Tawny Crazy Ant Spreading Across Gulf States

From the School IPM 2015 Newsletter

An invasive ant species is growing in numbers and range in Gulf Coast states. Formerly known as the raspberry crazy ant, the tawny crazy ant, Nylanderia fulva, was first spotted in Texas in 2002. Named for their random, nonlinear movement when looking for food, the crazy ant is sometimes found in electrical equipment and household appliances. Studies have shown that the tawny crazy ant is able to sheath itself in protective acid that allows them outcompete fire ants and other ant species, moving them up to the number one pest concern where they are present.

Identification

Tawny crazy ants, covered in reddish-brown hair, are about 3.2 mm long, smaller than the red imported fire ant. They do not have a centralized nest or mound, but shelter under stones, wood piles or other existing cavities including fire ant nests that they have taken over.

Impact

The tawny crazy ant can damage electrical systems in its search for harborage, causing overheating and system failures. The tawny crazy ant can also impact the environment by displacing other ants, and discouraging tree-nesting birds and other small animals. Tawny crazy ants do not sting, and their bites are not as painful as fire ant stings, but their enormous numbers create a tremendous nuisance for other animals.

Management

Tawny crazy ants are challenging to control in part because they can quickly re-infest areas previously treated. Prevention forms the basis for an IPM approach. Remove easy access to any food, water and harborage, such as leaf litter, fallen limbs and clutter.

The ant does not fly, and spreads slowly once introduced into an area. Introduction typically occurs through ants stowing away in garbage, yard debris, compost, potted plants, bales of hay or other objects moved by humans. Be sure to thoroughly inspect all items before transferring them to a new location.

To learn more about the tawny crazy ant, visit the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Extension’s webpage by clicking here.

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