The tawny crazy ant has made its way into Georgia for the first time. University of Georgia Extension agent James Morgan in Dougherty County discovered the ant— which originates in South America— on Aug. 15 and submitted a sample to UGA entomologists for identification.
Prior to his discovery, the ant was found only in a few counties in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Where it occurs in those states, it is a major nuisance.
Morgan stumbled upon the ants at an assisted living facility, after the director called the UGA Extension office for help controlling the insect.
"What I found was thousands of dead ants in a pile in the corner of the bathroom floor," Morgan said. "The duplex was vacant, and the ants had come in looking for a food source. When they came in, they died and we found hundreds of them piled up around baseboards and in corners."
After further investigation outside the facility, Morgan found droves of the ants in an outbuilding.
"We found them in the lawn on debris and dead wood, and we traced them back to a storage area that was full of appliances," he said.
Accustomed to identifying Argentine ants, fire ants and other ants common to Georgia, Morgan knew these ants were different.
"They're reddish in color, very tiny, and they run around and scurry really fast. And they don't march in a straight row like Argentine ants," Morgan said.