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Nylanderia fulva, more commonly known as the “Tawny crazy ant,” and formerly known as the “raspberry crazy ant,” is an exotic South American native ant species that has established an invasive habitat in the southern Gulf Coast states where they invade homes and buildings in massive numbers. Workers of this species are reddish-brown and very small at only 2 to 3 mm in length. Individual Tawny crazy ants cannot be identified without the assistance of a microscope, but their infestations are easy to recognize due to the tremendous size of their colonies. A single colony consists of thousands, millions or even billions of densely situated workers that can span an entire neighborhood. Tawny crazy ants are similar to Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) in that both species are invasive pests from South America that form massive supercolonies outside of their native range. It is often said that Tawny crazy ants and Argentine ants are able to achieve large colony sizes due to their rapid reproduction rates, but this is only a partial explanation.
In their native South American habitat, Tawny crazy ants and Argentine ants are preyed upon by numerous predators, which keeps their colony populations from increasing to unnaturally large proportions. However, these two species do not have natural predators in the Gulf Coast region where they have become established, and consequently, their colonies in the southern US continue growing indefinitely. Tawny crazy ants were first discovered in the US in 2002 when a pest control professional, Tom Rasberry, recovered a few specimens in a Houston Neighborhood. Since then, Rasberry has maintained a reputation as the foremost expert on Tawny crazy ant pest issues. According to Rasberry, between 15 and 20 billion individual Tawny crazy ants can become established in a one acre field in a short amount of time due to their rapid reproduction rate and the species’ lack of natural predators.
These ants have become notorious for infesting electronic equipment like kitchen appliances, fuse boxes, TVs, computers, outdoor utility boxes, and even NASA computers, resulting in black outs, short circuits, blow fuses, and hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment damage. In addition to their attraction to electricity, Tawny crazy ants will enter homes to feed on just about any food source they encounter, including sweets, fats, and protein. Tawny crazy ants are not attracted to most bait products, and professional pest control intervention is essential for eliminating infestations.
Have you ever encountered Tawny crazy ants?