AP/Joe MacGown.
AP File Photo. AP/Joe MacGown.

When the Carroll Organization acquired a 414-unit property in Webster, Texas, the management team was alerted to an unusual threat: A new type of ant, dubbed the tawny crazy ant, may soon infest the community.

Linda Masterson, the Atlanta-based company’s vice president of property management, prepared to fight the threat head-on through an aggressive pest control plan.

“When we take over a property we do a termite inspection, and part of that inspection was when it was identified that crazy ants may be there,” she says. “And we got several complaints from the residents during our initial [survey of the property]. So, prior to the purchase, we had the previous ownership do an aggressive treatment and we’ve picked it up from there.”

Like any pest, these ants are best fought with a blend of outdoor and indoor preventative treatments, Masterson says.

But the reddish-brown crazy ants are a little different from your average ant, says Orkin professional Ron Harrison. For one, they don’t travel like a regular trailing ant. Tawny crazy ants have sporadic movement and find strength in numbers: They travel by the hundreds of thousands, creating one scary sight.

“There have been reports of electrical issues because they’ll get into an electrical box and there’s so many of them it creates a problem,” Harrison says. “It’s more a disruptive nuisance and it’s a scary thing to see so many ants all over.”

Harrison can recall his first encounter with this particular breed.

“There was this wave of movement across the grass,” he says. “Then you come to realize it’s not the grass that’s moving; those are all ants. It’s almost like a horror movie.”

Crazy ants have emerged in Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama over the last few years, Harrison says.

Masterson’s property is located just south of Houston, a metro area that's been bombarded by the pests, Harrison says. One silver lining: their presence has pushed out the fire ant, which could be preferable to some people.

“They’re not like a fire ant that can sting you,” Harrison says. “We don’t have any evidence that they transfer diseases. But if a prospective buyer comes and sees all these ants, they may think twice about the purchase.”

The ants are known to flare up throughout the summer and cause large-scale problems. So, to prevent a mess, Harrison recommends starting to spray for the ants regularly beginning in the spring.

Masterson’s Texas team isn’t taking any risks. They've started treatment early and plan to continue aggressively treating the surrounding area. And the management team has been notified to be on high alert to prevent an infestation.

"Everyone is aware and knows at the first sign to react strongly and not to blow it off,” Masterson says.

Lindsay Machak is an Associate Editor for Multifamily Executive. Connect with her on Twitter @LMachak.