Crazy Ants

Crazy ants are invasive tramp ants that have made their way into the United States.   First in Florida, than Texas, and now various species of crazy ants are making their way up and westward towards California.  Not all species of crazy ants have invaded the U. S. – not yet.   The name “crazy ant,” refers to the erratic behavior of these ants.  These ants are unlike other species of ants that usually create long trails.  Crazy ants appear to be just that, crazy – they move to and fro in fast, jerky sideway movements, with seemingly no sense of direction.

Yellow Crazy Ants

Yellow Crazy Ants (Anoplolepis gracilipes) – Note the long antennae and legs

Crazy Ant Invasion

What would happen if crazy ants invaded California? We already deal with a super-colony of Argentine ants…..what if these two species met? Would there be a war and who would win? The Longhorn, also known as the Black crazy ant, has already made its way into certain parts California. In San Francisco, crazy ants were found in the kitchen of a hotel; in Los Angeles and San Diego, crazy ants have introduced themselves to limited areas of both counties.

Video of Crazy Ants in a Pile of Leaves

Crazy ants are currently displacing native ants and invasive fire ants; some people actually prefer the fire ant, at least fire ants build mounds outside whereas crazy ants not only come indoors as pests but search out electrical systems, causing millions of dollars in damage. Imagine a traffic light system infested with crazy ants……or a medical facility……..

Tawny crazy ants (AKA Rasberry crazy ants) invaded and destroyed the wiring in this electrical unit.

Tawny crazy ants (AKA Rasberry crazy ants) invaded and destroyed the wiring in this electrical unit.

So far, the crazy ant has advanced across the U.S. and into the north at a rate of 650 feet per year. However, the ants are spreading even faster due to unbeknownst help from travelers by way of luggage and/or freight. And, like red ants, crazy ants have a taste for electronics. In Texas alone, it was reported that crazy ants caused over $146 million dollars in damage to electrical equipment – within just one year!

Crazy Ant Behavior

Why do ants get into electrical systems? Most ants go for sweets or fats. Crazy ants also like sweets and feed on insects, as well as small vertebrates; however, they like to chew on wires too. Some say they are attracted to the magnetic fields surrounding electrical currents, while others claim it´s the warmth that attracts them.

Electric motor box invaded by ants

Ants invaded this motor box of an electrical gate belonging to a Hearts Pest Management client in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. The ants destroyed the mother board of the box and the entire part had to be replaced. It is not known whether these ants were crazy ants.

Either reason, as crazy ants chew on wires they electrocute themselves in the process. When a crazy ant dies from electrocution, it emits pheromones which attract more ants that also become electrocuted, and then they emit more pheromones, creating a vicious cycle. Electrocuted, dried bodies of crazy ants clog the mechanisms in security systems, pumps, traffic lights, utility systems, air conditioning units, and other electronic equipment, even computers.

Controlling Crazy Ants

Crazy ants are harder to control because of their multiple queens which leads to large colonies with massive amounts of ants. And, their nests are outdoors, far away from their foraging areas. Crazy ants cannot be controlled by over the counter products and are not attracted to ordinary baits.

Some of the ways Texas, Florida, and other states are trying to control crazy ants is to limit landscape irrigation; crazy ants prefer humid, wet conditions so improving drainage and repairs to irrigation systems can help. Since there are no over-the-counter products to treat for crazy ants, a professional pest service technician will need to be called in and may require more than one treatment. Afterwards, it is recommended to sweep up the piles of dead ants and then treat the surface underneath again.

Yellow Warblers foraging in grass.

Yellow Warblers foraging; many songbirds and migrating birds are being affected by the crazy ant.

Crazy Ants Impact on Wildlife and the Ecosystem

It is not known yet just how much of an effect crazy ants have on our wildlife. We do know that these ants are competing over resources with both native and other invasive ant species but now, it has become increasingly alarming as to how their presence may disturb threatened species and alter our ecosystem. Nesting songbirds, ground and tree nesting birds, as well as small animals are irritated by the masses of crazy ants that can cover an area. Crazy ants don´t sting like fire ants but they bite and spray. In domestic animals such as cattle, crazy ants will attack the eyes, noses and hooves. And, in regard to humans…… people are being driven out of their backyards because of the crazy ant invasion.

Types of Crazy Ants

There are several species of crazy ants, some are the same but are called different names. The ants that have made their way into U.S. soil (including Hawaii) are the Longhorn Crazy Ants (Black Crazy Ants); Tawny Crazy Ants (Rasberry and Caribbean Crazy Ants); and the Yellow Crazy Ant. Even though the Yellow crazy ant hasn´t arrived on the mainland, it could very well travel by freight or in someone´s luggage. Below is more information on the individual crazy ant species:
Longhorn Crazy Ants
Tawny (Rasberry) Crazy Ants
Yellow Crazy Ants

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