The Yellow Crazy Ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes

Anoplolepis gracilipes
A yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes, from an infestation in Cairns, Australia.

I’ve been increasingly self-conscious about not having photographed the yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes. This species is one of the world’s most damaging invasive insects, wiping out entire faunas as it spreads like a formic acid carpet across the south pacific. The famous Christmas Island crabs, for example, are in danger of extinction from the ant menace. For a professional ant photographer to be without photos of this little terror is to be a bookstore without Harry Potter, or a coffee shop without scones.

Thanks to ant researcher Lori Lach, though, I was able to remedy this oversight. Lori took me to one of the infested sites near Cairns earlier this month. It was like a horror movie:

Lori Lach in an invaded riparian forest, with media commentary.

Well, not *exactly* like a horror movie. But still. I had never seen anything like it.

A trail of yellow crazy ants covers a tree trunk.

The ants are big. Most invasive ant species have large colonies of rather small ants, but Anoplolepis has large colonies of large ants. Viscerally, that makes a difference. Especially since they are also fast. Much more of the ground and foliage seems to be moving. Even for an ant guy, the effect is unnerving.

Anoplolepis gracilipes
A worker collects honeydew from a sugarcane whitefly.
Anoplolepis gracilipes
Grass aphids were another source of honeydew.

I was told not to be impressed, though, because that particular site had been treated recently and the infestation was “light”. It didn’t look light to me. I saw hardly any other ants and very few insects apart from the honeydew-producing bugs the ants were guarding. A heavy infestation must be… crazy.

Anoplolepis gracilipes

Anyway. Check out the new photographs:

Yellow Crazy Ant Photos

And, if you’d like a yellow crazy ant explainer Minute Earth has a short video.

5 thoughts on “The Yellow Crazy Ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes”

  1. Danny McDonald

    I can’t wait to show you Nylanderia fulva once you get to Texas. I can’t imagine that Anoplolepis gracilipes is any worse.

    1. I’ve heard that. Funny thing is, Nylanderia fulva was a common ant in my yard when I lived in Paraguay, but it never really did much of note, other than get hit by army ant raids.

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