Crazy Ants are Insane

I meant to highlight this fascinating piece in The New York Times earlier, but better late than never.

First, the name:

The ants are called crazy ants. That’s their actual name. Many people call them Rasberry crazy ants, and some people call them Tawny crazy ants and refuse to call them Rasberry crazy ants. 

Rasberry coming from not a scientist or a professor, but an exterminator who noticed these wild ants in Texas.

Rasberry crazy ants do not have a painful bite, but they effectively terrorize people by racing up their feet and around their bodies, coursing everywhere in their impossibly disordered orbits. (They’re called crazy ants because their behavior seems psychotic.) Some people in Texas have become so frustrated with crazy ants that they have considered selling their houses or been driven to the verge of divorce. “Usually, the husband doesn’t think it’s such a big deal, and the wife is going batty,” one exterminator explained. An attorney living on an infested farm south of Houston told me: “It reminds me of the scenes in Africa, where you see flies crawling all over people. Occasionally they’ll knock one off, but for the most part they’re so accustomed to it that they finally give up.”

Crazy ants decimate native insects. They overtake beehives and destroy the colonies. They may smother bird chicks struggling to hatch. In South America, where scientists now believe the ants originated, they have been known to obstruct the nasal cavities of chickens and asphyxiate the birds. They swarm into cows’ eyes.

So far, there is no way to contain them. In the fall, when the temperature drops, the worker ants are subject to magnificent die-offs, but the queens survive, and a new, often larger crop of crazy ants pours back in the following spring. Rasberry crazy ants were first discovered in Texas by an exterminator in 2002. Within five years, they appeared to be spreading through the state much faster than even the red imported fire ant has. The fire ant is generally considered one of the worst invasive species in the world. The cost of fire ants to Texas has been estimated at more than $1 billion a year.

Here is a three-year old video that shows how fast these crazy ants scurry about:

 

Definitely worth reading the entire thing. Fascinating reporting. And scary how species can be so invasive!

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