Residents of Houston, Texas are preparing themselves: there are reports that a swarm of billions of Tawny Crazy Ants are expected to move towards and invade the city in only a few short weeks. The species was first discovered by a pest exterminator, Tom Rasberry, and are therefore nicknamed after him. They are commonly referred to as “Rasberry Crazy Ants.”
There are far more people who recognize fire ants over the Rasberry Crazy’s, however, those who have dealt with the highly invasive and seemingly invincible pests have stated that they actually prefer to deal with the fire species. Unlike other species, researchers from the University of Texas state that these particular ants have a unique coating covering their entire bodies, that have a special compound which protects them from the venom of their more-recognizable and fiery cousins. Despite this, they do not sting nor bite, however, they move in swarms and are nearly completely resistant to regular pesticides. In the wild, they prefer to live in the grass, trees and hide under rocks instead of building homes like other species of ants. Other times, they invade homes. They have also been known to cluster together in large groups and gather in electronic devices, which leads to electrocution and burns out the devices, causing a great annoyance to both businesses and homes. There have been estimates of several thousand dollars worth of damages caused by the ants.
So far, the areas they have been spotted are in over 20 different counties of the Lone Star State, 20 counties of Florida, areas in Mississippi and Louisiana, as well as its original home in rural and urban areas of South America, where they also posed a huge problem and irritation to residents and livestock.They have attacked larger livestock such as cows around the hooves and nasal cavities. The ants have also caused smaller animals like chickens to asphyxiate and caused grasslands to dry out, due to their fondness of feeding on the “honeydew” secretions by a group of sucking insect pests known as hemipterans, which causes them to be aggravated.
“They are far more difficult to control than fire ants, and 10,000 times tougher,” said Tom Rasberry, the man in which the ants are nicknamed after. The exterminator and Associate Certified Entomologist first discovered the Tawny Crazy Ants while working in Pasadena, Texas in 2002. Since his discovery, Rasberry has been somewhat leading the fight towards his species and has been known as a sort of expert on it. NASA even hired him in 2008 after they were discovered to have an infestation swarming the Johnson Space Center located in Houston.
“Stay away from mulch, they really love that stuff,” Paul Nester, who is with Texas A&M Cooperative Extension Service as a bug expert said. He also advised against expensive pesticide services and recommended throwing away any extra wood laying around in the yard.
“The moment you realize you have them and have them identified, that’s when you start to treat for them,” Rasberry said.
Experts are keeping a close eye on the Rasberry Crazy Ants and their migration and have noted that they are sticking closely towards waterways. The ants of the species that are able to mate are unable to fly, and thus has been slowing down the speed of their migration. They are due to arrive in Houston in a few short weeks and everyone is being encouraged to take precautionary measures to help ensure this species doesn’t invade or swarm their homes.
By Jessica Cooley