Tawny Crazy Ant is terrorizing Mississippi’s Gulf Coast

Photo Courtesy: Joe A. MacGowan, Mississippi Entomological Museum

JACKSON, Mississippi (WJTV) – An insect that can cause major damage inside your home is terrorizing the Gulf Coast and entomologists are trying to keep it from spreading to the rest of Mississippi.

The “tawny crazy ant” has not been around for long, but the pest is already living up to its name.

The ants are called “crazy” for a reason.

Moving at a high rate of speed, they swarm in the thousands, crawling into anywhere and everywhere.

“During my entomological career I’venever worked with an insect that can be this numerous,” Mississippi State University Extension entomology specialist, Dr. Blake Layton said.  He spoke with WJTV over the telephone about how the creatures are wreaking havoc in Hancock, Jackson, and Harrison counties.  “I’ve visited several people down on the coast that have infestations and when I ask them, ‘Have you had an electrical short?’ they don’t just tell me about one, they start giving me a list of things that shorted out,” Layton said.  Things like electrical sockets, light switches, air conditioning units, and cars are just a few of the things that can be affected by the ants.  In many cases the problem becomes so overwhelming that homeowners have to call a professional.

“You’re having successful control if you can just limit the number of indoor infestations to a manageable level, a tolerable level,” Layton explained.

Some of the ways to reduce the risk of infestation include cutting back trees and plants around the home and keep grass cut short.

Killing the ants, Layton says, does not always put an end to the problem.  “You can kill these ants with anything but the dead bodies of the ants will build up and they’ll layer a half inch thick and several feet wide and so you end up with ants that are able to just walk across the bodies of their dead nestmates and so they are not contacting the insecticide.

Tawny crazy ants are transported in potted plants and soil as well as wood items that could be decaying.  There is a similar ant called the Argentine ant that behaves like the tawny crazy ant.  The Argentine ant already lives in the metro area.  Biologists are working to keep the crazy ant contained to one area.



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