Like other creepy crawlies, fire ants can wreak havoc on your yard and find their way into your 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 designed to eliminate these pests from your entire property, inside and out. Some of these insecticides are designed to wipe out the entire colony by infecting worker ants, which then carry the toxins back to the mound, killing the queen and eliminating the threat. Some are appropriate for indoor use, while others are best for treating outdoor ant mounds or even entire yards.
With so many pesticides on the market, it can be difficult to decide which will be the safest and most effective for your situation. It’s especially important to understand how they work and where they should be used since many of these products contain chemicals that could harm humans and kill pets. Read on to find the best fire ant killer for your property and to find out why the products below are some of the most effective.
- BEST OVERALL: Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer
- BEST BAIT: Amdro 100099307 Block Perimeter Ant Bait Granules
- BEST GEL: Syngenta Advion Ant Gel 4 Tubes 30 Grams
- BEST FOR LAWNS: Ortho Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules
- BEST PET-SAFE: Orange Guard 101 Home Pest Control
Types of Fire Ant Killers
Fire ant killers come in various forms, including granule baits, powders/dusts, sprays, gels, and indoor baits. Each type takes a different approach to deal with the fire ant population plaguing your property. Choosing the right type is crucial to your effort to rid your property of fire ants.
Granule baits come in a container that lets you apply the pesticide directly on the lawn or ant mound. They rely on the social aspect of ants to wipe out entire 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 whole colony dies.
Some granules are designed to control the fire ant population in a large area. Using a drop spreader, you can distribute the granules throughout the yard, killing existing colonies while preventing new colonies from taking up residence in the yard.
While granules don’t offer the instant gratification of sprays or gels, they are effective at removing entire 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 all the ants in the colony in about a day.
An ant spray can come in an aerosol can or bottle. When released, it kills on contact. It’s a good option for indoor use or when looking for a fast 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 strategically place the poison on cracks and holes that ants use to access the house. Since they allow you 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, then return to the colony where the bait infects other ants. Baits usually kill on a time delay, giving the worker ants time to return to the colony and spread the poison before expiring.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Fire Ant Killer
The pesticide type, safety, and the 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.
Type of Fire Ant Killer
It’s crucial to choose the right fire ant killer for the area you need to treat. Granules, dusts, and powders work well on individual ant mounds on the exterior of your home, while sprays, baits, and gels work well for indoor use. Pesticides designed to be used with drop spreaders are the best option for treating entire yards. If you have 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. It’s crucial that you choose a product that works best for your household. With that in mind, those with pets should look for pesticides that are pet-friendly.
Pesticides take different amounts of time to become effective. While some products kill fire ants on contact, others may take hours or days to start killing and may need up to two weeks to wipe out a colony. Contact killers provide instant gratification, but products that work on a delay attract worker ants, which then bring the poison back to the colony and the queen, eradicating entire infestations. Make sure to read and follow the product’s instructions to know how long you’ll need to wait for results.
Our Top Picks
Though they use different active ingredients and strategies for attacking fire ants, the pesticides below are some of the most effective and come from some of the best-known names in pest control.
Those with recurring fire ant problems might want to keep a pesticide supply on hand to nip new colonies in the bud before they spread. Thanks to its ability to treat up to 162 mounds with a single 12-ounce bottle, this fire ant killer from Ortho is one of the most affordable ways to manage your fire ant problems. One advantage of this product is a convenient design that makes application safe and easy.
As with other dust-based products, simply apply the dust to the entire mound, then allow the ants to move in and out of the colony, tracking the poison inside with them. This product uses acephate, which kills the ants and their queen within a few days. Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer is safe for outdoor use only.
- Single bottle for multiple uses
- Easy to apply
- Reduced odor
Create a barrier of protection against ants around your home with this ant bait from Amdro. Due to their ability to kill the queen, baits are among the most effective means for destroying an entire ant colony. As with other bait products, Amdro attracts worker ants, which carry the granules back to the colony, where the queen is infected, killing the whole colony in two weeks.
