Like other creepy crawlies, fire ants can wreak havoc on a yard and home. But unlike merely annoying insects, fire ants are dangerous. Their painful bites can cause welts or even life-threatening allergic reactions.
Luckily, there are plenty of products on the market to eliminate these pests from the entire property, inside and out. But with so many pesticides on the market, it can be difficult to decide which will be the safest and most effective.
Read on to learn about some of the best fire ant killers and why the products below are some of the most effective.
- BEST OVERALL: Cedarcide Natural Cedar Oil Outdoor Bug Control
- RUNNER-UP: Orange Guard Fire Ant Control
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Safer Brand Diatomaceous Earth
- BEST CONTROL GRANULES: EcoSmart Insect Killer Granules
- BEST GEL: Syngenta Advion Ant Gel
- BEST SPRAY: Mighty Mint Insect and Pest Control Peppermint Oil
- BEST FOR LAWNS: Wondercide EcoTreat Outdoor Pest Control Spray
- BEST FOR HOME: Harris Ant Killer Spray
- BEST PET-SAFE: Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under Insect Spray
Before You Buy Fire Ant Killer
Before purchasing a pesticide to take care of an ant problem, first consider that many products, including organic ones, can inflict collateral damage by killing beneficial insects as well as pests. With that in mind, try using a repellent that keeps insects from invading a property before turning to more lethal methods.
Also consider personal safety when dealing with fire ants, which deliver a painful and venomous bite that can cause potentially deadly allergic reactions to some humans. If family members are allergic to insect bites, consider hiring a professional to ensure the threat is eliminated.
How We Chose the Best Fire Ant Killers
We researched the most sought-after fire ant killers in their respective categories and discovered that the best options are determined by their type, ingredients, compatibility with multiple insects, response time, and other special features included by top brands.
Our selections come in dust, granule, gel, and spray forms. These fast-acting products are capable of killing fire ants on contact or eliminating an entire colony within a few days. Many also serve as repellents that prevent ants from coming back, lasting for weeks after application.
In making our selections, we went with products that use natural active ingredients, such as essential oils and diatomaceous earth. Unlike pesticides that use harsh chemicals, products that use organic ingredients don’t leave a damaging footprint on the environment after serving their purpose. In fact, many of our selections have ingredients that are listed as safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Many of the products we chose offer complete pest protection with their ability to kill a variety of insect pests. Finally, each of these top picks comes with a large enough quantity of pesticides to eliminate multiple infestations.
Our Top Picks
Though they use different active ingredients and strategies to control ants, the pesticides below are some of the most effective and come from some of the best-known names in pest control. This list includes products that use ingredients that are environmentally friendly and safe for use around people and animals.
Cedarcide sets itself apart from the many other fire ant killers on the market with a formula that’s very effective at eliminating fire ants while using only environmentally friendly ingredients. Per the product name, Cedarcide uses essential oil from cedarwood along with lemongrass oil to both kill and repel fire ants. Cedarcide comes in a concentrated form and includes a separate sprayer that attaches to a standard garden hose.
While Cedarcide is one of the more expensive ant control options, it has excellent coverage. When properly diluted, 4 ounces of Cedarcide is capable of treating about 5,000 square feet of yard. Cedarcide comes in quart and gallon sizes and is also available in granules. For best results, apply monthly.
- Type: Hose sprayer or granules
- Active ingredient(s): Cedarwood oil, lemongrass oil
- Insect compatibility: Fleas, ticks, mites, ants, mosquitoes, wasps, roaches
- Response time: Kills on contact and repels for up to 1 month
- Concentrated form can cover a large area
- Hose sprayer included for application
- Safe for use around animals and people
- Acts as pesticide and repellent
Get the Cedarcide fire ant killer on Cedarcide.com.
