The crazy ants problem has finally spread to the US, and these aren’t just the sort that take residence in your kitchen and make life difficult and ant-covered.
The crazy ants are also not of the sort that forward unverified scary stories on Facebook and clog your inbox — these are an even scarier type of ant.
According to University of Texas researchers, the crazy ants issue involves an invasive species from South America, and it’s not just your next pic-a-nic basket you have to worry about.
The biology experts say that their invasive species program at Brackenridge Field Lab at the College of Natural Sciences has turned up some scary projections regarding the crazy ant problem — and concerns the new breed will upset the ecological balance.
The research indicates that the crazy ant problem hinges on the fact that the insects — technically known as “Tawny crazy ants” — either kill directly or disrupt the food supply fatally for any competing species.
Ed LeBrun, a research associate with the Texas invasive species research program at the Brackenridge, explains that as a for instance, fire ants are at risk due to the influx of crazy ants.
Not so bad, right? Right? Wrong. LeBrun said in a press release that the circumstance means a change in an area’s flora and fauna:
“Perhaps the biggest deal is the displacement of the fire ant, which is the 300-pound gorilla in Texas ecosystems these days… The whole system has changed around fire ants. Things that can’t tolerate fire ants are gone. Many that can have flourished. New things have come in. Now we are going to go through and whack the fire ants and put something in its place that has a very different biology. There are going to be a lot of changes that come from that.”
Fire ants hurt, LeBrun explains, by stinging. But crazy ants are far more of a pain in the neck by and large, due in part to their persistence. They nest in vast numbers in structures and walls, and getting rid of a crazy ant infestation takes a lot of time and money.
“They don’t sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they are much bigger pests… There are videos on YouTube of people sweeping out dustpans full of these ants from their bathroom. You have to call pest control operators every three or four months just to keep the infestation under control. It’s very expensive.”
By contrast, he notes, fire ants are not nearly as much of a headache and tend to only sting when threatened:
“Fire ants are in many ways very polite. They live in your yard. They form mounds and stay there, and they only interact with you if you step on their mound… If people living in or visiting invaded areas are careful and check for the crazy ants when moving or going on longer trips, they could have a huge impact on the spread.”
Given the crazy ants and their tendency to infest, the possibility of a larger infestation US-wide due to “hitchhiking” ants is something researchers warn can be a looming issue.