In just a few short weeks, the residents of Houston, TX will again be invaded by a swarm of thousands of rasberry crazy ants. The first rasberry crazy ant was spotted in Houston in 2002, and only a few years ago, these rasberry crazy ants also invaded NASA’s headquarters in Houston.
The crazy ants originate from South America and arrived in Texas by cargo ships in the 1930’s. They were named rasberry crazy ants after Tom Rasberry, an exterminator who discovered the ants 12 years ago, but they also may be referred to as Tawny crazy ants. Rasberry says that they are harder to manage and more destructive than their relative the fire ant. They can get into anything and destroy it, even something as random as a laptop.
Their hairy bodies, reddish-brown color, and erratic movements can help to identify these ants. They thrive when the temperature warms up and usually lay dormant until late April. Once awake, they reproduce so rapidly that the area of a football field could quickly be covered with 15 to 20 billion ants in no time. The shell of a crazy ant is coated in acid, and instead of a stinger; crazy ants can actually spray a chemical on their enemies. The only good thing about rasberry ants is that they do not sting like the fire ant, but still the thought Houston being invaded again by this overwhelming amount of crazy ants is unsettling.
Rasberry describes being in homes that are under attack by crazy ants and stepping on thousands of them at a time. The ants are very destructive to buildings and can get deep into crevices to chew on electrical systems. In the past, the crazy ants have even eaten their way through the electronic systems in a chemical plant; short circuited the equipment, and caused the plant to shut down entire units. When comparing the fire ant with the crazy ant, Rasberry says that he prefers the fire ant because they are much easier to deal with. Fire ants tend to stay in their mound, and crazy ants are extremely unpredictable. Also, when crazy ants are attacked, their body gives off a pheromone that brings a swarm of other ants. The crazy ants are so aggressive, they have been known to fight and kill fire ants in order to get a food faster and survive.
The people of Houston are understandably anxious about being invaded again by these crazy ants. Paul Nester, who works with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Services, describes rasberry crazy ants as an extreme pest who can be dealt with by pesticides, if the infestation has not gotten out of control. Nester describes being in a home that has been infested with a swarm of crazy ants and it looks like the ground is moving. Crazy ants are stressful for homeowners to deal with because there are so many of them and they don’t know what to do. Experts suggest that residents should remove potted plants, woodpiles, or mulch before the crazy ants arrive.
By Sara Petersen
Counsel & Heal
International Business Times