One Flew Over the Crazy Ant's Nest

“Son of a b****, there are maggots!”

I can still hear my mom yelling this when I was eight years old. She’d driven my younger brother and me to the gas station to vacuum our grey Oldsmobile, only to lift up the back seats and discover several white maggots, the sight of which produced instantaneous dry heaving. 

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Courtesy www.reactiongifs.com

This was, of course, our fault. You can only drop so many french fries and pieces of McDonald’s chicken nuggets into the abyss that is the seat belt region before you get worms. But we were also eight and six years old, so she was on her own in the damage control department.

At some point in our lives, we’ve all had to deal with an untimely infestation of some sort or another. Granted, maggots are perhaps another level altogether of disgusting and should never appear in one’s family vehicle, but you catch my drift.

For Kim Bockover, Property Manager for the Barrington Group in Southwester Florida, her nightmare came in the form of crazy ants. (The name alone is horrifying.)

Bockover first noticed them in the rear of the property, farthest from the entrance of the horseshoe-shaped community of 14 buildings. Twelve months later, the ants had inundated nearly all of the 12-acre property, a mixture of owner-occupied condominiums and rental apartments abutting a nature preserve. 

As it turns out, ants marching two-by-two was really low-balling it.

“When I first saw them, I thought they were just ants,” says Bockover, who, prior to her career in property management, was an U.S. Army environmental health technician (read: Military pest control), a health inspector for Maryland and worked for the National Restaurant Association’s Public Health Division writing manuals for conducting restaurant inspections. Needless to say, she is not what one would call a “layperson.”

She began a traditional treatment regimen for the invaders, but they were back in full force just three days later. 

“They would keep coming in droves, like an army invasion during World War II,” says Bockover. “It seemed like the ants were playing a strategic game and I was not only losing, I was at my wit’s end.” 

Tawny crazy ants, also known as Raspberry crazy ants (not for their color, but for Houston-based exterminator Tom Raspberry, who first drew attention to the problem in Texas in 2002), is an invasive species whose workers display quick, erratic behavior when searching for food, meriting the sobriquet “crazy.” 

An eighth of an inch long, as individuals they could hardly be considered scary. But like many of their kin in the insect world, they don’t fly (or crawl) solo. Their colonies are polygynous, meaning they have multiple queens (as many as 40 per colony in the case of this species). It makes treating infestations orders of magnitude more complicated, in what is already a challenging species to address. 

“Those of us who have dealt with them first-hand understand the extreme stress this plague carries with it,” Bockover says. “One at a time I had residents with hundreds of thousands of ants at their door and in their home and no amount of treatment was taking them away. I did not think they were ever going to go away.”

So did Bockover defeat the ants? To find out, you’ll have to check out Frank Mauck’s article, “Crazy Ants,” in the May issue of units Magazine, which mails May 13. 

As for the Boston family Oldsmobile, I’m proud to say it lived the rest of its years maggot-free.

Lauren Boston is NAA’s Staff Writer and Manager of Public Relations. Unsurprisingly, she writes a lot—most often for units Magazine and as a weekly blogger for APTly Spoken. She enjoys making people laugh, sharing embarrassing childhood stories and being the (self-proclaimed) Voice of the Apartment Industry. She welcomes feedback, unless it’s negative (in which case, please keep it to yourself).