Crazy ants making tracks through South Central Texas

Rasberry or Caribbean crazy ants have been confirmed in Travis County near the Burnet and Travis county boundary.(Photo courtesy Mike Quinn)

AUSTIN – Travis County is one of the most recent areas of Texas to be invaded by crazies – in this case, Caribbean or Rasberry crazy ants, said entomologists with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Crazy ants get their name from their erratic movements as they do not trail in a straight line, but rather in a random pattern, the experts said. They are small, black ants with long legs and antennae, and upon first glance may resemble tiny spiders.

“Crazy ants don’t sting and they’re not really a health hazard in that they’re not a disease vector,” said Wizzie Brown, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist for Travis County. “They’re basically an outdoor ant, but in their search for warmth, water or food, they often come indoors.”

Brown said confirmed crazy ant identification in Travis County has been from the northwestern part of the county, near where Travis and Burnet counties meet.

She said once crazy ants find their way into a home it is easy for them to multiply and spread to different areas, especially into bathrooms, kitchens and pantries.

“Although not harmful, crazy ants can certainly be very annoying, especially if they get into your food or invade your house in large numbers,” she said.

The main problem with crazy ants, she said, is that they just won’t go away.

“Once they have invaded an area, you will hardly ever hear about them leaving on their own accord,” Brown said. “They have a very high reproduction potential and tend to stick around.”

Crazy ants were already discovered in nearby Bexar County earlier this year, so residents there have been aware of them for several months.

“We’ve even had crazy ants at the AgriLife Extension office here in San Antonio,” said Molly Keck, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist for Bexar County. “I’ve gotten calls from people all over the county saying they have them, but so far they really haven’t taken hold in any particular residential area.”

Keck said crazy ants love concrete, so sidewalks, driveways or paved areas around the home provide them with an excellent habitat.

“To manage crazy ants, try some basic integrated pest management practices first,” she suggested. “Seal and caulk up small cracks and holes around windows and doors. Remove trash, leaf litter and other debris from near the house and keep food well hidden and off the pantry floor. Trash piles, discarded papers or magazines and cardboard are some favorite places for crazy ants to nest.”

Keck said chemical control is limited and there are few, if any, effective organic options.

“Barrier sprays around the foundation of the home and long concrete pathways are reasonably effective,” she said. “And indoor sprays at entry points may also keep them at bay. However, these are only temporary and will not permanently control crazy ants.”

For large quantities of crazy ants, both Keck and Brown recommended calling a pest control professional.

“You can manage small numbers of ants adequately with spray or barrier pesticides rated for ants,” Brown said. “But these control methods are less than effective against large ant populations, especially if they keep spreading to new areas.”

“You’re better off having pest control professionals managing large crazy ant populations because they are more experienced with pesticide mixtures and treatments,” Keck added. “Ultimately professionals tend to use far less pesticide than non-professionals.”

Both experts also noted that if county residents need help identifying a particular ant species, they may bring samples of the ants to the AgriLife Extension office in a closed baggie or small container with a well-fitting lid.

Brown can be contacted at 512-854-9600 or ebrown@ag.tamu.edu, and Keck at 210-467-6575 or mekeck@ag.tamu.edu.

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