ant lab page.
2. Insect Growth Regulators: Unlike toxicants, IGRs don’t kill the pests, but disrupt their life cycle. These products reduce or stop the egg production of queens, and prevent eggs and larvae from developing, thus weakening the colony. IGRs are not poison and will not kill adult workers (these are the ones that sting). Since IGRs have no impact on non-reproductive ants, the product will take some time to take effect: workers have a lifespan of about 3 months, and the impacts will be seen once the workers start to die off. IGRs contain the active ingredients methoprene or pyriproxyfen. However, only Tango (methoprene) has been approved to be mixed into the gel bait developed by HAL.
Tango (liquid, mix into a bait)
EPA Reg No.2724-420
Can be used on edible crops and fruit trees
The original recipe for the gel bait can be found on the Hawaii Ant Lab website. BIISC has created tango-bait-recipe-cards-with-pics that can be adjusted for the number of acres you have. One gallon of bait will generally treat 1 acre (you may go up to 2 gal/acre for very, very heavy vegetation).
C. Barrier Treatments: Barrier treatments can be used when you have infestations occurring on neighboring properties or stretches of land where control is not taking place. You may want to spray around the base of your house and all entryways to prevent ants from coming in to your house, while you are also baiting the ants outside in your yard to get rid of the colonies.
Do not apply a barrier treatment and bait at the same time in your yard! The barrier may prevent workers from reaching the bait or keep them from returning to the colony, which would be a waste of time and money for you. It’s best to use a barrier treatment once your infestation is under control. If you are using a barrier around your house to prevent ants form coming inside, do not apply on the same day as you bait.
This is the type of product used by pest control companies who spray to prevent ants from entering or forming colonies inside your home. If you would prefer to apply these treatments yourself, know that they come as a granular or a liquid. Unlike bait products, these granulars must be mixed with water to be effective. Products may contain the active ingredients bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, and cypermethrin.
Examples of Barrier Treatments:
Active: Bifenthrin (and zeta-cypermethrin in some products)
- Talstar P (Talstar One) EPA Reg No.279-3206
- Talstar PL Granular EPA Reg No. 279-3168
- Talstar XTRA Granulars EPA Reg. No. 279-9552
Over N Out Advanced Fire Ant Killer
Active: Bifenthrin and zeta-cypermethrin
EPA Reg No.279-3344-71004
Ortho MAX Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules
EPA Reg. No. 239-2681
EPA Reg No. 70506-24
Where to Purchase Products
These locations carry a various selection of pesticides but they might not have all the examples from above.
- Crop Production Service
900 Leilani St, Hilo
430 Kekuanaoa St, Hilo
74-5223 Queen Ka’ahumanu Hwy, Kailua-Kona
- Garden Exchange
300 Keawe St, Hilo
- Farm Supply Cooperative Inc.
60 Holomua St, Hilo
- Pahoa Feed and Fertilizer
15-2754 Pahoa Rd, Pahoa
- Al’s Home and Farm
81-940 Halekii St, Kealakekua
- Farm and Garden
73-5582 Olowalu St, Kailua-Kona
None of the information provided on this page is intended to replace or revise information provided on product labels. Always use the product as directed on the label.