Fighting Fire with Fire – Larry Torches Fire Ants

Just when I thought I’d seen everything (relating to vermicomposting), our good friend Larry “The Garbage Guru” Duke had to go and surprise me!

In this video Larry demonstrates his blow torch method for killing off lots of fire ants in his bed. Let me say right off the bat that this is definitely one of those “don’t try this at home” sorts of approaches – at least NOT indoors (as Larry points out in the video)! To be totally honest, for me this would be a “don’t try this at all” approach – HaHa – being the critter advocate that I am. But as I told Larry, I’ve never had to deal with fire ants in my worm bins (we don’t have them up here – yet). I DO have a childhood memory of their nasty bite though! We were down in Florida for a vacation and I literally ended up with some “ants in my pants” – not a pleasant experience at all! Even some of the ants up here have a pretty annoying bite – so I can only imagine what it would be like to constantly be bitten by fire ants while working with your worm bed!

While I won’t likely be torching my own worm beds any time soon, I am really glad that Larry brought this topic up! Ants can definitely be one of those frustrating worm bin/bed “pests”. I myself do not yet know of a “perfect” method for ant control (and generally just let them be), but here are a few suggestions you may want to test out for yourself:

1) Assuming the ants don’t actually set up a nest in your bed, you may want to see if you can find ant nests on your property, so you can get ’em where they live instead. I’ve read that pouring a pot of boiling water onto an ant hill can be effective.

2) Boric acid is supposed to be quite effective as well, and a mix of borax and honey will certainly be a lot more eco-friendly than some of the other pesticides/traps you can buy. I have never tried it myself though, so I can’t say for sure how well it works.

3) Cinnamon is supposed to be an effective ant repellent, as are various types of mint, although I haven’t had much luck when I’ve tried catmint.

4) Diatomaceous earth is another possibility. I wouldn’t put it in the actual worm bin (not 100% sure how it might affect the worms, not to mention lots of other critters), but if you happen to be using a bin that sits up on legs, adding a little field of it around each leg should ensure that the ants are required to walk across it in order to reach the bin.

5) If your bin is small enough, putting it in a mote of water (maybe with a few drops of dish detergent to reduce surface tension) may discourage the ants from attempting to reach it.

If anyone happens to have their own tips and tricks for getting rid of ants (especially in worm bins/beds) please share your thoughts! This is definitely one of those topics that comes up a lot in reader emails so I know there are a lot of people wondering about this.

Thanks again to Larry for providing us with a different perspective on things, and for just…well…being Larry!
We lova ya, buddy! Don’t ever change!

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  1. I would like to post a comment but, I don’t know what to say!

    • Bentley
    • August 31, 2010

    Just say what’s on your mind, Mark!

  2. I’ve used ant powder in my wormery cum compost heap. They keep building
    their nest there, then I come across a heap of ant eggs.
    Out with the ant powder and they die down for a month or two.
    Not tried a blowtorch though….

  3. Wow! Now that made my day, lol. Fire ants are just nasty critters…wish we could get rid of them once and for all…especially without chemicals.
    Larry, you are one creative character, I salute you!

    • Paulo Silva
    • August 31, 2010

    I use the same method to kill small ants, only a little difference, I avoid hitting the compost with the flame because it kills other animals including worms, I kill them in their path to the compost, best way is to put something they like in the path, they gather there to take the stuff and it’s easy to kill many ants in a few seconds.

    If the nest is inside the compost you just add more water than usually and the ants will be gone fast, they don’t like water.

    If the nest is outside the compost, burning the ants doesn’t work because they keep coming from their nest, best way is to find the nest and destroy it completely, burn the nest. You can also spread coffee grounds and/or diatomaceous earth around your compost, ants don’t like.

    • LARRY D.
    • September 1, 2010

    Paulo,not sure what kind of ants you have? But where i filmed these ants,in the rear left corner,i have 15 pounds of coffee from SB’s.And the ants are all over it.I added piles of water to my bin.At least six gallons.And my isopods headed for higher ground.The ants hung around.I just had some build a nest in some real wet peat moss.They don’t follow rules.No worms were harmed in the making of this video.They stay down enough during the day.I leave my bin open,and they get indirect light.
    A bin this big would be hard to build on legs out of wood.It weighs in the thousands of pounds when full!
    You can actually use a heat gun to do the same thing.It generates a lot less heat.But still enough to do the ants in.
    Heather-My sister lives where you do,and i hear they even short the street light boxes out.And last time i was in Texas,i had to get used to holes in the ground with ants,instead of big sand mounds where i live!

    • Jean Kruse
    • September 1, 2010

    When I lived in Mississippi years ago we would deal with fire ants like this-find 2 separate fire ant hills- quickly take a big shovelfull of ants from one pile and dump it on the other pile and then a scoop of the second pile and dump it on the first pile. The ants fight to the death and soon both piles are gone. Always worked and no chemicals involved just moving fast so as not to get bit.

