Paratrechina longicornis (crazy ant)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Detection and Inspection
- Prevention and Control
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Paratrechina longicornis (Latreille, 1802)
Preferred Common Name
- crazy ant
Other Scientific Names
- Formica gracilescens Nylander (1856)
- Formica longicornis Latreille (1802)
- Formica vagans Jerdon (1851)
- Paratrechina currens Motschoulsky (1863)
- Paratrechina longicornis (Latreille) (1925)
- Prenolepis (Nylanderia) longicornis Emery (1910)
- Prenolepis longicornis
- Prenolepis longicornis Roger (1863)
- Tapinoma gracilescens F. Smith (1858)
International Common Names
- English: black crazy ant; crazy ant; hairy ant; higenaga-ameiro-ari; long-horned ant; slender crazy ant
- PAATLO (Paratrechina longicornis)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Paratrechina longicornis, the crazy ant (not to be confused with the yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes) is a tramp ant, which, by definition, is an ant that is widely dispersed through commerce and other human-assisted avenues. The crazy ant’s ability to use many artificial environments is one explanation for its success as an invasive; its mode of reproduction may also contribute towards its invasive success (see ‘Distribution’ and ‘Biology and Ecology’ sections). P. longicornis is extremely easy to identify by observing its rapid and erratic movements. It is highly adaptable to various environments and can be a major pest. It occurs in large numbers in homes or outdoors and is capable of displacing other ants and possibly other invertebrates. It can also negatively affect agriculture by promoting sap-sucking pests, and may spread disease in the hospital environment. P. longicornis forages over long distances away from its nest, making the nest hard to find and the ants difficult to control.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Uniramia
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Hymenoptera
- Family: Formicidae
- Genus: Paratrechina
- Species: Paratrechina longicornis
DescriptionTop of page
The crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis) is extremely easy to identify by observing its rapid and erratic movements. The antennae have 12-segments without a club and the scape, the basal segment of the antenna, is extraordinarily long with the apex surpassing the posterior border of the head by at least one-half the scape length. Workers are relatively small (2.3-3mm). Head, thorax, petiole and gaster are dark brown to blackish and the body often has a faint bluish iridescence. All workers in a colony are monomorphic and have only one node between the propodeum and the gaster. Eyes are elliptical, strongly convex, and placed close to the posterior border of the head. Legs are extraordinarily long. The head is elongate and the mandibles narrow. Each mandible has five teeth. A stinger is lacking but P. longicornis may bite an intruder and curve its abdomen forward to inject a formic acid secretion from its acidopore onto the wound. Confirmation of identification may be made with the aid of a hand lens, through which the extremely long antennal scape, long legs and erect setae are very apparent. (Creighton, 1950; Harris and Berry, 2005; Nickerson and Barbara, 2000; and Onoyama and Morisita, 2003).
Please click on AntWeb: Paratrechina longicornis for more images and assistance with identification. The AntWeb image comparison tool lets you compare images of ants at the subfamily, genus, species or specimen level. You may also specify which types of images you would like to compare: head, profile, dorsal, or label.
Please see PaDIL (Pests and Diseases Image Library) Species Content Page Ants: Crazy ant for high quality diagnostic and overview images.
Please follow this link for a fully illustrated Lucid key to common invasive ants [Hymenoptera: Formicidae] of the Pacific Island region [requires the most recent version of Java installed]. The factsheet on Paratrechina longicornis contains an overview, diagnostic features, comparison charts, images, nomenclature and links. (Sarnat, 2008).
DistributionTop of page
Paratrechina longicornis is one of the most widely distributed ant species. It is found throughout much of the tropics and subtropics where it is an agricultural and household pest, and is found in temperate zones as an indoor pest. The crazy ant’s widespread distribution is due, at least in part, to its ability to thrive in disturbed and artificial environments including on cargo ships at sea; in addition because they can live indoors in heated houses, their distribution is not restricted by latitude. P. longicornis is rarer in natural undisturbed habitats. It is also less common in inland areas except along major waterways such as the Nile, Congo and Amazon rivers, but P. longicornis may begin to spread more widely inland with increasing air commerce (Wetterer, 2008).
