By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
There is a new “crazy” ant making headlines from Texas to Florida, and these tenacious creatures make fire ants look like long lost friends.
Primarily located along the coastal counties including the Houston area, “crazy” ants on the march have a taste for everything from livestock to electrical equipment.
The tiny insect’s scientific name is Nylanderia Fulva but is called crazy because of the erratic trail it leaves as it eats its way across the country is so erratic it appears the ants have tipped the bottle too many times. Formerly the “crazy” was known as the raspberry crazy ant.
The crazy ant, only one eighth of an inch long, was likely introduced into the United State by humans who didn’t know the pests were there. Crazy ants are so small that millions can hide under a rock or inside a computer.
Crazy ants have currently moved into 21 counties in Texas, 20 counties in Florida and some spots in Mississippi and Louisiana, all seemingly with human assistance.
Dallas landscape and pest control expert Mark Funderburk has spent extensive time studying the new threat since it was first sighted near Houston in 2002 and notes that the ant is a slow moving species that may or may not reach the north Texas area any time in the near future.
“Most of these crazy ants found probably came in on container ships from either Argentina and Brazil,” Funderburk said. “One of the traits of the crazy is that it does not mound like other ant species so it is hard to bait its nest to get rid of the queen.”
Don’t plan on killing crazy ants with commercial ant killer.
“Normal pesticides don’t work on them,” Funderburk said. “ Researchers at Texas A&M have found that chemicals that kill red ants aren’t effective on crazy ants so a professional should be called in to deal in extreme situations.”
Although the crazy ant does not sting, it is said to have an annoying bite that scares wildlife away. Being very invasive, it can infest homes, recreational vehicles, transformers, laptops or any other device left in its path.
Crazy ants, according to researcher Ed LeBrun of the University of Texas, Austin, “just simply aren't very polite.” LeBrun is co-author of a study on crazy ants published in the journal “Biological Invasions.”
LeBrun said in the journal article that he and his colleagues have found that the ants attack and kill other species and monopolize food resources so efficiently that they jeopardize the entire ecosystem.
LeBrun also said that although they are “near the bottom of the food chain, but they could have a devastating effect on plants and animals ranging from cattle to songbirds.”
He also said that in one year alone, researchers documented $146.5 million in damages to electrical equipment just in Texas.
At this time there have not been any sightings of the crazy ants in the North Texas area.