Garden Word of the Day
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The way ants walk around has always struck me as pretty random. Until there’s a chemical trail to follow, of course. But now there’s a new type of ant that walks around frantically, like some sort of manic crackhead.
These ants are tiny, less than one-eighth of an inch long, but they can do damage. While these ants do not have stingers, they do bite. And they carry venom that they deposit into bites. Crazy ant aphid-farming has led to the devastation of grasslands. They commonly torment larger livestock by attacking around the eyes and nose and have been known to suffocate chickens. They will also attack your computer.
For some bizarre reason, crazy ants are attracted to electronic equipment where they are often electrocuted. When electrocuted, they release a pheromone. This pheromone tells their fellow crazy ants they are under attack. Other ants come to the rescue and are also electrocuted. This releases more pheromones. Before you know it, the electrical system shorts out because of all the dead ants.
There are several types of crazy ants. We will take a look at the black, tawny, and yellow crazy ants.
Black crazy ants
Southeast Asian black crazy ants (Paratrechina longicornis) are also known as longhorn crazy ants because of their long, segmented antennae. They are dark brown to black and may have a bluish tint. These ants have very long legs.
Tawny crazy ants
Tawny crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva) are also known as rasberry ants. That isn’t a typo. An exterminator from Texas, Tom Rasberry, identified these South American invasive pests in 2002. Tawny crazy ants are reddish-brown and have a few long, coarse hairs. Males and females both have wings, but females shed their wings after mating.
Yellow crazy ants
Believed to be from Africa, yellow crazy ants (Anoplolepis gracilipes) have the dubious distinction of being listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invaders by the ISSG. These pests kill and pester a wide range of mammals, birds, reptiles, and beneficial insects. These slightly larger crazy ants are 4-5 mm long. Like tawny crazy ants, they have long, jointed antennae and long legs, but they are yellowish-brown to reddish-brown with big eyes.
Crazy ant lifecycle
Crazy ants are not as well-organized as other ant species. Instead of building nests, they live in piles of plant debris, tree cavities, under rocks, and in electrical equipment. Very often, as temperatures drop, these pests move indoors and into your stereo. Instead of a single queen lording over her countless minions, crazy ant colonies tend to be small with several queens. As many as 20 queens may be hiding under a rock. And these single colonies network with neighbors. A single collection of a few hundred crazy ants can quickly become a “supercolony” of hundreds of millions of ants.
These crazy ants search far and wide for food. They do it quickly, and they eat pretty much anything: living or dead insects, nectar, honeydew, seeds, plants, grease, and sugar are just a few of the snacks these pests will bring home for the colony.
Crazy ant control
First found only in southern states, these pests have moved northward to Massachusetts and west to California and Hawaii. Controlling crazy ants is difficult because of their networked colonies. Standard ant baits and over-the-counter pesticides do not work against crazy ants.
If your house, garden, or vehicle are infested with crazy ants, call a professional exterminator. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency authorized the use of fipronil against these pests. Unfortunately, fipronil is considered one of the worst causes of colony collapse disorder in honey bees. It’s best to leave those treatments to the pros.
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