Native range: Africa and Asia (Nickerson and Barbara, 2000); Southeast Asia and Melanesia (Wetterer, 2008). Precise native range is ambiguous since the species has long been recorded as having a widespread distribution.
Known introduced range: Australasia-Pacific Region, Europe, North America, and South America (Andersen et al. 2004; Freitag et al. 2000; Nickerson and Barbara, 2000; and Torres and Snelling, 1997).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||Present||Introduced||1971||ISSG, 2011|
|Brunei Darussalam||Unconfirmed record||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)||Present||Introduced||1933||ISSG, 2011|
|East Timor||Present||Introduced||2005||ISSG, 2011|
|India||Present||Introduced||1851||ISSG, 2011; Lokeshwari et al., 2015|
|Palestine||Present||Earliest record = 1880||Wetterer, 2008|
|Saudi Arabia||Present||Introduced||1979||ISSG, 2011|
|Sri Lanka||Present||Introduced||1858||ISSG, 2011|
|United Arab Emirates||Present||Introduced||1995||ISSG, 2011|
|Algeria||Present||Earliest record 1962||ISSG, 2011|
|Cameroon||Present||Earliest record 1916||ISSG, 2011|
|Cape Verde||Present||Earliest record 1953||ISSG, 2011|
|Central African Republic||Present||Earliest record 1911||ISSG, 2011|
|Comoros||Present||Earliest record 1994||ISSG, 2011|
|Congo Democratic Republic||Present||Earliest record = 1901||ISSG, 2011|
|Egypt||Present||Earliest record = 1880||ISSG, 2011|
|Equatorial Guinea||Present||Earliest record = 1940||ISSG, 2011|
|Eritrea||Present||Earliest record 1906||ISSG, 2011|
|Ethiopia||Present||Earliest record = 1933||ISSG, 2011|
|Gambia||Present||Earliest record 2007||ISSG, 2011|
|Ghana||Present||Earliest record 1968||ISSG, 2011|
|Guinea||Present||Earliest record = 1876||ISSG, 2011|
|Kenya||Present||Earliest record < 2004||ISSG, 2011|
|Madagascar||Present||Earliest record = 1891||ISSG, 2011|
|Malawi||Unconfirmed record||Introduced||<1970||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Mali||Present||Earliest record 1970||ISSG, 2011|
|Mauritius||Present||Earliest record 1942||ISSG, 2011|
|Morocco||Present||Earliest record = 1929||ISSG, 2011|
|Nigeria||Present||Earliest record = 1914||ISSG, 2011|
|Réunion||Present||Earliest record = 1895||ISSG, 2011|
|Rodriguez Island||Present||Earliest record = 1879||ISSG, 2011|
|Saint Helena||Present||Introduced||1994||ISSG, 2011|
|Sao Tome and Principe||Present||Earliest record = 1920||ISSG, 2011|
|Senegal||Present||Earliest record = 1802||ISSG, 2011|
|Seychelles||Present||Earliest record = 1897||ISSG, 2011|
|Sierra Leone||Present||Earliest record 1976||ISSG, 2011|
|Somalia||Present||Earliest record 1913||ISSG, 2011|
|South Africa||Present||Earliest record = 1922||ISSG, 2011|
|-Canary Islands||Present||Earliest record = 1893||ISSG, 2011|
|Sudan||Present||Earliest record = 1911||ISSG, 2011|
|Tanzania||Present||Earliest record 1912||ISSG, 2011|
|-British Columbia||Present||Introduced||1994||ISSG, 2011|
|-New Mexico||Present||Introduced||2000||ISSG, 2011|
|-New York||Present||Introduced||1886||ISSG, 2011|
|-North Carolina||Present||Introduced||1937||ISSG, 2011|
|-South Carolina||Present||Introduced||1934||ISSG, 2011|
Central America and Caribbean
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||Introduced||1918||ISSG, 2011|
|British Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Cayman Islands||Present||Introduced||2008||ISSG, 2011|
|Costa Rica||Present||Introduced||1899||ISSG, 2011|
|Dominican Republic||Present||Introduced||1915||ISSG, 2011|
|El Salvador||Present||Introduced||1958||ISSG, 2011|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Introduced||1906||ISSG, 2011|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Present||Introduced||1934||ISSG, 2011|
|Saint Lucia||Present||Introduced||1935||Invasive||ISSG, 2011; Krauss, 2012|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present||Introduced||1892||ISSG, 2011|
|Sint Maarten||Present||Earliest record = 1994||Wetterer, 2008|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present||Introduced||1895||ISSG, 2011|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||Present||Introduced||1953||ISSG, 2011|
|United States Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||1878||ISSG, 2011|
