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Indoor Fire Ant Invasions

Fire ants entering a building around an infrequently used door.
Fire ants entering a building around an infrequently used door.

Fire ants are outdoor, soil-dwelling insects. They rarely invade buildings, but when they do, they usually cause problems.

Indoor fire ant invasions happen for two reasons. The first is when foraging workers wander into a building, find a food source, such as pet food or spilled food crumbs, and recruit other workers to this food source. This results in a trail of workers traveling back and forth from the outside nest to the inside food source and a concentration of ants around the food source.

The second cause of indoor fire ant invasions is when an entire colony of fire ants attempts to relocate because of disturbance by flooding, drought, landscaping or other causes. This is less common, but more distressing. In this case, you usually see large numbers of workers carrying their white brood into the house. They may also bring particles of soil inside. These displaced colonies are usually very agitated and will sting aggressively and in large numbers. They have to be controlled quickly and effectively. See Extension Publication 2443, Control Household Insect Pests, Pages 15-16, for more details on how to control and prevent indoor fire ant invasions.

Contact

Dr. Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist
Department of Entomology, Mississippi State University
Phone: (662) 325-2085
Email: blayton@entomology.msstate.edu

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News

Fire ant mounds are common along fence lines where they are protected from grass-cutting equipment and other traffic, such as this mound in an Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, pasture on May 11, 2015. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Forages, Insects-Forage Pests, Fire Ants May 19, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Southern farmers may never win the battle against imported fire ants, but aggressive tactics can slow the pests’ invasion, reduce damage and prevent further spread across the United States.

Jane Parish is an Extension/research professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. She said cattle and hay producers have learned to live with and work around the troublesome ants since the pests arrived in the state almost a century ago.

The biggest reason people have trouble controlling fire ants is that they only treat individual fire ant mounds. Individual mound treatments can be useful situationally, but need to be supplemented with broadcast treatments that will control all fire ants in all areas. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Agriculture, Insects-Crop Pests, Insects-Forage Pests, Insects, Fire Ants, Insects-Pests May 15, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- People have many misconceptions on how to eliminate fire ant mounds and prevent them from coming back, and these erroneous beliefs hinder efforts to keep the harmful pest from spreading.

Many dogs spend time outside and often share their play areas with fire ants. When disturbed, the ants sting and deliver venom that can cause severe allergic reactions for some pets and children. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Susan Collins-Smith)
Filed Under: Fire Ants May 5, 2015

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Fire ants can be more than unwelcome guests in the home lawn; their stings can be dangerous for children and pets who share play areas with the pests.

Fire ant stings are characterized by sharp localized pain, swelling and intense itchiness that is just a short-lived nuisance for most. A raised red bump appears soon after the sting and soon turns into a sterile pustule that resembles a pimple. However, the ants’ venom can cause severe allergic reactions in some people and pets.

Fire ant mounds, such as this one in Clay County, harbor an invasive species that has a negative impact on wildlife, including reptiles, mammals and ground-nesting birds. (Photo by MSU/Blake Layton)
Filed Under: Fire Ants April 28, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Blake Layton grew up quail hunting in Simpson County and has seen the steady decline of quail as fire ant populations expanded across the state.

Layton, an entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the farm he grew up on has the same habitat as it did when he was a child, but it has more fire ants and fewer quail and other wildlife species.

Most fire ants found in Mississippi are a hybrid between the red imported fire ant, pictured here, and the black imported fire ant. (Photo by Mississippi Entomological Museum/Joe A. MacGown)
Filed Under: Fire Ants April 24, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Tell Mississippians that fire ants have completely invaded the state, and they’ll probably shrug and say they already know that. Tell them the pain actually comes from a sting rather than a bite, and they’ll say it still hurts. But tell them how to get rid of the nasty critters, and they’re all ears.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service is organizing efforts to help residents Bite Back against fire ants. The solution is a simple two-part attack, but success comes in the long-term follow-through.

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Your Extension Experts

Extension Professor
Entomology; extension insect identification; fire ants; termites; insect pests in the home, lawn and