Crazy ants are pretty easy to recognize due to their habit of running around aimlessly when disturbed, making their movements appear “crazy” and erratic. There are a number of different species of “crazy” ants, including the longhorn crazy ant and the tawny crazy ant. There are slight differences between the species, but they are all invasive insect pests that can drive homeowners crazy when they infest homes.
These invasive pests are not native to the U.S., but have established a presence all over the country as well as the rest of the world. Longhorn crazy ants are native to Asia, while tawny crazy ants originate from South America. While both species have the distinguishing feature of their antennae and legs being longer than their bodies proportionally, longhorn crazy ants are dark brown to black in color, while tawny crazy ants are a reddish-brown color. Both are serious nuisance pests, and will occasionally bite while curving their abdomen forward and secreting formic acid into the bite wound. Both species will invade and form colonies in a wide range of indoor and outdoor environments and are attracted to many types of food, including sweets, grease, and animal matter just to name a few.
Longhorn crazy ants form relatively small colonies of up to 2,000 workers and multiple queens. Longhorn crazy ants clone their queen and her mates in order to reproduce faster. This can result in several interconnected colonies existing, creating much larger infestations. They also have mobile colonies, and have a tendency to suddenly abandon one nest site and move to another. This can all make eliminating infestations much more complicated. Tawny crazy ants form huge colonies, with some growing to reach billions of tawny crazy ants per acre. They also have a tendency to tend and even protect aphids, making them a large threat to agricultural crops and gardens. Both are well known for damaging electrical equipment. Tawny crazy ants have the ability to protect themselves from fire ant venom by covering their bodies in formic acid, causing them to even displace fire ants in some places, causing problems in the local ecological system.
You can certainly find both the longhorn and the tawny crazy ant in Arizona. Longhorn crazy ants are found throughout the United States. Tawny crazy ants are a problem throughout the south, including Arizona. Homeowners in Arizona should watch out for infestations of both the longhorn and tawny crazy ant.
Have you ever had to deal with an infestation of either of these “crazy” ants?