|-Easter Island||Present||Introduced||1971||ISSG, 2011|
|-Galapagos Islands||Present||Introduced||1906||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|French Guiana||Present||Introduced||1868||ISSG, 2011|
|Czech Republic||Present||Introduced||1937||ISSG, 2011|
|Ireland||Unconfirmed record||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-Madeira||Present||Earliest record = 1859||ISSG, 2011|
|-Balearic Islands||Present||Introduced||2004||ISSG, 2011|
|-England and Wales||Present||Introduced||1859||ISSG, 2011|
|-Australian Northern Territory||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Cook Islands||Present||Introduced||1925||ISSG, 2011|
|French Polynesia||Present||Introduced||1907||Invasive||ISSG, 2011||Wetterer (2008) notes earliest records on Austral Islands (2006) and Tuamotus (1996)|
|French Southern and Antarctic Territories||Earliest record = 1964||Wetterer, 2008||Europa Island, part of the 'Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean'.|
|Kiribati||Present||Introduced||1914||ISSG, 2011||Wetterer (2008) notes earliest record on Banaba Island (1914) and on Gilbert Islands (1957)|
|Line Islands||Present||Earliest record = 1935||Wetterer, 2008|
|Marshall Islands||Present||Introduced||1937||ISSG, 2011|
|Micronesia, Federated states of||Present||Introduced||1935||ISSG, 2011|
|Nauru||Unconfirmed record||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|New Caledonia||Present||Introduced||1914||ISSG, 2011|
|New Zealand||Present||Introduced||1926||ISSG, 2011; Peacock, 2012|
|Norfolk Island||Unconfirmed record||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Present||Introduced||1911||ISSG, 2011|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Introduced||1901||ISSG, 2011|
|Phoenix Islands||Present||Introduced||1940-41||ISSG, 2011|
|Pitcairn Island||Present||Introduced||1934||ISSG, 2011|
|Solomon Islands||Present||Introduced||1916||ISSG, 2011|
|Wake Island||Present||Introduced||1957||ISSG, 2011|
|Wallis and Futuna Islands||Present||Introduced||1965||ISSG, 2011|
HabitatTop of page
The crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis) is highly adaptable, living in both very dry and rather moist habitats. It often nests some distance away from its foraging area and is usually associated with disturbance. They are a common pest ant in houses and seem peculiarly adapted to the interior and immediate vicinity of human habitations. It nests in places such as trash, refuse, cavities in plants and trees, rotten wood, in soil under objects and nests have also been found under debris left standing in buildings for long periods of time. A crazy ant nest site can be found by looking for workers carrying food back to the nest. P. longicornis can also be found in other environments such as beaches, dry tortugas, geothermal areas, farms and even ships. It is also present in some native vegetation in the tropics, such as in conservation areas on offshore islands. In cold climates, the ants nest in centrally heated buildings. On beaches at high tide, nests can be found submerged underwater and are probably protected from flooding by air trapped in the nest galleries (Harris and Berry, 2005; Longino, 2004; and Nickerson and Barbara, 2000).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)||Poaceae||Main|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis) foragers are opportunistic omnivores, feeding on live and dead insects, seeds, honeydew, fruits, plant exudates and many household foods. P. longicornis thrive in places such as shops and cafes, where workers may be seen transporting crumbs and insects. 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 hemipterans in spring and autumn/fall. Honeydew is obtained by tending to the hemipternas – e.g. plant lice, mealy bugs and scales – the hemipterans may benefit from being tended by ants; for example, the ants may protect the hemipterans from predators and parasites (Koch et al. 2011). P. longicornis foragers will also collect seeds. Large prey items, such as a lizard, are carried by a highly concerted group action. Workers feed on many household foods, such as meat, grease, sweets, fruits, vegetables and liquids (Smith 1965)" (Harris and Berry, 2005; and Nickerson and Barbara, 2000).
Crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis) colonies are polygyne. Nests contain up to 2000 workers and 40 queens. Reproduction is throughout the year in warm climates but more restricted in cooler climates. Workers are probably sterile. Colonies occur in temporary nests, are highly mobile, and will move if disturbed. These ants can nest in a variety of locations from dry to moist environments (Harris and Berry, 2005).
Recently, Pearcy et al. (2011) found that P. longicornis has an unusual mode of reproduction whereby workers are produced by normal sexual reproduction, but queens and males are clones of their mothers and fathers respectively. In this way, the paternal and maternal lines remain distinct and genetically very different from each other; because of this, the sterile workers (which inherit from both the maternal and paternal lines) have high levels of heterozygosity, and this is true even if the queen mates with her brother. This could explain the crazy ant’s invasive success, since worker ants remain heterozygous (i.e. they do not suffer from inbreeding depression) even if produced by a small founder population, as would usually be the case if the species was introduced to a new area on a cargo ship for example.
Crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis) colonies range from moderate to heavily populous. The colonies may raise sexuals at any time of the year in warmer regions, but in the seasonal climate of north Florida, alate production is apparently limited to the warm rainy months of spring through late summer. On warm, humid evenings, large numbers of males gather outside nest entrances and may mill about excitedly. Workers patrol vegetation and other structures nearby. Periodically, a dealate queen emerges. Trager (1984) has suggested that mating occurs in such groupings around the nest entrance. Wings of queens are removed while still callow and males were never observed to fly or use their wings in any way. However, in several cases it has been observed that males frequently appear at lights (Nickerson and Barbara, 2000).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Introduction pathways to new locations
Nursery trade: On 26 October 1990, Greg Mayer, Tina Kuklenski, and Scott Miller sampled invertebrates from a large shipment (an entire barge) of potted plants being unloaded at Guana Island, British Virgin Islands (BVI). The shipment was infested with large numbers of insects and snails, and included P. longicornis (Miller, 1994).
Other: Human-mediated dispersal has helped the spread of P. longicornis at local, regional, national and international scales (Harris et al. 2005). It can be associated with any commodity and transport mode from countries with established populations and is commonly intercepted on air and sea cargo, including fresh produce, timber, empty sea containers and personal baggage (Simon O'Connor pers comm).
Local dispersal methods
Natural dispersal (local): Natural dispersal is primarily by budding. Neither queens nor males appear to fly (Trager 1984). It is a rapid coloniser and often the first species to arrive in a newly disturbed area (Lee 2002) (Harris and Berry, 2005).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
ImpactTop of page
Crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis) is an extremely hardy species. Its ability to invade a varying degree of habitats makes it a serious threat, and it can occur in large numbers in both homes and outdoors. P. longicornis is a common tramp ant that invades houses and heated buildings, including hospital buildings where it is known to transport pathogenic microbes. (Roxo et al. 2010). It can also be an indirect pest of agriculture, because, it can enhance populations of sap-sucking hemipterans such as aphids and scale insects (see Nutrition in the ‘Biology and Ecology’ section). P. longicornis is capable of displacing other ants and possibly other invertebrates. For example, Koch et al. (2011) suggested that crazy ants in Madagascar could threaten native stingless bee species by competing with them for honeydew.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Pest and disease transmission
UsesTop of page
Paratrechina longicornis is involved in an important mutualistic relationship with the eggs of the lizard Mabuya longicaudata in its native range of Taiwan. In high moisture environments reptile eggs are able to condense water on their surfaces. These small water droplets are collected by P. longicornis. When water droplets and P. longicornis were experimentally removed from the eggs of M. longicaudata the eggs were attacked by the egg predator ant Pheidole taivanensis. Both ant species actively searched for the reptilian eggs, with P. taivanensis usually finding eggs first. In the absence of P. longicornis, P. taivanensis predation dramatically reduced lizard egg survival. However when P. longicornis found nests later they were usually able to displace the egg predator ant (Huang, 2008).
