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2014-08-28

- In The Wild - Ants! Crazy ants!

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Just when you thought fire ants were the worst menace the ant species could throw at you, here comes the tawny crazy ant! This new exotic invasive species of ant was spotted around Houston in 2002, and more recently in Bexar County.
While no infestations have been reported in Bandera County, those of us who grew up being frightened by giant insects invading the world at the Saturday afternoon movie matinee know it's best to watch our backs!
Each of us can help stop, or at least slow the spread of this pest, by taking some common sense precautions. Pay attention to firewood purchased from out of county locations, check landscaping materials and inspect RVs or other vehicles before returning home from trips to south Texas areas. According to the Texas Agriculture Commission, it's believed that human assistance has led to the spread of this ant through the movement of garbage, yard debris, bags or loads of compost, potted plants and bales of hay.
The ant has recently been identified as Nylanderia fulva and the new proposed common name is the tawny crazy ant (formerly Rasberry crazy ant).
The Center for Urban and Structural Entomology at Texas A&M University is conducting studies in this new pest.
You might have tawny crazy ants if you see millions (NOT a typo!) of 1/8 inch long, reddish-brown ants in the landscape. AAACK! They may forage indoors from outdoor nests. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!
These ants form loose foraging trails, but they also forage randomly, crawling rapidly and erratically, earning them the name "crazy" ant.
Ant colonies, including queens and whitish larvae and pupae, hide under landscape objects like rocks, timbers and piles of debris. They have no centralized nests, beds, or mounds.
In infested areas, large numbers of tawny crazy ants have caused great annoyance to residents and businesses. They can really ruin the back yard barbecue. Even pets may be driven indoors.
Tawny crazy ants do not have stingers. The worker ants have an acidopore on the end of the abdomen which excretes chemicals. They also bite, causing a minute pain that quickly fades, say the experts. Getting bitten by a million of these little pests at once might just add up to more than a minute pain!
These ants have been a serious pest in rural and urban areas of Colombia, South America. They displaced all other ant species (so long, fire ants?), asphyxiated small animals, like poultry; and attacked livestock around the eyes and nasal passages. It is expected that wildlife such as nesting songbirds and other small animals will definitely be affected by infestations of this pest.
While displacing red imported fire ants might seem like a good thing, after experiencing the tawny crazy ant, most residents prefer the fire ant.
Like fire ants, tawny crazy ants like to gather in electrical equipment, causing short circuits and clogging switching.
Tawny crazy ants eat almost anything, including sucking insects such as aphids, plants and fruit, other insects and small vertebrates.
Foraging decreases in the winter, but increases in the spring as the colonies rapidly increase in numbers, reaching their peak by mid-summer.
According to the Texas Agrilife Extension Service, there are treatments available for this ant that offer temporary "buffer zones" using contact insecticides applied to surfaces, such as those containing acephate, pyrethroid insecticides (bifenthrin, cypermethrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothin, permethrin, s-fenvalerate, and others) or fipronil. These treatments are often breeched within 2-3 months post application.