With an eco-friendly formula designed specifically for treating fire ant mounds, Orange Guard is one of the best options for taking out these dangerous pests. Orange Guard consists of orange peel extract, which the FDA includes on its list of substances that are generally recognized as safe, and it’s approved for use in organic products by the OMRI. However, the company says to avoid contact with eyes and to keep pets away from the wet treatment sites.
To take out an ant’s nest, simply mix three parts water to one part Orange Guard in a spray bottle and saturate the mound. A 1-gallon bottle is enough to take out about eight mounds. Orange Guard can also be used as a barrier repellent by applying it around the perimeter of a yard. Just be wary when applying Orange Guard to the lawn as it can damage grass when mixed at full strength.
- Type: Concentrated liquid
- Active ingredient(s): d-Limonene (orange peel extract)
- Insect compatibility: Ants, fire ants
- Response time: Kills on contact and repels for up to 4 weeks
- Safe for use around pets and other animals
- Concentrate formula makes an ample amount of pesticide
- Also works as a fire ant barrier
Get the Orange Guard fire ant killer on GardenWorms.com.
With its ability to kill a broad range of pests, including ants, diatomaceous earth (DE) is one of the more versatile pest control products on the market. Safer Brand DE consists of the tiny fossilized remains of aquatic organisms. And, while that may sound like an odd active ingredient, it’s very effective. Each tiny particle of DE has razor-sharp edges capable of slicing through the tough exoskeleton of ants, dehydrating them.
Safer Brand DE is formulated for use as a pesticide (never use DE intended for pool filters). In addition to ants, DE will also take out a host of other pests, including cockroaches, fleas, and bed bugs. To eliminate a fire ant mound, sprinkle DE around the perimeter and over the top of the mound. Load the DE into a puffer bottle and puff powder into the nest to reach the queen ant. While Safer Brand DE is an environmentally friendly pesticide—it’s approved by OMRI—it can harm lungs if inhaled, so wear a dust mask when applying it.
- Type: Powder
- Active ingredient(s): Diatomaceous earth
- Insect compatibility: Ants, fleas, roaches, silverfish, earwigs, and bed bugs
- Response time: Kills within 48 hours of contact
- Environmentally friendly formula
- Kills broad range of pests
- Lasts indefinitely as long as it’s kept dry
- Can take up to 2 days to kill
Get the Safer Brand fire ant killer on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
A safe formula makes this granule pest killer an ideal option for taking out fire ants in a yard frequented by people and pets. EcoSmart’s active ingredients include clove and thyme oils, so the formula won’t harm the environment or create a hazard for people and animals. Users can apply it using a handheld or wheeled spreader, making it easy to distribute around a yard.
Each 10-pound bag is enough to cover about 5,000 square feet, and treatments last up to 4 weeks. Fire ant mounds usually require two applications of the granules to destroy the entire colony. EcoSmart is also versatile. In addition to ants, it will also kill ticks, crickets, fleas, and flies.
- Type: Granules
- Active ingredient(s): Clove oil, thyme oil
- Insect compatibility: Ant, ticks, crickets, fleas, and flies
- Response time: Begins killing on contact and lasts up to 4 weeks
- Safe ingredients make it ideal for yards with people and pets
- Large coverage area
- Easy to apply quickly with spreader
- Kills multiple pests
- May take 2 applications to eliminate a fire ant mound
Get the EcoSmart fire ant killer on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
While other ant killers use a shock-and-awe approach that typically involves inundating the ant mound with a spray, powder, or granules, Syngenta’s Advion Ant Gel uses precision tactics. Its syringe applicator allows users to apply small amounts of the gel in crevices and cracks where fire ants tend to be spotted indoors. Once a worker ant ingests the gel, it returns to the colony to share it, killing the colony along with the queen, though it can take several weeks to eliminate the entire mound.
While Advion’s active ingredient, Indoxacarb, is not as safe as active ingredients found in organic ant killers, only a small amount of Advion is needed to take out a colony. Therefore, it has a minimal impact on the environment.
