This is the face of the Nylanderia pubens specimen dubbed as the “crazy ant” and it’s coming to a city near you!!!!
The flea-sized critters are called crazy because each forager scrambles randomly at a speed that your average picnic ant, marching one by one, reaches only in video fast-forward. They’re called hairy because of fuzz that, to the naked eye, makes their abdomens look less glossy than those of their slower, bigger cousins.
And they’re on the move in Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. In Texas, they’ve invaded homes and industrial complexes, urban areas and rural areas. They travel in cargo containers, hay bales, potted plants, motorcycles and moving vans. They overwhelm beehives — one Texas beekeeper was losing 100 a year in 2009. They short out industrial equipment.
If one gets electrocuted, its death releases a chemical cue to attack to the colony, said Roger Gold, an entomology professor at Texas A&M.
The ants don’t dig out anthills and prefer to nest in sheltered, moist spots. In MacGown’s extreme example in Waveland, Miss., the house was out in woods with many fallen trees and piles of debris. They will eat just about anything — plant or animal.
The ants are probably native to South America, MacGown said. But they were recorded in the Caribbean by the late 19th century, said Jeff Keularts, an extension associate professor at the University of the Virgin Islands. That’s how they got the nickname “Caribbean crazy ants.” They’ve also become known as Rasberry crazy ants, after the exterminator.
Now they’re making their way through parts of the Southeast. Florida had the ants in about five counties in 2000 but today is up to 20, MacGown said. Nine years after first being spotted in Texas, that state now has them in 18 counties. So far, they have been found in two counties in Mississippi and at least one Louisiana parish.
Texas has temporarily approved two chemicals in its effort to control the ants, and other states are looking at ways to curb their spread.
Controlling them can be tricky. Rasberry said he’s worked jobs where other exterminators had already tried and failed. Gold said some infestations have been traced to hay bales hauled from one place to another for livestock left without grass by the drought that has plagued Texas.
MacGown said he hopes their numbers are curbed in Louisiana and Mississippi before it’s too late. The hairy crazy ants do wipe out one pest — fire ants — but that’s cold comfort. “I prefer fire ants to these,” MacGown said. “I can avoid a fire ant colony.”