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September 20, 2013

Crazy ants on the way

Insect confirmed in Albany

THOMASVILLE — Tawny crazy ants are thusly named for a good reason. The ant does a lot of crazy things when compared to the traditional ant.

To date, tawny crazy ants have not been discovered in Thomas County, but it is only a matter of time before piles of thousands of dead ones show up.

The ants are in Florida and confirmed in Albany. They probably are farther north in Georgia and in Alabama, although unconfirmed, said Andrew Sawyer, Thomas County extension agent.

Joe Ingles, Astro Pest Control Services service manager, is aware of the tawny crazy ant and is on the lookout for the bug.

“I haven’t seen any in this area yet,” Ingle said. “ ... I hear they’re kind of crazy.”

James Morgan, agriculture and natural resources county extension agent/coordinator in Albany, recently received a call about ants in a residence.

“I got them identified for them. They are, in fact, called tawny crazy ants,” Morgan said.

Until the ant’s appearance in Albany, it had not been documented or positively identified in Georgia.

Morgan said the ants are referred to as crazy because of their loose foraging trails. They march in wide trails and crawl rapidly and erratically.

“They have no nests, no mounds, no beds,” Morgan explained.

Tawny crazy ants — in shades of light to dark brown — live under wood and debris and are found in electrical boxes. They have been found in piles of thousands on a floor.

They get into electrical sockets in large numbers and cause short circuits.

Morgan said the ants are coming from South America in container shipments to states on the Gulf of Mexico. They are transported inland via vehicles and on clothing, among other ways.

The ants also have been documented in Texas and Mississippi.

Tawny crazy ants do not have stingers on their abdomens like other ants. Instead they have a circle of hairs.

The ants secret chemicals for defense and bite. The bites cause minimal pain that fades quickly.

Sawyer said tawny crazy ants eat droppings from aphids and other soft-body insects that take liquids from plants.

The ants’ antics might be crazy and a nuisance, but they do a good thing: They eat other ants.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.

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