A new invasive ant species has invaded America. Nylanderia fulva, also known as the Tawny Crazy Ant has terrorized southwestern Texas as well as other Gulf Coast states due to their warm and humid environments.
The Tawny Crazy ant was first discovered in a Miami hospital 23 years ago. Since then, the reddish-brown ant has moved, primarily by human commerce, to 20 Florida counties, 24 Texas counties, and several counties in Louisiana and Mississippi. They were mistakenly thought to be– for over 2 decades– Nylanderia pubens, a Caribbean species that was first found in Florida in 1953. But in 2002, the Tawny Crazy ant was first spotted in Pasadena, Texas by a pest management professional.
It was later argued that they were not actually Caribbean crazy ants were bestowed a the name of Nylanderia sp. nr..pubens. But it wasn’t until just last year that their true identity was finally discovered to be Nylanderia fulva (the Tawny crazy ant). They are believed to have originated in Colombia (South America) but it remains a mystery as to how they arrived stateside.
They are reddish-brown and hairy; but a microscope is needed to observe their coarse hair. They don’t sting but will bite. Fortunately, their bite is only slightly painful, fading as quickly as it came. And despite their minuscule size, approximately 1/8 of an inch in length, their tag of ‘significant pest’ is well deserved.
They can be found in enormous population densities and are typically found under or within any object or void, including tree stumps, rocks, soil, concrete, potted plants and any mostly stationary object that retains moisture.
Tawny crazy ants multiply very quickly and make their homes in warm and moist places, tight spaces, including electrical equipment (sometimes causing power outages), in car engines and under floorboards. They are displacing the imported red fire ant (which have been around since the 1970′s) with astonishing ease. Unlike the aggressive biting nature of the red fire ant, the Tawny crazy ant’s bite is barely painful.
They have an acidopore on the end of the gaster (abdomen), which can excrete chemicals for defense or attack. The Tawny crazy ant can displace other ant species and even caused small livestock (primarily chickens) to die of asphyxia. Larger animals, like cattle, have been attacked around the eyes, nasal fossae and hooves. The Tawny crazy ant is an omnivore. They have caused grasslands to dry out because of their aggravated sucking insect pests (hemipterans) because the ants feed on the sugary ‘honeydew‘ produced by these plant feeding insects.
Complicated Control Issues
“It is a fact that 95% population management of Tawny crazy ants still leaves an unfortunately large number of ants,” said Dr. Danny McDonald, research scientist and entomologist from Sam Houston State University in Texas. If the entire population is not treated, it is likely that the Tawny crazy ant will return within one month.
They don’t typically respond to the normal bait traps that are effective for other ants populations. “You almost have to see it to believe what a nuisance these can become,” said Robert Puckett, an associate research scientist at Texas A & M University. Puckett added, “I’ve been in peoples‘ houses where they show me trash bags full of ants that they swept up.”
Have you seen the Tawny crazy ant up close? Share your story below in the comments!
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