I was moving some old bundles of sticks to make a hugelkulture mound a couple of days ago when I felt the tell-tale sensation of burning on my (probably less protected than they should have been because I was trying to get away with flip flops) feet. I couldn't find the actual mound in the brush pile I'd been working on, but there were definitely fire ants all over my foot.
Fire ants love a good wood pile and the hugel would likely be no different. My early encounter revealed a problem. How could I garden in what was essentially a pile of wood covered in dirt without being eaten alive by fire ants? If a mosquito problem is really a lack of dragonfly problem, what is the equivalent for fire ants? I need to significantly reduce their numbers in what would otherwise be an ideal fire ant habitat. Is there a way to do that or is hugelkulture just not a good solution in my context?
I found a couple of other forums mentioning various methods for fire ant control. The best takeaway is that robust soil microbiology (esp. sugar-loving microbes) may be the dragonfly equivalent for fire ants. I've used orange oil mound drenches before with success, but I would rather discourage the fire ants than kill them after I find them (usually with my foot). This post offers some good suggestions of mound drenches AND preventatives: http://www.thegardenacademy.com/pests-diseases/fire-ants-organic-program/
My plan is to add dried molasses as I build the pile and incorporate horticultural molasses as a regular spray application. Will keep you all posted on how this works. Of course, I welcome any constructive criticism on my plan.