- Type: Gel
- Active ingredient(s): Indoxacarb
- Insect compatibility: Ants
- Response time: Can take several weeks
- Is effective even in small amounts
- Can take out an entire colony
- Easy to apply
- Can take several weeks to destroy a colony
- Harsh chemical active ingredient
Get the Syngenta fire ant killer on Amazon.
For homes with children and pets running around, preventing fire ants with natural ingredients is essential. For protection inside and out, rely on the Mighty Mint Insect and Pest Control Peppermint Oil. This easy spray-on formula is 100 percent plant-based, with peppermint essential oil for preventing infestations of fire ants, beetles, carpenter ants, mosquitoes, and many more.
The 1-gallon quantity of this product is extra concentrated and comes with an easy-to-use spray trigger. To use, simply add 16 ounces of water to every 1 ounce of concentrate and then spray. For a stronger solution, simply apply more product.
- Type: Spray
- Active ingredient(s): Peppermint oil
- Insect compatibility: Fire ants, beetles, carpenter ants, and more
- Response time: Unlisted
- 100 percent plant-based formula
- Easy-to-use spray trigger
- Works on a variety of insects
- Works indoors and outdoors
- Ample quantity provided
- Requires dilution before use
- Deters but does not kill fire ants
Get the Mighty Mint fire ant deterrent at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Target.
Wondercide is easy to apply over broad areas and uses safe active ingredients that make it ideal for lawns that have people and pet traffic. This ant killer uses a mix of cedarwood oil, sesame oil, and sodium lauryl sulfate to kill and repel pests. Wondercide comes in a 32-fluid-ounce container, which is enough to treat lawns spanning 5,000 square feet. It includes a hose attachment for application, and this hose sprayer includes a dial that allows the user to control the concentration of the mix.
In addition to ants, this versatile pesticide will also control mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Wondercide is a longer-lasting repellent than other pesticides, with a single treatment lasting for up to 6 weeks.
- Type: Spray
- Active ingredient(s): Cedarwood oil, sesame oil, sodium lauryl sulfate
- Insect compatibility: Mosquitoes, ants, fleas, ticks, gnats
- Response time: Begins killing on contact; lasts for up to 4 weeks
- Uses essential oils as opposed to harsh chemicals
- Attaches to garden hose for easy application
- Sprayer allows for adjustments to concentration
- Covers large area
Get the Wondercide fire ant killer on Amazon.
With active ingredients that include natural plant oils from clove and cottonseed, Harris Ant Killer Spray is a safe and effective way to eliminate fire ants that may have found their way into a home. It kills ants within 30 minutes of contact with it. Plus, Harris Ant Killer Spray won’t stain baseboards or flooring and leaves a pleasing scent with no strong chemical odor.
In addition to red ants, this spray pesticide will also take out pharaoh, black, and Argentine ants. The product, which comes in a 20-ounce spray bottle, is safe for use indoors and also serves as an effective outdoor perimeter fire ant treatment for preventing ants from getting inside the home.
- Type: Spray
- Active ingredient(s): Clove oil, cottonseed oil
- Insect compatibility: Red ants, black ants, pharaoh ants, Argentine ants
- Response time: Kills within 30 minutes
- Uses natural active ingredients
- Spray bottle makes it easy to apply
- Kills wide variety of ants
- Starts killing in 30 minutes or less
- Does not prevent ants from returning later
Get the Harris fire ant killer on Amazon.
Pet owners can apply this colorfully named insect spray indoors or outdoors without risk to Fluffy or Spot thanks to its use of nontoxic, animal-friendly ingredients. While Dr. Killigan’s may be a bit pricier than other insect sprays, it doesn’t use harsh chemicals. Its pest-killing ingredients consist of a mix of soybean, clove, and castor oils with sodium benzoate.