  4. OOOOH Jean!
    That sounds like more fun than watching the bug zapper

    • John Duffy
    • September 1, 2010

    I hope those little buggers never find their way to Indiana! I hate the smell of burning flesh…On the safety side, it sounds like Larry had all his bases covered and should be congratulated on that front…Good luck getting rid of those little monsters. I’ve yet to hear anything good about fire ants

    • Jennifer S
    • September 2, 2010

    The boiling water treatment was suggested to me when I first moved to Florida. I haven’t tried it – I’m pretty certain it would hurt me when I spill the boiling water on myself as I try to drag the hot pot through the house and out into the yard!

    I try to be organic in my yard, but I lose my mind with the fire ants. I’ve had some success with diatomaceous earth, but I do not use it in the worm bin. I’ve been told it is safe for worms if there isn’t a lot added, but I have yet to try it. My worms are inside in a Worm Inn now, as the ones in my Can o Worms outside were cooked during a heat wave.

    • Christy Olson
    • September 3, 2010

    I have lived in Florida and I was raised on a ranch in Texas…The boiling water does not work. They just move over about a foot and start again. I found that using Dawn dish soap really helped to repel the ants in general. I would use a hose sprayer and spray the entire yard with the dish soap. I had to redo it every time I watered or if it rained. Very time consuming but it did help. In Texas we have to be really careful were we get our hay. The fire ants will build a nest in the center of a bale of hay and when you unload the hay you unload the ants.

    • James M.
    • September 7, 2010

    I live in Florida and have lots of fire ants. Fire ants are carnivorous and they love worms. Every spring I treat my large home lot, 2+ acres, with Amdro. It’s a growth regulator, not a pesticide. I have to retreat half way through summer but ant mounds are reduced by 99.9%.
    For some reason fire ants are attracted to ozone produced by cycling pressure switches in water pumps. After a few dozen get smashed be-tween the closing points their insulating bodies prevent the pump motor from starting and you run out of water. They also are strongly attracted to okra pods. Hundreds of them will cover a pod and nip small holes in the skin and drink the juice.

    • Matt
    • September 19, 2010

    James I am glad i read that about the pressure switches. Here in northern California my dad had carpenter ants that would do that on the contacts. I never could figure out the attraction they had for the pressure switch, but sure enough the well would stop working and the culprit would be the ants, for the most part an easy fix to get the pump working again 😉

    • joel Le Grand
    • October 19, 2010

    I am in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.A.
    I have a few friends who want to keep redworms too.
    We all have the fire ant problem.
    Thank You for the Quick reply.

    • joel Le Grand
    • October 19, 2010

    To John Duffy reply #9 in Indiana.
    The fireants(all four kinds) can not live in land with a long hard freeze.
    This is because they stay active all time, 24/7- 52weeks-365 days a year.
    So they are a Southern problem, unless the whole Global warming thing is real, then it is a matter of time.

  5. To combat ants (in general) with a safe, non-toxic and cheap product, you can try sprinkling some plain and uncooked grits on and around the ants.

    Supposedly, the ants will bring the dry grits inside their nest, share it, consume it and then die after the grits eventually expand …

    Don’t know if this is a proven technique or not, but it seems to work for me in my Florida yard.

    I also don’t know how red worms react to grits, but being soft bodied I’m assuming that uncooked grits are a suitable food scrap for a compost bin …

    Two birds, one stone.

    • ashley
    • May 15, 2013

    In the humid Texas weather recently the mite population in my worm bin exploded. Last weekend I thought I’d leave the cover off to let things dry out a bit. After a couple hours, I went to check on the bin, which is on a 2nd floor balcony. I noticed a bunch of ants (I think fire ants, but I’m not sure) had found their way up there and to my bin. Luckily it had only been a couple hours, so there wasn’t a swarm… I was able to sweep away most of them, and wiped away their trail with a water/vinegar mix. I also made some legs using upside down cups which I set in bowls of water. (You don’t need an entire moat if you can set the bin on some legs, just make sure it’s not touching the wall!) I mixed some borax in the water, which I’m not sure will do anything, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

    Ant control is much more important than mite control since the mites don’t leave the bin and don’t do me any harm, besides a mild “gross” factor. So I’ll leave the lid closed and deal with the mite infestation. If it does get too wet for the worms, I guess I’ll see if it really was the open lid that attracted the ants and test how well my moats are working.

    I am rethinking my decision to keep the bin outside.

    • Joey
    • June 16, 2015

    I am in florida and have had mites in my bin, which went away over the winter.
    I aIso have ants in there, which i treat from the outside with boric acid and cinnamon
    But….. My real problem is that roaches have infiltrated my defenses and i am not sure what to do about them since they live and flourish in there!
    Anyone else have this issue? Solutions? Suggestions?
    What i have done is just grab and pinch as many as i can get b4 getting too grossed out, and this helps a little…
    I wonder about diatomaceous earth, but taking it internally is supposed to be a cure for intestinal worms, so that doesnt seem like a good solution… But?
    Anyone know for sure?

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