Ant Control of Vegetable Garden With Fire Ants

Besides treating for fire ants in the surrounding lawn, some fire ant baits and products for mound treatments also are labeled for use within the vegetable garden for additional control.

A vegetable garden that is frequently tilled may have fewer fire ant mounds because tilling disturbs the fire ants and causes them to move. However, some mounds will persist, such as those that are too close to the individual vegetable plants to adequately be disturbed by tilling, or in gardens that are heavily mulched for weed control. In these cases fire ant baits or mound treatments may be necessary.


Some fire ant baits can be used both within the garden and on the lawn. These include baits containing the active ingredients spinosad and pyriproxyfen.

For the quickest ant control, gardeners should not wait until fire ant mounds become large, but should apply one of these baits as soon as fire ants are observed in the garden. Be sure to treat the lawn area around the outside of the garden with fire ant bait as well. Worker ants from mounds located in the garden will readily forage for food many feet into the nearby lawn area.

For individual mound treatments with baits, do not put the bait directly on top of the mound, but sprinkle it around each mound. Baits are best applied in the spring and fall when temperatures are moderate (70 to 75 ºF). Apply baits in late afternoon or early morning when the ants are actively foraging. 

You can use a liquid drench to eliminate large mounds that need to be controlled quickly, but be sure to use an insecticide labeled for use in home vegetable gardens. Some insecticide products commonly used in home vegetables include label directions for mixing and applying the product as a mound drench. Products containing the active ingredient spinosad are quite effective as mound drenches, and insect sprays with this active ingredient may be used to control many other pests in the home vegetable garden.  Mound drenches are relatively quick-killing. Check product labels for specific directions. Spinosad can be applied near most vegetable crops for fire ant control.

Use a watering can, sprinkler can, or bucket to mix and apply the drench. Read the label, mix the specified amount of insecticide in water, and pour over the mound. To be successful using an insecticidal drench, enough water must be applied to thoroughly soak the mound. Depending on the size of the mound, this ranges from one to two gallons of pesticide solution.Permethrin is listed for use as a spray insecticide on some vegetables, and the labels of some products will mention fire ant control as a drench. Acephate can be used to treat fire ant mounds in home lawnsScience Articles, but it is not for use around vegetable plants. It is a systemic insecticide that is readily absorbed by plant roots and will move up into leaves and fruit of vegetables. 

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