College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

‘Crazy’ Ants Invade the Southeast

As recent waves of hairy, crazy ants invade areas of the Southeast, including Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Louisiana, many wonder if Oxford could be next on their hit list.

The ants have been spotted in Jackson and Hancock County in Mississippi, according to a paper published by Joe MacGown, a scientific illustrator and curatorial assistant at the Mississippi State Entomological Museum at Mississippi State University.

These ants were recorded in the Caribbean in the late 19th century, thus receiving the nickname “Caribbean crazy ants,” according to an Associated Press report. Considering the origin of these ants, people often pose the question of how they arrived in the Southeastern portion of the United States.

Paul Lago, chair of the biology department at the University of Mississippi, identified this as one of the chief problems concerning such invasions. “We have these things invading from other places, and how do they get here?” he said. “Maybe it’s natural, and they are just flying. I don’t know.” 

Regardless of how they came to be in the Southeast, the ants pose a problem. The ants often get into walls and short circuits, Lago said. Of course, Lago said this phenomenon is not exclusive to hairy, crazy ants. Fire ants can and have done the same thing in Oxford. The question remains as to whether or not the ants will reach Oxford. 

“It’s very possible that the cold will shut them down,” Lago said. “They might not be able to live this far north. Fire ants don’t go very far north, but fire ants live here. If fire ants can live here, why can’t they?” 

Local exterminators have not experienced more ant problems than usual. Requests for ant treatments on houses have not increased in quantity recently, according to Mike Pickens, owner of Pickens Pest Control. Office manager Phyllis Goodwin of Guardian Termite and Pest Control Inc., reported a similar situation. 

If the ants do reach Oxford, consequences include expensive control. Treatments range from $275 to prices in the thousands, according to the Associated Press report. 

The ants do not sting like fire ants but still pose a huge problem to residents and exterminators alike.