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Ants Climbing High in N.Y.C Apartments

By: Yifei Mei

At the end of May, Katie Guhl traveled to a wedding in New Orleans and a Memorial Day gathering in New Jersey. Her apartment on East 81st street was left spotless. But then she returned home and found swarms of ants in her kitchen.

She said, “there was no crumbs to be had.” Guhl lives on the 6th floor, so she’s never seen ants there before and didn’t expect any ants either. Unlike cockroaches, ants aren’t common in high rises.

On Reddit, a witness of the ant infestation wrote, “Woke up this morning to ants crawling around my living room. I live on the 3rd floor and have never had problems with any insects.” Someone else added: “I worked in an apartment building, and the 25th floor had ants in midtown.”

“They just showed up one day,” Melissa Russell Paige said. She lived in the same second floor in the same apartment for 8 years and “never saw an ant even once.” Her neighbor upstairs saw them as well. In a text message, she showed three photos of liquid ant baits, each one was clogged with ant corpses.

Samantha Kennett is a graduate student at Kennesaw State University in South Georgia in Dr. Clint Penick’s insect lab. Samantha Kennett studies urban ant ecology.

Specifically, Kennett studies an ant called, Lasius emarginatus. This ant isn’t native to the US, it’s a European immigrant that may have arrived by ship, first seen in New York, 2011.

Within the last decade, the Lasius emarginatus has been thriving in New York. This ant has a reddish-brown thorax and a dark brown head and abdomen. Lasius emarginatus has been nicknamed ManhattAnt.

“My research focuses on understanding how this ant, who is now one of the most common ants in New York City, has been able to be so successful, surviving in highly urban habitats,” Kennett said. She found Lasius in trees up and down Broadway, and in midtown. “We found them in Times Square,” she said. “They are everywhere.”

Kennett started an online initiative plan, Project ManhattAnt. She hopes New Yorkers will report sightings to help scientists track the insect as it spreads. “We’ve started to see populations pop up in New Jersey and as far as Long Island.”

Just how high will this ant go?


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