Detection and InspectionTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Paratrechina longicornis forages long distances away from the nest and nests can be in cracks in concrete or around wharf piles, which often makes nests difficult to locate and control. (Harris and Berry, 2005; and Nickerson and Barbara, 2000). Many commercially available chemical controls show limited effectiveness, due to difficulties in attracting the ants to chemical baits (Stanley and Robinson, 2007; and see ‘Management Information’ for further details).
Preventative measures: Early detection by active surveillance and subsequent nest treatment is the best way to prevent any ant species from establishing in novel environments. Pitfalls and attractant baits are both methods that can yield good results (Ireneo and Navaareo, 2010; Simon O'Connor pers.comm).
The Pacific Ant Prevention Programme is a proposal prepared for the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation and Regional Technical Meeting for Plant Protection. This plan aims to prevent the red imported fire ant and other invasive ant species with economic, environmental or social impacts from establishing within or spreading between countries in the Pacific.
A detailed pest risk assessment for the eight species ranked as having the highest potential risk to New Zealand (Anoplolepis gracilipes, Lasius neglectus, Monomorium destructor, Paratrechina longicornis, Solenopsis geminata, Solenopsis richteri, Tapinoma melanocephalum, Wasmannia auropunctata) was prepared as part of 'The invasive ant risk assessment project', (Harris et al. 2005)., for Biosecurity New Zealand by Landcare Research. The invasive ant risk assessment for Paratrechina longicornis can be viewed at Paratrechina longicornis risk assessment
Please see Paratrechina longicornis information sheet for more information on biology, distribution, pest status and control technologies.
Cultural control: Non-chemical control is based on exclusion through good housekeeping practices and cleanliness, eliminating food sources. Crazy ants often nest outdoors so prevention of their entrance by caulking exterior penetrations and weather-stripping may aid in their control (Nickerson and Barbara, 2000).
Chemical control: Inside buildings, chemical controls are based on baits, dusts and spot treatments with residual sprays. Outdoor treatments include chemical formulations such as baits, granules, dusts, and sprays (Nickerson and Barbara, 2000).
1.0 Preventative measures
Prevention, quarantine and rapid response are the best management strategies for preventing the establishment of invasive ants. To be successful they require active surveying, early detection and subsequent rapid treatment procedures, often along with quarantines. This type of pro-active management approach remains the most practical strategy for dealing with invasive ants (Krushelnycky, Loope and Reimer, 2005; see also 2.1 Cultural Control).
1.1 Risk Assessments
Risk assessment is a vital management tool for addressing the issue of invasive ants in a country or region. Mapping the potential range of invasive ant species is also a useful tool for assessing risk, preparing risk assessments and estimating the potential threat an invasive ant poses to people and the environment.
In New Zealand an invasive ant risk assessment project (prepared for Biosecurity New Zealand by Landcare Research) identified ant species which pose the greatest potential threat to New Zealand. This project was divided into five sections: (i) gathering data on native and non-native New Zealand ants, (ii) producing a preliminary risk, (iii) producing information sheets on medium-risk and high-risk taxa, (iv) producing a detailed pest risk assessment for the eight highest-risk species, and (v) re-ranking these eight species. Of the 75 ant taxa which were ranked the following ants present the greatest potential risk to New Zealand: Anoplolepis gracilipes, Lasius neglectus, Monomorium destructor, Paratrechina longicornis, Solenopsis geminata, Solenopsis richteri, Tapinoma melanocephalum and Wasmannia auropunctata (Harris undated). An assessment of the current risk of P. longicornis establishing itself in New Zealand (based on climate similarity of native and introduced ranges) led to the prediction that it may establish a limited distribution in non-urban habitat in northern New Zealand, and could establish in and around heated buildings elsewhere (R. Harris unpubl. data, in Stanley 2004). Stanley (2004) also believes that P. longicornis is likely to have a highly restricted distribution in New Zealand.
