Pest Information - Ants

There are almost 9,000 species of ants and they can be found from the Arctic Circle to the Tropics. This site will focus on the ants most commonly found in Hawaii. Learn about their Appearance, Habitat, Diet, Type of Damage, and Life Cycle.
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Crazy Ant

Crazy Ant

Scientific Name

Paratrechina longicornis

Appearance

Crazy ants are so called due to their characteristic erratic and rapid movement.  They also do not follow typical ant trails as frequently as other ants.  Worker ants are 1/16- to 1/8-inchs (2.3 to 3 mm in length). The crazy ant can be distinctive. They are dark brown to blackish in color although the body often has faint bluish iridescence.  The antennae are extremely long containing 12-segments, the first being the longest at twice the length of the head.  Their legs are also extraordinarily long.  The petiole is wedge-shaped, with a broad base, and inclined forward.

Habitat

The crazy ant is highly adaptable, and nests in both dry and moist habitats. The foraging area is extensive. Nests are typically found in such places as trash, refuse, soil, rotten wood and in plant and tree cavities, even under building debris. Crazy ants gather around human dwellings, attracted to the light. Gasoline stations, convenience stores, and sidewalk cafes are particularly attractive, anywhere where food is dropped. During the winter months in cold climates, the ants may nest indoors, feeding on many household foods.

Originally from Africa, the longlegged ant has been widely transported throughout the tropics by man. This ant was first reported in Hawaii on Oahu in 1952 and has subsequently spread to the islands of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai. The ant is abundant on Hawaii in the Hilo and Puna districts and at Hana on the island of Maui. It is usually found from sea level to about 2000 feet.

Diet

These ants feed on a variety of foods including grease, sweets, and other insects. In some areas they are considered a biological control agent for houseflies. They also tend aphids and scales to feed on their honeydew. While crazy ants need moisture, elimination of water by itself will not get rid of these ants since they can survive under a wide range of conditions. Elimination of food sources and nest sites are equally important in the management of this ant.

Workers are omnivorous, feeding on live and dead insects, seeds, honeydew, fruits, plant exudates, and many household foods. They apparently have a seasonal preference for a high-protein diet, and during the summer months may refuse honey or sugar baits. They are attracted to honeydew producing homopterans in spring and fall. They obtain honeydew by tending aphids, mealybugs, and soft scales. Large prey items are carried by a highly concerted group action.

The workers are known to gather small seeds of such crops as lettuce and tobacco from seedbeds. In cold climates, the ants nest in apartments and other buildings where they are potential pests year round. Workers feed on many household foods such as meats, grease, sweets, fruits, vegetables, and liquids.

Type of Damage

This ant does not damage plants. Instead, the longlegged ant contributes to the development of honeydew producing insects. They aid in the dispersal of these insects and also indirectly contribute to increased damage by protecting the colonies against natural enemies.

Their nest burrowing activity at the base of trees subject the roots of the plant to invasion by diseases.

Life Cycle

Ant colonies live in nests that may be located under ground or in trees. Nest size averages about 4000 individuals. Approximately 80% of the population are workers, 15% are queens, and the remaining percentage is composed of eggs, developing larvae, and pupae. There is an increase in nest size and foraging activity during drier months. Workers live for approximately 6 months, the queens for several years. Queens lay about 700 eggs annually throughout their life span.

Interesting Facts

The Invasive Species Specialist Group of the World Conservation Council lists the Crazy ant at number six in the world’s worst 100 invasive species. Red fire ants are listed at number 86.