Landscape Design vs. Fire Ants
There is no surefire method for preventing fire ants from moving on to your property. However, we are learning that the more settled a yard becomes in a horticultural sense, the less attractive that area is to fire ants. They have a distinct preference for disturbed soils, so the less disturbed soil you have on your property the better.
A healthy turf will have a massive root system going down into the soil from 6 to 12 inches deep. A single perennial ryegrass plant will have over 300 miles of microscopic roots if it is in good soil and is well care-for. Consequently, one of the best defenses against fire ants or even regular ants on your property is to do everything you can to have a healthy lawn. The ants just don’t want to have to fight their way through that jungle of roots to get a colony established.
Fire ants tend to avoid areas covered with sand or pea gravel. So having children’s play equipment set in a large sand box or using two or three inches of pea gravel for paths and walkways can be effective repellants in areas frequented by the family and friends.
Fire ants tend to avoid shade. So yards with lots of trees and permanent ground covers underneath as less attractive to fire ants. Gardens and lawns needing constant attention and disruption from mowing and digging are prime targets for the fire ant.
Attracting Beneficials Works Here Too
While it might seem that the fire ant might be the king of the insect jungle; not so. Fire ants are preyed upon by lots of other insects found in a healthy home landscape including predatory ground beetles, earwigs, spiders, mites, and many microbes. Dragonflies, other ants, birds, lizards, spiders and toads can kill newly mated fire ant queens.
Currently, the best method for biological control is preservation and encouragement of native ant species that compete with fire ants for territory and resources. All the more reason to avoid wiping out the ant population in your home landscape.