Dr. Eleanor has been busy working on a few new bonus chapters for The Book of Common Ants, focusing on species that are particularly common in New York City and Chicago, two large metropolitan areas where School of Ants participants have been very busy!

We look forward to releasing New York and Chicago editions of The Book of Common Ants in the coming months. While you wait with baited breath, check out this special preview chapter from about Dr. Eleanor’s crazy aunts and the crazy ants (Nylanderia spp.) that have taken up residence in NYC.

The yellow-footed ant (Nylanderia flavipes). Photo credit: Benoit Guenard

The yellow-footed ant (Nylanderia flavipes). Photo credit: Benoit Guenard

Crazy relatives. There’s one in every family. I have several in mine. Take Aunt Nee Nee, who brings my grandfather along to all our family events. My grandfather died 15 years ago. His ashes reside in a wooden box the size of two dictionaries stacked on top of each other. At my wedding, she propped him in the choir loft, “so he can see,” and had the photographer do a photo session with him. Or Uncle George, who went missing for two weeks, and just when everybody thought he was dead he came rolling into town in a pink Cadillac with a live monkey strapped in the passenger seat. Or Aunt Ann, who … well, you get the picture.

Ants have a lot of crazy relatives, too. Most members of the genus Nylanderia even get the common name “crazy ant.” Some of them deserve it.

They even have crazy little hair-dos. If you’re like me and you have a special place in your heart for all things fuzzy, crazy ants are the ants for you. Ranging in color from pale yellow to black and about the size of a sesame seed, crazy ants have spiky hairs covering their entire bodies that make them look like baby birds or old men’s heads. Either way: a-dorable. They’ll nest in any nook or cranny they can find, squeezing into potting soil or snuggling up to trees in medians. They eat pretty much anything, too. From honeydew to small insects to our trash, crazy ants aren’t picky. Three species make the most common list: Nylanderia flavipes (the yellow-footed ant), Nylanderia terricola, and the ant equivalent of Aunt Annie Kate (the craziest): Nylanderia fulva (the Raspberry crazy ant).

Crazy ants get their common name from the way they run around like a house afire while they’re foraging. While most ants seem to move about in orderly lines or careful steps, crazy ants have a wiggle-waggle way of running as they go to and from food. Between their sparse fur coats and their zany walk, you shouldn’t have a hard time telling these nutty ants from the others running around your city park.

Read on…