By Owen Jones

Fire ants live in many of the hotter regions of the world and in most countries and in the majority of languages, from Thai to French and English, the word 'fire' is part of its name. This is because the feeling of pain after having been stung, not bitten, by one of these ants is like the pain suffered from a burn.

Most ants that cause pain to humans bite first and then spray acid into the cut, but fire ants bite in order to get a hold and then sting with the abdomen. The substance that they inject is an alkaloid venom which is agonizing to humans.

It is also an insecticide and some observers think that the nurse-worker fire ants spray this toxin over the eggs to prevent infection. Fire ants are readily distinguished by their red to copper-brown heads and dark to black bodies. They are between two and six millimetres in length and their mandibles or jaws look like serrated garden secateurs.

Fire ants make nests in the soil and often build up large mounds of earth, although sometimes this is disguised by a fallen tree of a heap of vegetation. The nests can be five feet deep and the mounds over a foot above ground. They prefer moist to damp ground, so the colonies can often be found on the banks of a river, on the edge of a pond or on a well-tended lawn. The nests are established by one or more queens and can very quickly mature to thousands of ants.

If you have fire ants in your house or garden, you will almost certainly want to get rid of them. This is not so hard, but if you do not annihilate every colony, then one of two surviving queens can produce a new nest of thousands of ants in about a month. There are plenty of poisons to kill ants on the market, and if you want to try an almost guaranteed chemical ant killer, pick one of those.

Otherwise you may want to try one of the following home treatments.

Nematodes are very small insects that live in moist soil. They eat other insects including ants. You can buy nematodes in a garden centre or on line. Mix them with rain, not tap water, because chlorine will kill them, then pour this water into the nest. The nematodes will have killed the ants within roughly two weeks. This is a wholly green method of killing fire ants.

Some people swear by club soda. Pour a bottle of club soda into the colony, the gas that the soda produces is alleged to kill the queen and the reproductive ants.

Soapy water is also said to kill ants. Use the same bowl of soapy washing up water and tip it into the colony, the soap is believed to kill them outright.

Boric acid is repellent to ants. so you can sprinkle it around the foundation of your house and around the nest.

There are quite a few natural ways of getting rid of fire ants, if you want to find out more, search on the Internet.

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