Jacob Batte / Staff Writer
Another invasive species has made its way to south Louisiana.
The tawny crazy ant, a reddish-brown ant that builds large colonies with multiple queens, are native to the Caribbean. They made their first U.S. appearance in Florida in the 1950s and were a problem in Texas by the early 2000s.
And now the pest's numbers are on the rise in Terrebonne and Lafourche.
Houma-based Fon's Pest Management said its employees first got crazy ant calls about a year ago, and the number of reports has grown steadily ever since.
“It's really bad in the Schriever area, especially between Main Project Road and Back Project Road,” exterminator Henry Leblanc said.
Beasley Pest Control in Thibodaux got reports of the crazy ant late last week, workers there said.
Leblanc said he's also heard of sightings in Cocodrie and Raceland.
“They came here on some trucks or through some of these border roads,” Leblanc speculated.
The insects, also known as Rasberry crazy ants, named for Houston exterminator Tom Rasberry who reported the outbreak there in 2002, first made their way into Louisiana in 2012.
Large numbers have been reported in north Louisiana, Baton Rouge, Donaldsonville and Gonzales.
The ants do not sting and rarely bite, Henderson said, but the insects can be troublesome to property owners. In Texas, they've invaded homes and industrial complexes, urban areas and rural areas. They travel in cargo containers, hay bales, potted plants, motorcycles and moving vans. They overwhelm beehives — one Texas beekeeper was losing 100 a year in 2009.
“They can cause electrical shortages because of their numbers. They'll pile into electrical boxes,” Henderson said.
While little is known about the ants' effect on the ecosystem, “I'm a little concerned for the other animals walking around and what their impact would be on baby critters. You don't know what they can do when they start looking for food,” he said.
To prevent the insect from entering homes, Henderson recommends that homeowners block ground level openings, and be mindful of trees that touch or come near houses.
He also urges communication with neighbors and others. “If one homeowner has this problem then others will as well.”
If you spot the ant, which is covered with small hairs and runs erratically when disturbed, you're advised to contact an exterminator immediately. In large numbers, the ants are said to resemble spilled coffee grounds.
The ants usually do not respond to pesticides that control other ants, but exterminators have had some success with Termidor.
“Pest control operators tell me this works the best,” Henderson said, and multiple treatments are required.
The ant is yet another example of an invasive species that thrives in the lush swamps of south Louisiana.
Other examples include the root-eating nutria, which helps speed coastal erosion, and the apple snail, whose impact is still being studied.
“This ant has a knack for just wanting to run around the house. They tend to follow guidelines, like edges, and they use the guidelines to just wander around. They end up in the house almost by mistake,” Henderson said.