Is It Crazy Ants, or Ants Just Driving Us Crazy?

crazy ants or not?

It’s that time of year when outdoor life comes indoors, and ants are one of the most common pests we encounter. After all, we are in the [deep] south, so should expect these visitors. But are we seeing previously unreported species invading our homes this summer?

“The call came: do I have Crazy Ants invading my home? And what the heck is a Crazy Ant (also called a Rasberry Crazy Ant or a Tawny Crazy Ant)?”

The Crazy Ant, Nylanderia fulva, is a fairly recent addition to our list of pests we’d like to send back home. Hailing originally from South America, but like Red Imported Fire Ants, they have traveled north of their home territory to become another pest of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and more recently, Alabama.  As their name implies, there’s something “crazy” about them, primarily their frantic, erratic movements associated with foraging activities. Another curious aspect of these ants is their attraction to electrical equipment, where colonies have grown large enough to short out entire electrical systems.

While Argentine and other ants do appear to run in circles, if watched closely, they leave a trail for their nest mates to follow. Extremely adaptable to climate variations, these ants are comfortable living in soil, underneath wood piles, in debris or mulch, or cavities at the base of shrubs and trees. Attracted to sweet foods whether in plant secretions or spilled fruit juice on a kitchen counter, they’re often seen in large numbers during times of extreme moisture or drought.

Physically, Argentine and Crazy ants are hard to distinguish as both are small, 1/8 inch long, and reddish or light to dark brown in color. Usually a good microscope and detailed analysis of body parts is the most accurate way to distinguish one species from another.

Control options include baits, both liquid and granules, or sprays (primarily for barrier treatments). Treatments may take a couple of weeks to be effective, but once foraging worker ants take the bait back to their nest, the material can be spread throughout the colony.

It’s August, and it’s Ant season!

By Sallie Lee, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Contact Sallie at

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Alabama Extension

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities and answers home-gardeners' questions each week on Birmingham Gardening Today.

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