1.2 Ant Prevention in the Pacific Region
The Pacific island region includes over 25 countries, most of which are served by two important regional international organizations, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), which addresses agricultural issues, and the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), which addresses biodiversity issues. The biodiversity of the Pacific is particularly vulnerable to effects of invasive species (SPREP 2000).
Special concern regarding ant invasions has arisen now that the red imported fire ant occurs at or near the coast on both sides of the Pacific, and the little fire ant has arrived in Hawaii and is spreading in the western Pacific. These and other species threaten all Pacific islands, including Hawaii and the U.S. affiliated islands of Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, American Samoa, and Palau.
The SPC-Plant Protection Service (SPC-PPS) works in partnership with 22 Pacific members to maintain effective quarantine systems and to assist with regionally coordinated eradication/containment efforts. Priorities for emphasis are determined by member countries, which meet periodically as the Pacific Plant Protection Organization (PPPO).
A workshop sponsored by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of IUCN was held in Auckland, New Zealand, in September 2003, and resulted in the compilation of a draft Pacific Ant Prevention Plan (Pacific Invasive Ant Group 2004). The Pacific Ant Prevention Plan was presented to and embraced by 21 Pacific island countries and territories present at a PPPO meeting, the “Regional Biosecurity, Plant Protection and Animal Health” meeting held by SPC in Suva, Fiji, in March 2004 (Pacific Plant Protection Organization 2004). Like Hawaii’s Red Imported Fire Ant Prevention Plan, the Pacific Ant Prevention Plan is still a conceptual work, but ISSG and others are working toward obtaining the international funding needed to implement the plan with the assistance of SPC. The project presents an exceptional opportunity for agriculture and conservation interests to work together with international and bilateral aid entities at regional and country levels to build much needed quarantine capacity. Increased quarantine protection is desperately needed by PICT in order to address invasions that jeopardize both agriculture and biodiversity.
The information for this section was sourced directly from Krushelnycky Loope and Reimer (2005).
2.1 Cultural Control
Non-chemical control is based on exclusion through good housekeeping practices and cleanliness eliminating food sources. Crazy ants nest outdoors so prevention of their entrance by caulking exterior penetrations and weather-stripping may aid in their control (Nickerson and Barbara 2000).
2.2 Chemical Control
2.2.1 General Considerations
Most if not all ant eradications have employed the use of baits and toxicants, many of which are developed for agriculture or urban settings. However, indiscriminate pesticide use in natural areas and fragile island ecosystems is not advocated. While some toxins such as hydramethylnon break down quickly in the environment, any and all pesticide use is likely to be accompanied by at least some undesirable non-target effects. These include increased runoff or drift outside the intended area, adverse effects on beneficial insects and non-target impacts on native species (Krushelnycky Loope and Reimer 2005).
Non-target impacts must be weighed up carefully against the benefits of ant eradication. Cleary, treating whole ecosystems or islands is too risky as entire populations of rare invertebrates may be at risk of extinction. On the other hand, eradicating populations of exotic ants before they become established in a natural ecosystem or island has the potential to prevent the potentially disastrous consequences of ant invasions (Krushelnycky Loope and Reimer 2005).
Baits should be designed with the specific foraging strategies of the target ant in mind. The preferred size, type and dispersal of bait and the nesting, foraging and behavioural traits of the ant should be considered in the planning stages of the operation. The use of appropriately designed and chosen baits and toxins will help reduce the impact of toxins on native ants and non-target fauna (McGlynn 1999).
