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Hairy crazy ants make La. their new home

Crazy ant
The hairy crazy ant is approximately 2 mm in length, reddish-brown and moves around in a crazy manner.(Photo by Victoria Bayless. Click on photo for downloadable image.)
News Release Distributed 09/21/11

If you live in southern Louisiana and have noticed large numbers of tiny reddish-brown ants in or around your home running around in a crazy manner, then perhaps the hairy crazy ant has moved in with you, says LSU AgCenter scientist Victoria Bayless.

LSU AgCenter scientists from the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum confirmed the identity of this newest pest in the state in June.

“At this time, the hairy crazy ant is considered mainly a nuisance pest, but as has been the case in Texas, it can have a serious economic impact as it is difficult to control,” Bayless said.

For the past several years entomologists have been expecting this pest ant to arrive in Louisiana from southeastern Texas.

It was no surprise, then, when Bayless identified ants collected from a home in Sulphur, La., as hairy crazy ants.

These represent the first record of this species in the state based on specimens submitted to the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum, where Bayless serves as the diagnostician.

“The hairy crazy ant is also known by the common names Caribbean crazy ant and Rasberry crazy ant,” she said.

While some confusion remains over the name, the real issue is the spread and effect these ants could have in Louisiana.

The crazy ant was first recorded in the United States in southern Florida during the 1950s, but populations remained local, Bayless said.

In 2000, the number of reports escalated and continues to increase. In 2002, they were reported in Houston, Texas, by Tom Rasberry, a pest control operator. Thus, the common name “Rasberry crazy ant” in Texas does not imply the ants are attracted to raspberries.

“In 2009, the ant was collected on the Mississippi coast. And since that time, entomologists have been expecting the hairy crazy ant to invade Louisiana from either the Texas population or the Mississippi population,” Bayless said.

The hairy crazy ants form extremely large colonies and usually do not respond to treatments that control other ants.

Scientists across the South are currently looking at methods for controlling this invasive ant species.

If you suspect you have these unwelcome guests, you may submit samples to the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum for identification. Go to the museum’s website, for submission instructions. A $20 diagnostic fee helps support the museum’s identification and diagnostic services. You also may contact your local LSU AgCenter extension agent for advice on pest control.

Johnny Morgan

Last Updated: 9/21/2011 2:10:01 PM

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