GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami/AP) – Researchers at the University of Florida are working on strategies to control crazy ant populations found in Florida and several other states including Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
On Thursday, their best advice for homeowners was to get professional help because crazy ants are difficult to eradicate. Homeowners were also urged to remove leaves and other yard litter where the insects like to nest. They also should fix leaky outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems and minimize standing water sources.
So far, efforts to control crazy ants have involved a patchwork of approaches, many of which failed. But a team of University of Florida researchers is developing an integrated pest management system tailored to the species’ unique characteristics and habits.
It’s crucial to attack the problem early in the year, preferably in February or March before the weather warms up and the ants begin breeding, according to Dawn Calibeo, an entomology doctoral candidate with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
In the spring and summer, it’s a good idea to check yards for established colonies. Look for golden-brown ants running erratically on structures, vegetation or the ground. Also, crazy ants do not build mounds.
Calibeo said to “bait early and bait according to label directions.” Professionals should use baits after applying a contact insecticide to reduce ant numbers, but be careful not to place baits where they’ll be contaminated by contact insecticides.
While the ant does not pack a painful bite or sting, scientists are concerned that it could gravely impact Florida’s agricultural industries if it enters agricultural systems. In Colombia, where the species has been established for decades, harvests sometimes are negatively impacted by the overwhelming presence of crazy ants in crop fields.