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Crazy ants beware: South Mississippi just got a powerful weapon

JOE A. MacGOWN/MISSISSIPPI ENTOMOLOGICAL MUSEUMNylanderia fulva, side view of a dealate female from South Mississippi.
JOE A. MacGOWN/MISSISSIPPI ENTOMOLOGICAL MUSEUMNylanderia fulva, side view of a dealate female from South Mississippi.

Crazy ants beware: South Mississippi just got a powerful weapon

South Mississippians being driven to distraction by hordes of "crazy ants," one of the newest invaders from South America, have a new weapon.

The Environmental Protection Agency earlier this week expanded the use of a powerful poison to battle the ants in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties.

Blake Layton, an extension professor of urban entomology at Mississippi State University, said the EPA exemption allows pest-control professionals to put down a 10-foot-wide barrier of Termidor SC, a pesticide normally used to control termites, around a home having problems with crazy ants, whose scientific name is Nylanderia fulva.

"You can kill them with a lot of different insecticides," Layton said. "But what happens when you put a residual spray out around the perimeter of their house, the ants will crawl over that and they die, and there are so many, I've seen a half-inch-thick layer of dead ants. And their buddies are crawling over them and of course they're not contacting the insecticide."

The regulations for Termidor typically limit the width of application to a 5-foot-wide swath around a home. The exemption doubles the width.

Found to be effective

"I did a trial with it down there on the Coast and I was really impressed," he said. "The six houses we had in the trial, once we treated them, I wasn't expecting it at all but that was a pretty good solution to the ant problem. When we went back to do a follow-up evaluation, the homeowners were like, 'What are you coming here for? The ants are already gone.'"

Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy Hyde-Smith requested the exemption because other insecticides weren't effective, according to a press release from her office.

And although you can buy the insecticide, under federal law it can be applied only by a licensed pesticide expert.

"If it gets into waterways, it can cause problems with aquatic organisms," he said. "So there is a limit to how close it can be used to water.

"With all pesticides, it's important to follow the label directions."

Tens of thousands of ants invade homes in the affected areas, Layton said.

Not seeking food items

"The funny thing is, they may not be going after food items," he said. "They were going right around a bowl of cat food."

They also destroy electronics.

"There are so many they get in electrical equipment and short it out," he said. "And it's not just one item. Homeowners will give you a big list."

There is an upside. Yards full of crazy ants won't have fire ants.

"I'm not sure how they displace them, but they do," he said.

He said the ants at prevalent in the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the Gulf Hills golf course and neighborhood near Ocean Springs. They first appeared in Hancock County. They are not countywide by any means, he said.

"If you go out now and find them, you'll go, 'Oh, these are no big deal,'" he said. "But go back in one of these infested areas in August (the prime months for ant invasions are June, July and August) and you'll see what they're dealing with."

Mike Craft of Redd Pest Control, which does pest control across South Mississippi, agreed.

"Honestly, we're not experiencing them so much," he said. But he said Termidor would be a big help when they do find any.

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