The state of Florida is an unfortunate host to ghost ants, crazy ants, imported red fire ants, and more than fifty other non-native ant invaders, an abundance of transplants from South America, Africa, and Asia. Now, a new species of ant has joined the ranks of pesky tourists.
Say hello to the little yellow ant, a potentially damaging species from Madagascar that has set up colonies in the Riverland section of southwestern Fort Lauderdale, its first known foothold in the continental United States.
Little yellow ants don’t bite, but everything else about them is bad news. These tiny ants proliferate by the millions in super colonies served by thousands of egg-bearing queens.
They could threaten South Florida’s agriculture, including citrus. Difficult to eradicate once they establish a colony, they’re uninvited dinner guests in neighborhoods they infest, swarming kitchen counters and anyplace else that might have something to eat.
“When you have a barbecue with friends outside, within minutes whatever food you have waiting to be put on the barbecue is going to be covered in ants,” said Thomas Chouvenc, a biologist at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “People are not going to like it.”
The presence of Plagiolepis alluaudi is South Florida was detected earlier this year by Chouvenc, who specializes in termites. He noticed the yellow ants around his house in Fort Lauderdale and then discovered them throughout the Riverland neighborhood.
“The dynamic of the ant species in my backyard was changing,” he said.
“I could see these ants showing up and the bigheaded ants were vanishing. Then these little guys started showing up in my bathroom, my kitchen countertop, my dining room, in my baby’s room.They will form this massive foraging trail to bring the food back to their nest, which is somewhere outside. Out of all the ants I’ve had to deal with in Florida, this has been the most annoying so far.”