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How to Kill Fire Ants in the Garden

By Melynda Sorrels ; Updated September 21, 2017

With all the time and effort you put into your garden, there’s just no way to be happy about fire ants marching through it. Since they’re never just passing through, their presence poses a big problem for you and your garden. Don’t be fooled by their small size—fire ants are aggressive and can leave a lasting sting for those who aren’t careful. With a little creativity and caution, you can send these little invaders packing.

Mix dish soap into a bucket of water and pour sudsy water around your garden wherever you see fire ants. You may have to repeat this process periodically to convince the fire ants to move elsewhere.

Slice oranges in half or in quarters and place them around your garden. The ants will climb all over it to gather food. When birds flying overhead see the oranges they will gladly swoop down and pick them up, taking many ants with them.

Cornmeal is said to kill fire ants when they eat it. Try sprinkling cornmeal in your garden wherever you see fire ants.

Use a long-handled shovel to scoop up a large piece of the fire ants' nest—ants and all—and fling it downwind as far as possible. This is most effectively done on an afternoon when you know the temperature will be below freezing during the night. If it’s summer, fling the ants into a hole in a shady spot and place a piece of dry ice on it. Fill the hole with fresh soil and pack it down with the shovel. Any ants trapped underground will freeze, and those left above ground will have a difficult time getting back to their nest.

Pour boiling or scalding water into the fire ant mound and stir it all around with a long-handled shovel to make sure the water goes deep into the earth. This may take more than one attempt to be effective.


Things You Will Need

  • Dish soap
  • Oranges
  • Cornmeal
  • Shovel
  • Dry ice


  • To avoid fire ant stings, dress appropriately. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and tuck your pants into your shoes or boots when scooping, stirring, or flinging ants.


  • Wear heavy gloves when handling dry ice.
  • Don't fling fire ants upwind.

About the Author


Melynda Sorrels spent 10 years in the military working in different capacities of the medical field, including dental assisting, health services administration, decontamination and urgent medical care. Awarded the National Guardsman’s Medal for Lifesaving efforts in 2002, Sorrels was also a nominee for a Red Cross Award and a certified EMT-B for four years.