Hairy, crazy ants make it into Louisiana

A monitor displays a picture of the raspberry crazy ant, photographed by LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana State Arthropod Museum Curator Victoria Bayless, who confirmed the identity of this newest pest in Louisiana. Besides being hairy, the ant also has longer-than-average legs. Show caption
A monitor displays a picture of the raspberry crazy ant, photographed by LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana State Arthropod Museum Curator Victoria Bayless, who confirmed the identity of this newest pest in Louisiana. Besides being hairy, the ant also has longer-than-average legs.

Something hairy and crazy has been discovered in Louisiana.

Ants.

The rasberry crazy ant, named after Houston pest control operator Tom Rasberry, first arrived in the United States in southern Florida during the 1950s, LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana State Arthropod Museum Curator Victoria Bayless said.

The ant’s moniker comes from the way the insect looks and acts.

“They don’t march in a line. They move very erratically — somebody said like a fire ant on drugs,” Bayless said.

The hairy, crazy ants are more powerful than fire ants, Bayless said.

In 2002, the hairy, crazy ants were reported in Houston by Rasberry and on the Mississippi Coast in 2009.

Bayless recently identified ants collected from a home in Sulphur — in Calcasieu Parish — as hairy, crazy ants.

The ants from the Sulphur home, found in June, represent the first record of the Nylanderia pubens species in Louisiana, Bayless said.

Besides the ant’s erratic movement, the insect is higher off the ground than fire ants because of its longer legs, Byaless said.

The hairy, crazy ants, a pale, reddish brown color, also have longer antennae than fire ants, Bayless said. The ants are tropical and come from South America originally, Bayless said.

The hairy, crazy ants were moved accidentally to Louisiana at some point, Bayless said.

“You can’t know exactly how they got here but it could have been in a move in someone’s box or a potted plant,” Bayless said.

Entomologists have been expecting the hairy, crazy ant to invade Louisiana from either Texas or Mississippi, Bayless said. Hairy, crazy ants bite but they don’t hurt more or less than other ant bites, Bayless said.

The problem with hairy, crazy ants is they form extremely large colonies and usually do not respond to treatments that control other ants, Bayless said.

“A friend from Florida once described seeing a bunch of them as a moving lawn. There were so many of them they covered the entire lawn,” Bayless said.

The ants mate so fast even if a normal pest-control treatment kill some, those are quickly replaced by new ants, Bayless said.

In some cases, Bayless said, people have reported seeing thousands of the ants.

Floyd Simpson, general manager of Dugas Pest Control, said he has heard of hairy, crazy ants but never had to deal with them.

“From what I understand, their favorite food is honeydew, which is excreted from other insects after they eat certain plants,” Simpson said.

As a result, Simpson said, he would use either a sugar-based bait with poison or a combination of a sugar-based or protein-based bait to kill the ants.

“My experience is that those in the pest control business can be very resourceful,” Simpson said.

Hairy, crazy ants destroy fire ants they might meet and quickly take over that territory, Bayless said.

“And that’s saying something because usually fire ants decimate whatever population they come into contact with,” Bayless said.

News of the new hairy, crazy ant in the state needs to go out to residents and pest control operators so they can prepare to deal with whatever the effects of the insects may be, Bayless said.

“It’s a new thing so we don’t know what the effects will be right now,” Bayless said.

Scientists are looking at methods to control the hairy, crazy ant, Bayless said.

If residents suspect they have hairy, crazy ants, they can submit samples to the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum in Baton Rouge for identification.

Go to the museum’s website, http://www.lsuinsects.org for submission instructions.