'Crazy' Ants That Destroy Electronics, Resist Pesticides Invading US

Llowell Williams

"Crazy" ants, as some call them, have begun to infest areas in southern United States, causing millions of dollars in damage to electronics and attacking livestock.

The species, known by scientists as Nylanderia fulva, originated in Argentina and Brazil but has begun to invade the US Gulf Coast region thanks to unwitting human accomplices.

Known more commonly as the "tawny crazy ant," these insects are known for their aggressive marches and tendencies to monopolize entire resources in an ecosystem.

Previously, ranchers and farmers in the South occasionally faced infestation problems from red fire ants, which was typically solved with common pesticides.

However scientists are finding the new ants to be resistant to these over-the-counter solutions.

Warns Ed LeBrun of the University of Texas, Austin, who recently released a study on the crazy ants:

"Perhaps the biggest deal is the displacement of the fire ant. The whole ecosystem has changed around the fire ants. Things that can't tolerate fire ants are gone. Many that can have flourished."

The crazy ants are now known to occupy 20 counties in Florida, 21 in Texas, and a scattering of counties in Mississippi and Louisiana. Unlike their red ant cousins, the new comers tend toward invasive and erratic behavior, their unpredictable path of devastation earning them the name "crazy" ants.

Perhaps most alarming is the crazy ants' attraction to electrical devices. With bodies less than an eighth of an inch long, these insects can easily climb into a computer, television, or cell phone where they disrupt wiring and circuitry.

In Texas alone it has been estimated that the ants have been responsible for $146.5 million in damages to wiring and electronics.

The crazy ant continues to march north in the United States, advancing 650 feet a year on their own but thanks to human assistance have been spreading much more rapidly.

The video below shows the crazy ants in action:

[Image via April Nobile / AntWeb.org]