Hairy Ants!?! Any experiences?

Yme405(10b SW Fla)October 2, 2011

Courtesy Yahoo News:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) It sounds like a horror movie: Biting ants invade by the millions. A camper's metal walls bulge from the pressure of ants nesting behind them. A circle of poison stops them for only a day, and then a fresh horde shows up, bringing babies. Stand in the yard, and in seconds ants cover your shoes.

It's an extreme example of what can happen when the ants which also can disable huge industrial plants go unchecked. Controlling them can cost thousands of dollars. But the story is real, told by someone who's been studying ants for a decade.

"Months later, I could close my eyes and see them moving," said Joe MacGown, who curates the ant, mosquito and scarab collections at the Mississippi State Entomological Museum at Mississippi State University.

He's been back to check on the hairy crazy ants. They're still around. The occupant isn't.

The flea-sized critters are called crazy because each forager scrambles randomly at a speed that your average picnic ant, marching one by one, reaches only in video fast-forward. They're called hairy because of fuzz that, to the naked eye, makes their abdomens look less glossy than those of their slower, bigger cousins.

And they're on the move in Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. In Texas, they've invaded homes and industrial complexes, urban areas and rural areas. They travel in cargo containers, hay bales, potted plants, motorcycles and moving vans. They overwhelm beehives one Texas beekeeper was losing 100 a year in 2009. They short out industrial equipment.

If one gets electrocuted, its death releases a chemical cue to attack a threat to the colony, said Roger Gold, an entomology professor at Texas A&M.

"The other ants rush in. Before long, you have a ball of ants," he said.

A computer system controlling pipeline valves shorted out twice in about 35 days, but monthly treatments there now keep the bugs at bay, said exterminator Tom Rasberry, who found the first Texas specimens of the species in the Houston area in 2002.

"We're kind of going for overkill on that particular site because so much is at stake," he said. "If that shuts down, they could literally shut down an entire chemical plant that costs millions of dollars."

And, compared to other ants, these need overkill. For instance, Gold said, if 100,000 are killed by pesticides, millions more will follow.

"I did a test site with a product early on and applied the product to a half-acre ... In 30 days I had two inches of dead ants covering the entire half-acre," Rasberry said. "It looked like the top of the dead ants was just total movement from all the live ants on top of the dead ants."

But the Mississippi story is an exception, Rasberry said. Control is expensive, ranging from $275 to thousands of dollars a year for the 1,000 homes he's treated in the past month. Still, he's never seen the ants force someone out of their home, he said.

The ants don't dig out anthills and prefer to nest in sheltered, moist spots. In MacGown's extreme example in Waveland, Miss., the house was out in woods with many fallen trees and piles of debris. They will eat just about anything plant or animal.

The ants are probably native to South America, MacGown said. But they were recorded in the Caribbean by the late 19th century, said Jeff Keularts, an extension associate professor at the University of the Virgin Islands. That's how they got the nickname "Caribbean crazy ants." They've also become known as Rasberry crazy ants, after the exterminator.

Now they're making their way through parts of the Southeast. Florida had the ants in about five counties in 2000 but today is up to 20, MacGown said. Nine years after first being spotted in Texas, that state now has them in 18 counties. So far, they have been found in two counties in Mississippi and at least one Louisiana parish.

Texas has temporarily approved two chemicals in its effort to control the ants, and other states are looking at ways to curb their spread.

Controlling them can be tricky. Rasberry said he's worked jobs where other exterminators had already tried and failed. Gold said some infestations have been traced to hay bales hauled from one place to another for livestock left without grass by the drought that has plagued Texas.

MacGown said he hopes their numbers are curbed in Louisiana and Mississippi before it's too late.

The hairy crazy ants do wipe out one pest fire ants but that's cold comfort.

"I prefer fire ants to these," MacGown said. "I can avoid a fire ant colony."



Texas A&M sites:

MSU site about Ants of Southeast U.S.:

Here is a link that might be useful: Direct Link to the Yahoo News Story

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zackey(GA 8b)

We have some kind of itty bitty bug in the house (kitchen). It doesn't look hairy or like an ant. Sure does love out tea spoon and sugar. They love to get into our tea cups before we wash them. we don't use chemicals. Sure wish I could find something to get rid of them that was organic!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 3:55PM
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Zackery, you have tiny sugar ants. The only way I found to get rid of them is to use Terro. A liquid you drip on a card. They take it back to the nest and kill the whole family.

Yme, I have talked to a couple of people who have had them. One in Florida and one from Atlanta. Everything I have heard is they are extremely hard to get rid of.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 8:06PM
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zackey(GA 8b)

They seem too tiny to get onto the cardboard thingey that you are supposed to put the Terro on. I guess I could put it right onto the counter.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 8:21PM
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Terro is also available in traps. Believe me, if they want it, they can get to it. The traps are much less messy.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 9:17PM
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Follow the directions. It says to put it where you see the ants. Don't make them hunt for it. And when you see hundreds of ants don't kill them. They need to take the poison back to the nest. It takes a couple of days but is VERY effective.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 9:27PM
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stuartwanda(N. Stuart)

Zackey, Please don't put it directly on the counter, the stuff hardens and it's hell getting it off! Plus it's poison. Put it on the card, they will get to it.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 5:59AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Did we really need another kind of ant?

Zackey, those ants try coming in my kitchen once in a while and I just spray them with windex, 409, lysol, whatever's handy. It almost always works the first time - messes up their trail and the others go elsewhere. If you can figure out where they are coming from, spray that spot, too.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 9:34AM
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I had a bad infestation of crazy ants at my old house. I kept them at bay by mixing boric acid and vegetable oil and putting it on small cardboard squares I cut from a cereal box. I place them where they came in, and all along their paths. It took awhile to get rid of them, but they finally succumbed. The hardest ones to get rid of were the ones going into the attic. I mixed boric acid with vegetable oil and molasses and smeared it on the outside wall where they were marching up to the eaves. Pretty soon, they were all dead. I'm sure now that no one is living in my house, the bugs have taken it over completely.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 3:12PM
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