Thursday, July 03, 2008

Another Invasion!

Image
Tom Rasberry and his crazy ants
Photo source: Associated Press

Texas is being invaded again. This time the invader is an untaxonomized species of ant called the crazy Rasberry ant2 after Tom Rasberry,1 the Pearland exterminator who first identified them. These ants may be related to the Caribbean crazy ant that is found in the Southeast US and, crazily enough, the Caribbean. Because they were originally found near the Port of Houston, they may have arrived by ship.2 Supporting this theory are claims that they have also been found near ports in Florida and California.4

The Wall Street Journal article also claims that the ants are already so widely dispersed that it would be practically impossible to eliminate them. Even though Rasberry estimates there may be as many as 50-million crazy ants per acre in Southeast Texas, he laments that funding to study these pests is negligible. The EPA has expanded the use of a fipronil, a pesticide available only to licensed professionals, to fight the ants. Fipronil can now be used within 10 feet of a structure. Previously, it could only be used within one foot of a structure. The expansion was granted because the crazy ants breed so fast, having multiple queens per colony, that they could do thousands of dollars of damage to homes before the pesticide took effect.3

The ants are called “crazy” because they seem to wander randomly, instead of in regimented lines like other ants. They also move very quickly.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the ant, other than they rapacious reproductive habits, is their tendency to eat electronics. They can also overwhelm and kill small rodents and birds. But on the bright side, they eat fire ants!

References

  1. Ayres, Chris (16 May 2008). “ Billions of electronic-eating ‘;crazy rasberry ants’ invade Texas.” The Times Online. Accessed 3 July 2008.
  2. Center for Urban & Structural Entomology (ND). “Exotic Texas Ant, Paratrechina sp. near pubens.” Texas A&M University, Department of Entomology. Accessed 3 July 2008.
  3. Lukefahr, Nathaniel (2 July 2008). “EPA makes exemption to battle crazy ants.” The Facts. Accessed 3 July 2008.
  4. Wall Street Journal (16 May 2008). “Houston Suffers Attack of ‘Crazy Rasberry’ Ants. Accessed 3 July 2008.

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