2.2.2 Ant Toxins
Ant toxins can be classed into three categories: “stomach” poisons (or metabolic inhibitors), Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) and neurotoxins. Stomach toxins include hydramethylnon (eg: Maxforce® or Amdro®), sulfuramid and sodium tetraborate decahydrate (eg: Borax). IGRs include compounds such as methoprene, fenoxycarb or pyriproxyfen. Neurotoxins include fipronil (eg: Xstinguish®). Stomach poison kills all workers and reproductives it comes into contact with. IGRs work by disrupting development of the queens ovarian tissues, effectively sterilising the colony. Neurological inhibitors disrupt insect central nervous systems by blocking neuron receptors. The onset of mortality is contingent upon the type of active ingredient. In general, ant baits that contain active ingredients that are metabolic inhibitors have a two to three day delay before extensive mortality occurs in the colony (Oi Vail and Williams 2000). Baits containing IGRs take several weeks before colony populations are reduced substantially (Oi Vail and Williams 2000). The latter (IGRs) provide gradual long-term control, while metabolic inhibitors provide short-term, localised and rapid control (Oi Vail and Williams 2000). This is because while stomach poisons are faster than IGRs, they sometimes eliminate workers before the toxin can be effectively distributed throughout the colony (O’Dowd Green and Lake 1999).
Indoor chemical control is based on baits, dusts or spot treatments with residual sprays. Outdoor treatments include chemical formulations such as baits, granules, dusts and sprays. Read and follow label instructions and precautions before using any insecticide (Nickerson and Barbara 2000).
P. longicornis is notoriously difficult to control with bait (Hedges, 1996a; 1996b; Lee, 2000 in Stanley & Robinson, 2007). It has been reported that it does not feed for long enough on commercial baits to give effective control. Commercial baits are generally designed for control of the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and are usually oil based. These baits are not preferred by P. longicornis.
Studies have shown that P. longicornis recruits well to Xstinguish™. HExterm-An-Ant® has also been used against P. longicornis, but although attractive to foragers, its ability to kill queens within the nest is unknown. Trials to compare the attractiveness of Xstinguish™ and Exterm-An-Ant® with other potential options for management of P. longicornis are being conducted in Western Australia"" (Harris et al. 2005).
Stanley (2004) found that the Australian-manufactured IGR baits developed for S. invicta control - Engage® (methoprene) and Distance® (pyriproxyfen) - have a lipid attractant and are unlikely to be attractive to such species as Linepithema humile, T. melanocephalum or P. longicornis. Lee et al. (2003) found some evidence that Protect-B® (0.5% methoprene) baits and Combat Ant Killer® bait stations (1% hydramethylnon) are not effective against P. longicornis (Stanley 2004).
Experiments testing food attractants found P. longicornis strongly preferred honey over peanut butter. Lee and Kooi (2004) report that baiting is seldom effective, particularly with paste and granular formulations, against P. longicornis in Singapore and Malaysia, but recommend sugar-based, liquid or gel formulations for control of P. longicornis. Stanley (2004) recommends using protein and carbohydrate, rather than lipid baits, as the attractants in baits for controlling P. longicornis.
In New Zealand Stanley (2004) recommends using Xstinguish® (fipronil) (already registered and available in New Zealand) in spring and summer as it is expected to be effective at controlling P. longicornis. Liquid boron-based baits <1% toxin) would be expected to be effective in autumn and winter (Stanley 2004).
Further research in New Zealand trialled a range of food types and commercial ant baits (Amdro, Maxforce, Xstinguish, Presto) and boric acid for attractiveness to P. longicornis. The most attractive baits were found to be tuna (no toxin), Xstinguish (non-toxic version), sugar water and sugar water + boric acid. The granular baits (Maxforce, Amdro and Presto) were not as attractive to P. longicornis foragers (Stanley & Robinson, 2007). The authors conclude that “Given that tuna is impractical for management programs, the effectiveness of boric acid, sweet liquid baits in eliminating P. longicornis colonies should be compared with that of the toxic version of Xstinguish. If both are effective at eliminating colonies, we recommend sweet liquid baits containing boric acid be used for small-scale incursions (one or two nests), but a more practicable solid bait, such as Xstinguish, be used for larger scale incursions (numerous nests)”
3.1 Eradication Research
Experimental eradication of ants has been undertaken at several important wildlife refuges in Hawaii’s offshore islets. On Moky Nui (off the windward coast of Oahu, Hawaii) two broadcast applications of Amdro® caused significant declines in S. geminata and P. longicornis, both of which were abundant before treatment (Krushelnycky Loope and Reimer 2005). This small-island experiment is still being evaluated for its efficacy, feasibility and non-target effects and has not lead to standard management practices (Krushelnycky Loope and Reimer 2005).
