SunHerald.com: Hairy Crazy Ants in South Mississippi to Stay, Experts Say
Looks like the Coast is stuck with hairy crazy ants.
Colonies have established themselves in Hancock and Jackson counties. The good news is they don’t sting. The other good news is they run off fire ants.
The bad news: Fire ants are generally preferable.
“The properties that I’ve seen, if you just wanted to go have what I call a sit-about on the porch or deck, you can’t do it without having these crazy ants crawl up your pants leg or down your neck,” said Blake Layton, extension entomology specialist with Mississippi State University.
Millions of the ants can establish colonies on a mere acre. They have a tendency to crawl into water pumps, air conditioners or other machinery. When one dies, others crawl in to investigate, shorting out the machinery.
“I’d rather have the fire ants,” said Christian Stephenson, an MSU Extension Service Agriculture and 4-H agent who has been dealing with the insects in Hancock County. “You can avoid fire ants. You can easily treat for fire ants. They’re in smaller numbers and they’re easier to control.
“These guys, I mean they’re just very active foragers. They’re out all over your property. They don’t sting. That’s a good thing, but they are a nuisance. Nobody wants insects crawling all over them in their yard. You’re just something that’s there. You’re in their way. The difference in scale between you and an ant is that you’re just something else to crawl across. It’s just continuing on with its foraging behavior.”
The ants are native to South America and the Caribbean Islands, but were discovered more than 60 years ago in Florida. According to Layton and Joe MacGowan, of the MSU Entomology Museum, the ants had by 2004 established colonies in six Florida counties and three Texas counties. They have also moved into two Louisiana parishes.
In September 2009, Layton said, his office received a package containing several insects from Hancock County. He checked them out, then called in MacGowan to figure out what the heck they were.
The ants are so far confined to the Lakeshore area of Hancock County and the Gulf Hills community just north of Ocean Springs, Layton said. These ants don’t swarm, so they don’t move long distances, but they can be unwittingly carried to new locations.
Nobody is sure how they got to the Coast. And nobody is sure how far north of the Coast the can survive.
But experts agree the best property owners can do is control the ants with pesticides that work on carpenter ants, and by killing aphids and scale insects in the landscape. The ants eat the sugary secretions aphids and scale insects emit while feeding on plants.
The ants don’t build beds or mounds, like fire ants do. Instead, they nest under any and all flat surfaces they can find.
Their numbers swell in the summer and early fall, when the weather is warm. They get the name “crazy” because their rapid movement appears to be erratic. But they really are on a mission for food.
Through sheer numbers, they starve out any red ants in the vicinity.
“The battle’s not to the wise or the race to the swift,” Stephenson said. “There’s just so many of them.”
Filed in: Ant exterminator