Do Grits Kill Fire Ants?

That home remedy doesn't work, but others do

Nell Redmond / Getty Images

If you grew up in the American South, you might have heard that grits can be used to get rid of fire ants. The remedy is based on the premise that the notorious stinging ants will eat the grits, the grits will swell up inside their stomachs, and the pressure will cause them to explode. While this might sound plausible, it's not true. This home remedy probably originated from ant bait products that use corn grits as the carrier for the chemical bait. But no, grits alone will not kill fire ants.

How Ants Digest Food

This myth can be easily debunked by considering the fact that adult ants can't eat solid food, including grits. The way ants digest food is highly involved. Ants bring food back to the colony, where they feed it to their larvae. The fire ant larvae then chew and process the solids and regurgitate the partially digested food for their adult caretakers. The adult ants then consume the liquefied nutrients. There's no chance that their stomachs will explode.

Researchers have proved that grits are ineffective for controlling or eliminating fire ant colonies in a number of studies, but some people have insisted that they have tried the grits remedy and the ants have disappeared. The ants might have disappeared, but that doesn't mean that grits killed them.

Like many other species of ants, fire ants do not like being disturbed. When a strange, new material is introduced into their immediate environment, they often respond by moving elsewhere. It is possible that the colony relocated upon discovering a pile of grits on top of their home. There's no scientific evidence that grits on their own do anything to kill fire ants, and simply convincing the critters to move their colony might not solve your problem.

Natural Remedies

Fire ants are an aggressive insect with a painful sting. Finding an anthill harboring these pests in your yard is never a pleasant surprise. Many homeowners opt to use insecticides specifically targeting fire ants to get rid of them. Some homeowners, however, especially those with pets or young children, prefer less toxic deterrents.

Here are some natural remedies that have been effective against fire ant colonies: 

  • Juice one lemon into a spray bottle of water, then spray the mixture anywhere you see ants. It's important to walk around your home and property to find all their hiding places. Reapply the mixture whenever you see ants. 
  • A mixture of two parts water and 1 part vinegar sprayed around your property as described above also should drive the ants away. A vinegar solution also is a great green multipurpose cleaner. It's a good way to clean your kitchen and to fortify it against ants at the same time.
  • If you want to take a spicier route to solve your pest control problems, try sprinkling cayenne pepper around the entrance to the ants' colony. If you have small children or animals, however, you might want to skip this strategy.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Hadley, Debbie. "Do Grits Kill Fire Ants?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Hadley, Debbie. (2020, August 27). Do Grits Kill Fire Ants? Retrieved from Hadley, Debbie. "Do Grits Kill Fire Ants?" ThoughtCo. (accessed April 2, 2023).