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Lingering Drought Driving Ants Indoors

Fire ants are bad enough out in the yard. Now they're moving in with you.

"The extreme dry weather has many ants looking for both water and food," said Beverly Sparks, an Extension Service entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Sparks said people throughout the state are reporting unusual numbers of ants and some other insects moving indoors.

"Certain species of cockroaches will move indoors when it's dry," she said. "Mostly, though, the problem is with ants."

What Kind of Ants?

When the ants come marching in, though, answer at least one question before you grab the bug spray: What kind of ants are they?

"Make sure you properly identify the ants first," Sparks said. "It's important to differentiate between ants that can nest indoors and those that come in from nests outside."

If ants all look alike to you, collect a few for your exterminator to identify. Or take some to the county office of the UGA Extension Service.

Stop Ants Outside

If you know the ants are coming in from an outside nest, Sparks said, treat the individual mound with a contact pesticide. Then spray a pesticide around the perimeter of the house to create a chemical barrier. Most garden centers carry a number of products labeled for these uses.

One of the better barrier chemicals, Dursban, is being phased out for most household uses by the Environmental Protection Agency. "But it's OK to use up existing supplies this year," Sparks said. "And it is an effective product."

If the ants in your home can nest indoors, you'll need a different tactic.

Use Bait Stations

"Find out what they're feeding on," Sparks said. "And then put commercial bait stations in places where the ants can get to them."

Baits don't kill ants fast. But they're highly effective at eliminating whole colonies, which is important if the ants can nest indoors. So use the bait stations, Sparks said, and be patient.

Some ants that normally nest outside can build nests indoors, she said. And fire ants are among them. "Fire ants can bring soil indoors to build nests," she said.

Talk about bad roommates.

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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