The spray is designed to kill bugs on contact, including mosquitoes, roaches, ticks, and silverfish along with ants. In addition to being safe for use around pets, Dr. Killigan’s also leaves behind a pleasing aroma of cinnamon and clove. The 24-ounce spray bottle’s nozzle has settings for spray or stream, making it easy to apply.
- Type: Spray
- Active ingredient(s): Soybean, clove, castor, sodium benzoate
- Insect compatibility: Mosquitoes, roaches, ticks, silverfish, and ants
- Response time: Kills on contact
- Pet-friendly mix of essential oils
- 2 spray settings to kill different types of insects
- Easy to apply
- Doesn’t work as long-term pest control
- Expensive compared to other pesticide sprays
Get the Dr. Killigan’s fire ant killer on Amazon.
Or, DIY Your Own Fire Ant Killer
While products available online or at a local home improvement store are one solution for controlling fire ants, they can also be expensive. Those looking for an affordable option can make an effective fire ant killer with boiled water and a broomstick.
Bring 2 to 3 gallons of water to a boil. Use a broom handle to poke a hole deep into the nest where the queen resides. Slowly dump the boiling water into the hole to take out the queen, dooming the nest. Not keen on boiling water? You can also create your own pesticide by mixing one part dish soap and two parts water, then pouring it into the hole.
There are other common fire ant killer options, including BioAdvanced Fire Ant Killer Dust and Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer. However, they do not meet our sustainability guidelines and are not recommended in our top picks due to their toxic chemicals that are not safe to use around kids or pets. With its use of cedar oil as an active ingredient, the Cedarcide fire ant killer is a pesticide that’s both effective at wiping out a fire ant hill while also being safe for the environment, people, and pets. Those looking for a budget- and eco-friendly alternative may want to consider the Safer Brand fire ant killer, which will take out fire ants along with a host of other six-legged pests.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Fire Ant Killer
The pesticide type, safety, and amount of time it takes for the product to eliminate these insects are the most important factors to consider when shopping for a fire ant killer.
Fire ant killers either have a delayed onset or work instantly depending on the active ingredient. For serious infestations that include daily sightings of 10 or more ants in a given area, both an instant killer and a delayed-onset poison to target the nest can knock out the problem.
Sodium tetraborate decahydrate (simply known as borax), hydramethylnon, and fipronil have delayed onset, allowing ants to gather the poison and return it to the colony and distribute it. They also signal other ants to go retrieve more poison.
Delayed-onset ant killers poison within 24 to 72 hours; however, the length of time needed to destroy a nest depends on poison placement, nest population, and many other factors. In general, delayed-onset poisons should be used continually until the bait is no longer being taken and ants are no longer seen.
The chemical deltamethrin is among active ingredients that work immediately by interfering with ants’ central nervous systems.
While there are plenty of chemical-based pesticides that are very effective at killing off fire ants, many also cause problems with the environment after they run off into the soil. Hydramethylnon, a common chemical in many pesticides, is lethal to freshwater fish. Deltamethrin, another common pesticide, is very toxic to honey bees, one of the most important insects in a healthy ecosystem.
Luckily, there are plenty of environmentally friendly options that use natural ingredients to kill fire ants. Natural alternative d-Limonene, which consists of orange peel extract, deteriorates the coating of the respiratory system, causing ants to suffocate. Various essential oils, including cedar, clove, and peppermint, will kill ants by drying out their exoskeleton while also serving as a repellent.
DE is also a very effective organic option. It consists of tiny fossilized marine organisms that can slice through ant exoskeletons, dehydrating them.
Application and Placement
It’s crucial to choose the right fire ant killer for the area that needs to be treated. Granules, dusts, and powders work well on individual visible and hidden mounds on the exterior of the home, while sprays, baits, and gels work well indoors. Pesticides designed to be used with drop spreaders are the best option for treating entire yards. For those with pets or small children, only use a fire ant killer that is nontoxic to animals and humans.
Insecticides are hazardous and have the potential to sicken humans and kill animals. Consumers must choose a product that works best for their households. With that in mind, those with pets should look for pet-friendly pesticides.