3.2 Biosecurity New Zealand
Biosecurity New Zealand, the branch of government responsible for managing invasive species, has responded to a series of incursions of exotic invasive ant species by relying heavily on a small number of baits and toxins. The absence of a wide variety of effective baits may compromise the success of incursion responses. As a first step to ensuring effective incursion response, Biosecurity New Zealand commissioned Landcare Research to research and review international literature about the baits and toxins used for ant control (see Stanley 2004). The next step will be testing the most promising of these against a selected group of high-risk invasive ant species.
3.3 Bait and Toxin Research
Stanley (2004) recommends the New Zealand focus research efforts on the species that lack effective strategies and pose some risk to New Zealand (P. longicornis, T. melanocephalum and L. neglectus) to determine which baits can be used to effectively manage them. In an incursion event now, Xstinguish® should be used, but research is required to determine the most effective baits (Stanley 2004).
Stanley (2004) suggests that future research on P. longicornis focus on:
• Determining food preferences and attractants (as there is currently no established best practice for this species)
• Comparing the attractiveness and efficacy of Presto®, Xstinguish® and liquid boron-based baits on P. longicornis.
Harris, R. Undated. Invasive Ant Pest Risk Assessment Project. [Accessed 29 March 2007, from: http://issg.appfa.auckland.ac.nz/database/species/reference_files/Ant_RA/overview.pdf]
Krushelnycky, P.D., Loope, L.L. and Reimer, N.J. 2005. The Ecology, Policy, and Management of Ants in Hawaii, Proc. Hawaiian Entomol. Soc. 37. [Accessed 2 April 2007, from: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/peps/museum/ant_website/Krushelnycky_et_al_Ant_review2005.pdf]
Nickerson, J.C., and K.A. Barbara. 2000. Featured Creatures: Crazy Ant: Scientific Name: Paratrechina longicornis (Latreille) (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae). University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Accessed 2 April 2007, from: http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/urban/ants/crazy_ant.htm]
O’Dowd, D.J., Green, P.T. and Lake, P.S. 1999. Status, Impact, and Recommendations for Research and Management of Exotic Invasive Ants in Christmas Island National Park. Centre for the Analysis and Management of Biological Invasions: Clayton (Victoria, Australia). [Accessed 4 April 2007, from: http://www.issg.org/database/species/reference_files/Christmas_Island_Report.pdf]
Oi, D.H., Vail, K.M. and Williams, D.F. 2000. Bait distribution among multiple colonies of Pharaoh ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Journal of Economic Entomology 93 (4): 1247 - 1255. [Accessed 13 Friday 2007, from: http://www.bioone.org.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/archive/0022-0493/93/4/pdf/i0022-0493-93-4-1247.pdf]
Stanley, M.C. 2004. Review of the Efficacy of Baits Used for Ant Control and Eradication (Landcare Research Contract Report: LC0405/044). [Accessed 29 March 2007, from: http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/biocons/invertebrates/ants/BaitEfficacyReport.pdf]
Stanley, M.C. & Robinson, W.A. (2007). Relative attractiveness of baits to Paratrechina longicornis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 100 (2): 509-516.
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ContributorsTop of page
- Reviewed by: Simon O'Connor Coordinator, Pacific Ant Prevention Programme Secretariat of the Pacific Community New Zealand
Last Modified: Monday, October 04, 2010
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