For a long time, red fire ants have been the raining kings of the ant world because of their large stingers that secrete a deadly dose of venom to their competition. Different types of ants compete and attack each other over resources and nest space. However, “Crazy ants,” also known as Nylanderia fulva have the ability to nullify the effects of the venom with their own bodily contained formic acid. When a crazy ant has been stung with a red fire ant’s venom, it will proceed to smear a toxic acid which it takes from a gland at the tip of its abdomen, and proceed to smear it all over its own head and body which neutralizes the effects of the otherwise fatal venom. “Crazy ants” are rapidly dominating the ecosystems of North America.
The invasive “Crazy ants” have been named for their random and fast movements and are quickly displacing fire ants in areas across the southeastern U.S. They were first spotted 12 years ago in Florida and have more recently been found in Louisiana and Mississippi. These findings were published this week in a study from the University of Texas at Austin in the journal Science Express.
Fire ants can painfully sting animals and human beings with a most often fatal dose of its venom. The “crazy ants” however, do not sting humans with formic acid, but they are reportedly very annoying, invading homes in North America and driving people mad.
In an interview with the New York Times, Mike Foshee (Mike the Hog-a-Nator) told the story of how these pitiful creatures seem to swarm in by the millions and he cannot figure out what they want or why they have come. “They are frightening because they make no sense,” he says. Apparently the ants would run around all over the floor then die soon after. “They’re freakin’ crazy, man.” He says.
Entomologists have explained that the “Crazy ants” are simply like no other ants. They appear to be drawn to electronic devices, of all things. They have been known to short circuit car stereos, and other machinery, even destroying laptops by swelling themselves into these devices by the numbers.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have also reported that where “Crazy ants” are at their highest numbers, the amount of other insects like spiders, centipedes and crustaceans will decrease. This will likely have a major effect on numerous ecosystems because the availability of food will decrease for birds, reptiles and many other animals.
Ed LeBrun, a research associate with the Texas Invasive Species Research has said that unless people do something about this, the “Crazy ants” will to supersede the number of fire ants in much of the south-eastern U.S.”
The good news is that if these formic acid containing “Crazy ants” are invading North America, they are doing it very slowly at a rate of about 600 feet per year. One way to slow down the spread of these ants is to be careful when bringing in potted plants from the outdoors, to the inside your home.
By Katie Sevigny