They’re almost cute, the tiny reddish-brown ants sparsely covered with spiky hairs and with a tendency to run around in circles. But as people who live in Texas, Mississippi and Florida will attest, the 2 milimeter-long pests are destructive and very difficult to control. They also overwhelm other ant populations in the area, either killing them or forcing them to leave.
The LSU AgCenter issued a notice Sept. 21 that the ant, which has caused big problems in the Caribbean as well as in the Gulf states it has invaded, has arrived in Louisiana. LSU AgCenter scientist Victoria Bayless identified ants collected at a home in Sulphur, La., as hairy crazy ants — the first on record in the state. She says she wasn’t surprised because entomologists for several years have expected the insects (also known as Caribbean crazy ants and the Raspberry crazy ants) to reach Louisiana from southeastern Texas. Parts of Mississippi also report colonies.
The ants don’t sting, but they can bite. They are mainly a nuisance, Bayless says, but can have an economic impact on an area. They are prolific breeders and the number of ants in a single colony can be as high as several hundred thousand, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension.
Hairy crazy ants have lived in Florida since the 1950s, but didn’t start spreading until 2000. They reached Houston, Texas in 2002, and reached the Mississippi coast in 2009.
Last year the Mississippi Entomological Association reported in Midsouth Entomologist that the first confirmed case in Mississippi was a mind-boggling infestation with lots of different nests and queens. The ants had made nests in rotting wood, soil, debris and in structures as well as in automobiles, a motor home, a motorcycle and electrical boxes. The proclivity toward nesting in electrical boxes has caused electrical shorts and other problems elsewhere.
“Repeated applications of various pesticides had no obvious effect on the large masses of ants present, with new colonies replacing those that were killed within days or hours,” the report said. “Aggressive control measures and monitoring might be necessary to stem its movement.
If you spot any crazy dancing ants in your home, you can submit samples to the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum for identification. Visit the museum’s website, www.lsuinsects.org for information.