You are here

Indoor Fire Ant Invasions

Monday, January 28, 2019 - 7:00am

Speaker 1: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University extension service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about indoor fire ant invasions. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Doctor Blake Layton, Mississippi State University extension entomologist. Doctor Layton, most of the time our biggest fear regarding fire ants is that we'll step in a fire ant bed, but fire ant infestations can also happen inside our homes and buildings. How does this happen, and what kind of damage might they bring?

Blake Layton: It's usually from one of three or four reasons. One of the main ones though, is when we have such wet, saturated soil conditions that it's just flooded outside. So they can't live out there, and they're looking for a drier place to be. And that's often when we see indoor invasions. And then the third reason is if we have some disruption in a flower bed outside. Maybe there's a fire ant bed out there, and they're living happily and we do something to disturb that bed, they've gotta move because we're tilling up the flower bed. Tilling up their place they had their mound, and they gotta move somewhere. So, they just happen to choose the wrong direction to go. And the fourth time we see fire ants inside is when they just happen to build a trail inside, or wander inside. They find some crumbs or other food items, and they go tell others. "Hey, here's something." They don't care whether it's inside or outside at that point, they just know they found food.
    And it is very disappointing to find fire ants like in the bed or in the bedroom where a child is, and you know there are sensitive accounts. Nursing homes and hospitals and infant care facilities, and things like that where you just have a really zero tolerance for having fire ants inside.
    
Amy Myers: So, how can we prevent and/or treat fire ant infestations?

Blake Layton: The mounds that are most likely to cause an indoor infestation are mounds that are within 10 feet of that foundation. So it's really key to patrol the perimeter of your property, treat any mounds you see there, be preventive with your fire ant control program, and we have publications about that. And this publication, "Control Fire Ants in Your Yard," that's one of our extension publications, tells all the things that you can do. Some of the most useful tools there are these granular fire ant baits that spread over the yard. The fire ants collect those and carry 'em back to the colony, and they work fairly slowly but they're really effective. And then there are some mound treatments that you can use if you have a mound that you just need to kill immediately, you can drench it with an insecticide. And we tell in there what insecticides you can use.

Amy Myers: And that's got pyrethrin in it, right?

Blake Layton: Pyrethrin or some other pyrethroid insecticide, is usually what's in there. Yes.

Amy Myers: So if we find them inside the house, do we treat them the same way we would treat them if we found them outside?

Blake Layton: Well of course, Amy that procedure is a little different there because we really wanna get rid of these indoor fire ants as quickly as we can. Still, the first step is to go outside around that wall where you think they might have come in and look and see if you see any time of fire ant bed or trail, so that you know where they're coming inside. Now you leave that then, and you go back inside and let's get rid of these fire ants. If you happen not to have any insecticide in the house, you can kinda make one by mixing two to three table spoons of dish washing liquid and a gallon of water, and either spraying that on the fire ants. It'll kill them very quickly. Or if you don't have that, you can use a mop and a pail, or a pail and a rag. You know, to kinda wipe 'em up? Probably gonna get a few stings if you do that, especially if you don't have any gloves. If you've got gloves, were those. But that soapy water will kill those ants.Speaker 1: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University extension service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about indoor fire ant invasions. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Doctor Blake Layton, Mississippi State University extension entomologist. Doctor Layton, most of the time our biggest fear regarding fire ants is that we'll step in a fire ant bed, but fire ant infestations can also happen inside our homes and buildings. How does this happen, and what kind of damage might they bring?

Blake Layton: It's usually from one of three or four reasons. One of the main ones though, is when we have such wet, saturated soil conditions that it's just flooded outside. So they can't live out there, and they're looking for a drier place to be. And that's often when we see indoor invasions. And then the third reason is if we have some disruption in a flower bed outside. Maybe there's a fire ant bed out there, and they're living happily and we do something to disturb that bed, they've gotta move because we're tilling up the flower bed. Tilling up their place they had their mound, and they gotta move somewhere. So, they just happen to choose the wrong direction to go. And the fourth time we see fire ants inside is when they just happen to build a trail inside, or wander inside. They find some crumbs or other food items, and they go tell others. "Hey, here's something." They don't care whether it's inside or outside at that point, they just know they found food.  And it is very disappointing to find fire ants like in the bed or in the bedroom where a child is, and you know there are sensitive accounts. Nursing homes and hospitals and infant care facilities, and things like that where you just have a really zero tolerance for having fire ants inside.
    
Amy Myers: So, how can we prevent and/or treat fire ant infestations?

Blake Layton: The mounds that are most likely to cause an indoor infestation are mounds that are within 10 feet of that foundation. So it's really key to patrol the perimeter of your property, treat any mounds you see there, be preventive with your fire ant control program, and we have publications about that. And this publication, "Control Fire Ants in Your Yard," that's one of our extension publications, tells all the things that you can do. Some of the most useful tools there are these granular fire ant baits that spread over the yard. The fire ants collect those and carry 'em back to the colony, and they work fairly slowly but they're really effective. And then there are some mound treatments that you can use if you have a mound that you just need to kill immediately, you can drench it with an insecticide. And we tell in there what insecticides you can use.

Amy Myers: And that's got pyrethrin in it, right?

Blake Layton: Pyrethrin or some other pyrethroid insecticide, is usually what's in there. Yes.

Amy Myers: So if we find them inside the house, do we treat them the same way we would treat them if we found them outside?

Blake Layton: Well of course, Amy that procedure is a little different there because we really wanna get rid of these indoor fire ants as quickly as we can. Still, the first step is to go outside around that wall where you think they might have come in and look and see if you see any time of fire ant bed or trail, so that you know where they're coming inside. Now you leave that then, and you go back inside and let's get rid of these fire ants. If you happen not to have any insecticide in the house, you can kinda make one by mixing two to three table spoons of dish washing liquid and a gallon of water, and either spraying that on the fire ants. It'll kill them very quickly. Or if you don't have that, you can use a mop and a pail, or a pail and a rag. You know, to kinda wipe 'em up? Probably gonna get a few stings if you do that, especially if you don't have any gloves. If you've got gloves, were those. But that soapy water will kill those ants.  Of course a better way is to use an aerosol insecticide spray. Just be sure that you're using the one that's labeled for use indoors, and if you're using it in the kitchen make sure it's labeled for food use areas and that type of thing. Most of these indoor insecticides are. You can spray those ants as they're coming in, kill 'em and let that spray dry, and then you can come along with a broom and dustpan or vacuum.  The rest of that though, then you need to go back outside and see where are they trailing in. Spray 'em there also, so you can stop that trail. And then the final step is to find that mound and treat it with one of the treatments that we recommend in that publication, "Control Fire Ants in Your Yard," to kill that mound, so you won't have a continued re-invasion.
    
Amy Myers: here are some publications with more details and instructions. How do we obtain those?

Blake Layton: Go to our Mississippi State University fire ant website. We have a really extensive website about fire ants. You can that by doing a search for fire ants MSU, or fire ants Mississippi State, or Mississippi State extension. And that has a list of our publications, including the publication, "Control Fire Ants in Your Yard." And there's also some publications that talk about indoor fire ant control, specifically. There's a section on that website about the procedure for controlling fire ants indoors.

Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Blake Layton, Mississippi State University extension entomologist. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day!

Contact Your County Office

Follow Farm and Family