Amdro, which uses the pesticide hydramethylnon, takes several days to kill an ant after being consumed. This allows enough time for worker ants to carry the poison food back to the queen. Amdro can be applied around the entire perimeter of the home to create a protective barrier that lasts up to three months. The bait comes in a 12-ounce bottle (enough to cover 540 linear feet) and is applied by sprinkling it in a 1-foot-wide strip around the home.
- Targets the queen
- Covers a large area
- May require continued applications to be effective
Serious ant infestations require a pesticide with industrial strength—such as Indoxacarb, the active ingredient in Advion’s Ant Gel. This product comes in four 1-ounce tubes, but don’t let the small amount fool you: The gel is highly effective, and a little goes a long way.
Not only is Advion powerful, but it also features a small, targeted applicator that lets you treat small crevices inside the home where ants commonly enter. Worker ants consume the gel and carry it back to their colonies on their bodies, poisoning other ants and eliminating the colony in about two weeks.
- Industrial-strength formula
- Small amounts go a long way
- Works on several ant species
- Gel can crystallize in dry environments
Fire ants can pop up anywhere in your yard at any time. To prevent that from happening, consider treating the entire yard with these broadcast granules from Ortho. One 11.5-pound bag will treat up to 5,000 square feet, preventing fire ants from establishing a colony on your property. This product works with a standard drop or broadcast spreader, allowing you to distribute it evenly and quickly.
This product works as part of a two-step system with Ortho’s Orthene. First apply Orthene to kill the entire mound in minutes. Then apply the granules, which use bifenthrin, a pesticide that can remain in the soil for a long period of time. The broadcast granules prevent the start of new mounds for up to six months.
- Protects for up to 6 months
- Treats a large area
- Fast acting
- Requires second product for best results
- Strong odor
If you have pets, most pesticides simply aren’t an option for use inside or outside your home. This pet-safe pesticide from Orange Guard is a great option for those with pets and young children. This product uses a natural extract from orange peels to kill ants on contact while repelling newcomers from visiting your yard.
The extract is safe for humans but lethal to ants, dissolving the coating around their exoskeletons; it kills on contact and continues to repel would-be invaders for several weeks. Spray it on any hard surface; it won’t leave any residue, and, unlike pesticides that have a distinct chemical odor, Orange Guard leaves a refreshing citrus scent. This product can be used indoors or outdoors as a perimeter spray to ward off pests.
- Kills ants instantly
- Natural ingredients
- Pleasant citrus scent
- Can be used indoors and outdoors
- May require continued application
For an odor-free fire ant killer with a simple and effective application, check out Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer. For shoppers looking for a way to prevent an infestation from happening again in the future, consider investing in the Ortho Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules, which can be scattered outdoors and provide long-lasting protection.
How We Chose the Best Fire Ant Killers
In our research for the top picks in the fire ant killer category, we found a range of products that meet the various needs that shoppers are usually looking for when trying to eliminate these nasty pests. These products include dust and granule options that require patience as the ants have to pick up the chemicals and take them back to the hive to be effective, and there are some solutions that can immediately kill any ant that comes into contact with it. Our list of recommendations provides several of these options to choose from, all from reputable brands that are known for their proven effectiveness.
In addition to these more powerful—and potentially harmful—chemical solutions, we have also made sure to suggest an option for shoppers that’s safe to use around children or pets, and we’ve included in our top picks products for use both indoors and outdoors.
If you have lingering questions regarding how an ant killer works or whether it’s safe for your family, read on for answers to some of the most common questions.
Q. How does fire ant killer work?
Fire ant killers either work by killing the ants instantly or by killing them over a period of 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. There are some eco-friendly pesticides that are safe for use around pets and humans.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series, including This Old House and Bob Vila’s Home Again, he popularized and became synonymous with “do it yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today in the expert yet accessible home advice at the heart of BobVila.com. Today, the Bob Vila editorial team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
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.