A new invasion of circuitry-eating “crazy ants” is beginning to wreak havoc in the Southeastern US. “These ants, commonly called Rasberry crazy ants, probably will be the worse insect that we’ve ever had to deal with in this part of the United States,” pest control expert Tom Rasberry, who first saw the mystery invaders, told The Texas Country Reporter.
The ants are called crazy because of their random, nonlinear movements when looking for food, as opposed to the orderly formations of other ants who line up to transport food to the hive. A new study, published in the April 2013 issue of the journal Biological Invasions, found that these crazy ants, which are formally known as tawny crazy ants and scientifically called Nylanderia fulva, are driving out the previous ant invaders, the fire ants, which sounds like a good thing, but really, these ants are much worse.
“When you talk to folks who live in the invaded areas, they tell you they want their fire ants back,” study researcher Edward LeBrun, of the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement. “Fire ants are in many ways very polite. They live in your yard. They form mounds and stay there, and they only interact with you if you step on their mound.”
The problem is that crazy ants aren’t just confined to yards and forests, but often take up residence in the walls and crawl spaces of people’s homes. They are attracted to electrical equipment and household appliances. They are probably attracted to the magnetic fields or heat from the electronics. When they make their way to electrical equipment, they chew through wires and electrocute themselves, which makes the release a compound that attracts other ants, in an effort to call for help. These ants can form balls that can short out systems. They also die in droves and their carcasses can cause overheating and mechanical failures. They’ve even attacked the Johnson Space centre, though NASA quickly took action to prevent any damage to their electrical systems.
Not only do they infest electronics and chew through wires, they will also have a big impact on the environment. The new study found that these crazy ants are breeding so quickly they are pushing out every other kind of ant in every area they invade, often within a year. The crazy ants rapidly take over new habitats — they can be 100 times as dense as all other ants combined. Traditional ant traps don’t seem to work on these ants, and they form super colonies which can quickly re-infest anywhere that’s been treated with insecticides.
The ants started showing up in Houston and Florida in 2002 and in the last decade have spread all throughout the Gulf coast. They seem to like the moist coast line area. Luckily, they don’t move too fast, about 20 to 30 meters per month. They also kill off other insects in the area. This biological richness is important for the ecology of the area — these insects and ants break down and help decompose the leaf litter covering the forest floor.
Credits: Business Insider