New Resources Available for Tawny Crazy Ant Management

A working group focusing on the tawny crazy ant is developing materials to help people identify and manage this pest.

First funded in 2015, the Tawny Crazy Ant Working Group used a 2017 IPM Enhancement grant to create videos, conference booth materials and booklets with information about the ant.

The tawny crazy ant was discovered in Houston, Texas, in 2002 by pest management professional Tom Rasberry. Since that time it has spread to all states in the Gulf Coast, traveling primarily through unintentional human assistance.

Tawny Crazy Ant worker
Credit: Clemson University

Although individual state Extension services have released information about the tawny crazy ant, insecticide treatments are still the major way to deal with the pest. Concerned about the impact on the environment coupled with the possibility of insecticide resistance down the road, Extension personnel in the Gulf states have been racing to gather information about the pest and disseminate it as widely as possible.

“We formed the working group to coordinate state efforts to prevent the spread of another invasive pest,” said Lawrence “Fudd” Graham, Extension specialist for Auburn University.

Unlike many other ant species, tawny crazy ants form huge colonies. If the colony is disturbed, the queen leaves first, forming another colony elsewhere. That makes eradicating the colony difficult.

Tawny crazy ants are also much more destructive than other ant species, causing electrical outages and literally suffocating livestock and other animals.

The working group helped produce six videos about tawny crazy ants, each of which delve into a different aspect of the invasive pest. Videos include information about the biology, habitat, and identification of the pest along with tips about how to prevent colonies and collect samples to send to labs. The video series is available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/2Lmq9ZD and through the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service.

Kelly Palmer, Regional Extension Agent and co-leader of the working group, presented the videos to attendees of the National Conference on Urban Entomology. Afterwards, she said, several people requested access to the videos.

“The feedback on the videos was amazing.  Representatives from chemical companies requested to use them,” she said. “One faculty member at the University of Florida wanted to show them to her classes.”

In addition to the videos, the group decided to develop a backdrop shade to bring to meetings, along with flyers and four-page handouts for different audiences. The handouts will be tailored to pest management professionals, homeowners, nursery owners and cattle owners.

“The first part of each handout is general information about the pest, and the second half is specialized for each audience,” Graham said.

A more detailed 12-page brochure will be available online at the Alabama Extension and Southern IPM Center websites for Pest Management Professionals.

Graham and Palmer hope the publicity about tawny crazy ants will help curb their spread.

“We hope this information makes people aware that, like some other invasive species, humans are primarily responsible for the spread of this pest and only we can prevent movement of this pest,” said Palmer.

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