Crazy Ants Invade Texas


You’ve probably never thought you could miss fire ants, but a new study published by the College of Natural Science’s Texas invasive species research program may have you wishing they were back in your yard.

According to the study published in Biological Invasions, a new species of invasive ant is displacing the fire ant population in the southeastern United States. They’re called Tawny crazy ants, and they make fire ants seem polite by comparison—unlike fire ants, the fearless crazy ants are prone to invading people’s homes, nesting in walls, and destroying electrical equipment.

What’s worse, the crazy ants are abundant: the study shows that they can grow to densities 100 times higher than all other ants in the area. Ed LeBrun, associate researcher at UT’s Brackenridge Field Laboratory and coauthor of the study, believes that they’re a far bigger pest than any other ant in the southern United States.

“They don’t sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they’re much bigger pests,” LeBrun says. “There are videos on YouTube of people sweeping dustpans full of these ants from their bathroom.”

The biggest problem with crazy ants, LeBrun says, is that they’re upsetting delicate Texas ecosystems. “The whole system has changed around fire ants,” he says. “Now we are going to go through and whack the fire ants and put something in its place that has a very different biology. There are going to be a lot of changes that come from that.”

The crazy ants don’t consume most baits used to eliminate ant mounds, but Texans can still help prevent them from spreading. Because crazy ants don’t fly, they have a limited range of expansion—humans just need to be cautious about transporting the ants to new areas.

“People need to be really vigilant to check for these ants so that they’re not helping them spread,” LeBrun says. “If we stop people from moving them around, it’ll be a very long time before they can truly invade Texas.”

Photo courtesy of binux via Flickr Creative Commons.


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