Property owners and managers may want to enlist the help of a qualified pest control specialist and let tenants know about the new wave of ants that some say is coming in biblical plague-like proportions.
Colonies of the Nylanderia fulva (also known in addition to the tawny crazy ant as the Caribbean crazy ant, hairy crazy ant and Rasberry crazy ant) are showing up more and more from Texas to Florida, where warm, humid temperatures and mild winters are a haven.
Even though researchers say in a published report that scientists are closer to management strategies, crazy ants always seem to return to the scene of the crime even after treatment. A colony may be eradicated only for the ants to show up again in about a month.
Property Damage from Crazy Ants is Adding Up
The origin of the Tawny crazy ant in the U.S. reportedly dates to a Miami hospital in 1990 but in the last decade they have moved into more areas, largely along the Gulf Coast. In 2000, crazy ants showed up in Houston, and since then they have set up shop in about 45 counties in Texas and Florida, plus a few places in between.
Their petite size at less than 2mm long is deceiving, because they pack a powerful punch. They multiply like, well, crazy and are destructive, creating serious damage.
In Texas, they reportedly have caused $146.5 million in damages.
Early May is when Tawny crazy ants become most populous. They like to nest under stones, crawl over blades of grass and climb up trees. They don’t sting but have a tiny bite.
They can be a particular nuisance to property owners by congregating behind walls and in electrical components that are warm. Invariably, they are electrocuted by a hot wire and leave behind pheromones that attract more ants. The damage ultimately can create a short or fire.
What’s more, the brown and hairy little pests are hard to get rid of, just like that other rental housing nemesis – the bed bug. If there is any silver lining, Tawny crazy ants have a lethal venom that wipes out fire ants, which move into yards after significant moisture
Crazy Ants vs. Fire Ants
The good news is that crazy ants are deadly to fire ants, according to the latest findings. Fire ants, which largely inhabit the southeastern U.S., are a particular nemesis in their own rights. Fire ant stings are painful, and people who are allergic to insect stings may have a severe reaction. More than 14 million people are stung annually.
Researchers at the University of Texas discovered that dense infestations of the Tawny crazy ant can eliminate entire colonies of fire ants by secreting a deadly venom. At two invasion sites on the Texas Gulf Coast, dense infestations of crazy ants wiped out fire ants. Other species of ants also had difficulty surviving.
Because they don’t respond to traditional corn-grit ant treatments, crazy ants are much harder to control. More than one treatment often is necessary, and unless the entire infestation is destroyed, the ants march back.
Seek Professional Help when Dealing with Crazy Ants
Researchers recommend that a Tawny crazy ant management program start a year before the population has a chance to explode.
Commercially available chemical products are not available to the public, so it’s best to hire a qualified pest professional. Because Tawny crazy ants don’t fall for the corn grit carrier and oil used in traditional fire ant baits elimination is a process. Upon discovery of an infestation, a pest control specialist may visit three or four times over several months to get the situation under control.
Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research Extension says the key to controlling tawny crazy ants is controlling cultural methods. That means removing fallen limbs, rocks, leaf litter and other clutter on the ground. Since the ants like moisture, eliminating constantly wet conditions is essential. Repairing leaks inside and outside dwellings in essential. Improving drainage is a good idea, too.
With the explosion of Tawny crazy ants, those little nemesis that live under baseboards and file across kitchen counters are marching into a new era. Property owners and residents should brace themselves and be ready.
(Tawny Crazy Ant photo by Joe A. MacGown via Mississippi Entomological Museum)