Crazy ants spread in state

Say hello to the new pest that makes people wish they had their fire ants back: the Rasberry crazy ant.

These ants have been swarming in Port Allen for at least a year and they’re starting to show up in Baton Rouge.

Even if they’re not widespread now, it’s just a matter of time.

“They’re spreading,” said John Gremillion, owner of Gremco Pest Prevention Specialist in Port Allen.

The ant has several common names, including Rasberry crazy ant, hairy crazy ant and Caribbean crazy ant. Although it was first discovered in Houston in 2002, the ant probably has existed there for much longer than that, said Roger Gold, professor in the entomology department of Texas A&M University.

The ant has also been found in New Orleans, on the southeast side of the state, and in June 2011 Louisiana State Arthropod Museum diagnostician Victoria Bayless identified crazy ants in Calcasieu Parish, on the southwest side of the state. Other samples from Ascension and Terrebonne parishes have also identified that the ants are there as well, according to information on Louisiana State Arthropod Museum’s website.

So far, there’s not much that can be done to destroy them, scientists and pest control businesses said.

“It can be a very serious problem, a great nuisance,” said Dennis Ring, LSU Agricultural Center professor and extension entomologist. The ant doesn’t sting and although it can bite, it’s not like a fire ant bite.

The problem with this ant is the sheer number in their colonies and the fact that they displace everything in an area, including fire ants.

“You recognize crazy ants because they run around real rapidly,” Ring said. “That’s how it got its name.”

Unlike other ants that will track in a line, these ants move all over the place.

“So you step in your yard and three to five seconds later, you’ve got hundreds of ants on you,” Ring said.

The Rasberry crazy ant will nest under just about anything that hold moisture, so homeowners can limit this habitat by picking up things in their yard such as tarps or toys, he said. Treatments are available, such as the insecticide Termidor, made available under a special Environmental Protection Agency-approved label, but can be applied only twice per year at least 60 days apart.

“They’re going to have to time this right and get stuff out of the yard that holds moisture,” Ring said.

Gremillion said that even in Texas where they’ve been dealing with this ant for years, there’s no method yet proven effective in getting rid of the ant.

“There’s no long-term solution,” he said. “It’s not an ant that you can go out and spray and eradicate them.”

They’ve become a real nuisance in West Baton Rouge Parish, showing up at businesses, homes, apartments, banks and truck stops, he said.

“They’re coming in by the trucks, that’s why the truck stops have so many of them,” Gremillion said. Right now, there are treatments that can help keep the ants at bay for 30 to 60 days around particular buildings, but that’s only temporary, he said.

He said there are potential regulation changes about how often and what can be used to combat these ants in the future and that could help.

“As far as eradicating them? No,” he said. “This is the most difficult pest I’ve seen in the last 20 years to control.”

Jeff Porter, executive director of the Louisiana Pest Management Association, said he hadn’t heard of any infestations in Baton Rouge yet, but it’s a matter of time.

“They’re headed this way, no doubt about it,” Porter said.

In preparation, a special speaker has been invited to the Louisiana Pest Management Association convention in January to discuss methods of controlling this pest.

“There’s a different technique to this because it’s such a large colony,” Porter said.

Gerard Laborde, pest control manager with The Bug Man Inc. in Baton Rouge, said although they’ve dealt with the ant for three or four years in areas west of the Mississippi River, there have been more recent cases in the Baton Rouge area.

In the last year, The Bug Man received no fewer than 25 calls, probably more, in West Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge parishes, dealing with the ant, he said.