Pesticides take different amounts of time to become effective. Although some products kill fire ants on contact, others may take hours or days to start killing and may need up to 2 weeks to wipe out a colony.
Contact killers provide instant gratification, but products that work on a delay attract worker ants, which then take the poison back to the colony and the queen, eradicating entire infestations. Be sure to read and follow the product’s instructions to know how long of a wait is necessary for results.
Types of Fire Ant Killers
Fire ant killers come in various forms, including granule fire ant baits, powders/dusts, sprays, gels, and indoor baits. Each type takes a different approach to dealing with the fire ant population plaguing a residential property. Choosing the right type is crucial for ridding a property of fire ants.
Granule fire ant baits come in a container that lets users apply the pesticide directly on the lawn or ant mound. They rely on the social aspect of ants to wipe out colonies. Worker ants find the granules and take them back to the nest where the colony consumes them. Once the queen and larvae are poisoned, the colony dies.
Some granules are designed to control the fire ant population in a large area. Using a drop spreader, users can distribute the granules throughout the yard, killing existing colonies while preventing new colonies from taking up residence in the yard.
Although granules don’t offer the instant gratification of sprays or gels, they are effective at removing colonies. And because they hold up even when wet, they are a good option for outdoor use.
Similar to granules, dusts and powders come in receptacles that allow the user to sprinkle them directly onto a colony. Dusts typically work in conjunction with water.
Sprinkle the dust over and around the colony, then lightly water the area to allow the pesticide to soak into the ground, infiltrating and killing the ants in the colony in about a day.
An ant spray can come in an aerosol can or bottle. When released, it kills fire ants fast. It’s a good option for indoor use or when looking for a fast-acting option for killing large numbers of ants. Keep in mind that a spray may not be effective at killing the queen, which generally does not appear outside of the nest.
Gels come in small tubes that resemble medical syringes. This packaging allows the user to place the poison strategically on cracks and holes that ants use to access the house. Because they allow buyers to execute a precise attack on ants, they are a good option for indoor use.
Indoor baits consist of an insecticide mixed with a substance, typically sugar-based, that attracts ants. The baits are usually enclosed in a small container. Ants enter the container, collect the bait, and then return to the colony where the bait infects other ants. Fire ant baits usually kill on a time delay, giving the worker ants time to return to the colony and spread the poison before expiring.
For those who have lingering questions regarding how an ant killer works or whether it’s safe for the family, read on for answers to some of the most common questions.
Q. How does fire ant killer work?
Fire ant killers work by either killing the ants instantly or killing them over hours or days. With baits, once the ants consume or are covered in the bait, the active ingredient affects their digestive system, killing them over time. Pesticides that take longer to kill allow the worker ants to transport the poison back to the colony and the queen. Sprays that kill ants instantly attack the insect’s nervous system.
Q. How do you apply fire ant killer?
Outdoor fire ant killer is applied by sprinkling pesticide granules over the fire ant mound and in a 3-foot diameter around it. Ant killer should be applied when the lawn is moist to allow the granules to soak into the mound and surrounding soil.
If the soil is dry, the area should be lightly irrigated after application. Broadcast ant killer is spread using a standard drop spreader, while indoor sprays are applied to gaps and cracks that ants use to enter the home.
Q. Are fire ant killers safe around vegetables and pets?
Most fire ant killers are toxic to animals and humans and are therefore not safe around vegetables or pets. Some eco-friendly pesticides are safe for use around pets and humans.
Tony Carrick is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, landscaping, and design. A recipient of a degree in journalism and a Master of Arts in English, he spent ten years writing for a variety of local newspapers and business publications before becoming an English teacher. Mr. Carrick now works as a freelance writer from his home in North Carolina. When he isn’t furiously typing away on his laptop or working on his latest home improvement project, he enjoys spending time with his family and cycling through the beautiful North Carolina countryside.