The yellow crazy ant, aka long-legged ant or Maldive ant, is an invasive species of ant which is thought to be originally from Africa or Asia. They have accidentally been introduced to a variety of islands in the tropics, to name a few places. Due to their long legs and antennae, these ants are among the largest invasive ant species in the world. Due to their invasive nature and wide spread distribution, these ants are not currently evaluated by the IUCN.
First the Stats…
Scientific name: Anoplolepis gracilipes
Length: Up to .19 inch
Lifespan: Up to 84 days (workers) | Up to 3 years (queen)
Now on to the Facts!
1.) They are called “crazy” due to their erratic movements when disturbed.
2.) The yellow crazy ants are called a “tramp ant” (a species that easily becomes established and dominant in new habitats due to their aggression toward other ant species, subtle aggression toward members of its own species, large colony sizes, and efficient recruitment).
3.) Since these ants don’t walk or fly long distances, they instead rely upon relocation from cars, plants, firewood, mulch, and other mobile “homes” to spread to new locations.
4.) To save themselves from fire ant venom, they will groom themselves with an antidote they secrete from a special gland.
5.) The substance produced from their anti-fire ant venom gland is formic acid. This acid is not only used to nullify the effects of the fire ant venom, but is also used against the fire ants.
But wait, there’s more on the yellow crazy ant!
6.) They form huge colonies. 1 colony on Christmas Island measured 7.8408e+7 square feet!
7.) These ants frequent traffic signals, electronics, air conditioning units, appliances, and outlets. When they enter these areas and get shocked by a hot wire, they release a pheromone signalling the colony for help. This results in nearby ants coming to the rescue. Then the arriving ants get shocked, calling even more ants. Millions of ants then infiltrate the area filling the AC unit or other electric device, finally shorting out the device and leaving scores of dead ants inside.
Did you know…?
Christmas Island’s famous red land crabs are under severe threat at the hands of yellow crazy ants. The ants spray formic acid on the crab’s joints, paralyzing and killing the crabs. They are then dismembered and taken back to the colony.
8.) Crazy ant colonies typically spread through “budding” (when mated queens and workers leave the nest to establish a new colony) and only rarely through flight by female winged reproductive individuals.
9.) These ants are considered scavenging predators. They feed on grains, seeds, arthropods, and decaying matter like carrion (dead animals). They have been reported to attack and dismember invertebrates like small myriapods, molluscs, isopods, arachnids, land crabs, earthworms, and insects.
10.) Rather than a single queen, crazy ant super colonies contain dozens of queens.
But wait, there’s still more on the yellow crazy ant!
11.) Due to the size and complexity of their colonies, traditional ant control methods fail to work. Scientists have been looking into parasitic wasps and flies, or fungi to keep these ants in check. This is in combination with mechanical methods and pesticides.
12.) Not only do these ants affect wildlife, but they also affect plant life as well. Yellow crazy ants form relationships with plant eating insects that produce honeydew as a waste product. This is called Mutualism. The ants protect bugs like aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies, to name a few, and lap up the excreted honeydew. This protection causes the demise of many plant species.
13.) Another super colony nearly destroyed the bird populations of Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The single massive colony was found to occupy nearly a quarter of the island, with up to 1,000 queens in a section of land 20 feet wide. The infestation is thought to have been eliminated.
Now a Short Yellow Crazy Ant Video!
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