Crazy ants are, well, going crazy in Florida, and pest control officials aren't laughing.
The invasive insect, known for its helter-skelter running, has infested 20 Florida counties as well as Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, according to a news release.
Although it remains a problem for home-owners and pest-control operators, the pest nonetheless concerns agriculture.
In Colombia, where the ant has been established for decades, it can negatively affect harvests with its overwhelming presence in fields.
Crazy ants can establish large colonies with multiple queens and millions of workers, blanketing lawns and sidewalks. In the process, they kill native species, short out electrical systems and create headaches for homeowners.
Dawn Calibeo, a University of Florida entomology doctoral candidate, reported on her research into crazy ant control at this week's Entomological Society of America annual meeting in Knoxville, Tenn.
Although no products are developed specifically for crazy ants, she did find that two granulated fire ant baits—Amdro Pro and Maxford Complete—controlled crazy ants the fastest in laboratory tests.
She says they were probably the most effective because they had the most "appetite appeal" and were eaten more readily than other products.
Most of the ant baits tested were for fire ants, which feed on fats so they contain oil. Crazy ants don't like oil.
It will still be several months before full control recommendations are completed.
Based on her initial findings, Calibeo has developed some preliminary suggestions:
• Attack the problem early in the year, preferably February or March, before the weather warms and the ants begin breeding.
• Bait early and follow label directions.
• The insects nest outdoors in damp, confined spaces. So remove leaf litter, storm debris and other yard waste.
• The ants also need water to survive, so homeowners should fix leaky outdoor faucets, pipes and irrigation systems.
• During the spring and summer, check yards for colonies. Look for golden-brown ants taht run erratically. Crazy ants do not build mounds.
For more information, download the EDIS publication on Caribbean crazy ants.