Every region of this country has to deal with certain unpleasant aspects of nature, regardless of how beautiful the area is. Texas is no different. If you’ve lived in or visited the Dallas-Fort Worth area, for example, you probably learned to walk carefully in the grass, especially when barefoot. Red fire ants make their homes throughout the region and can be easily spotted by the large, rounded mounds of dirt they build — and their “fiery” sting. Now, however, a new ant species, Nylanderia fulva, colloquially known as a “crazy ant,” has come to Dallas and is driving the more native fire ants crazy as they take over their natural habitat.
Driving Out Fire Ants
The University of Texas at Austin reported in May 2013 that crazy ants have begun to displace fire ants in areas across the southern United States and will “have dramatic effects on the ecosystem.” Ed LeBrun, research assistant in the university’s invasive species research program, says, “When you talk to folks who live in the invaded areas, they tell you they want their fire ants back.”
An ant that’s worse than a fire ant? While Dallas-ites are pleading, “Say it ain’t so!” there are apparently no natural enemies of the crazy ant currently in the area, according to LeBrun, so these ants have the potential to edge out all other ant species in the region.
What Makes Them so Bad?
Small, red, hairy, and capable of moving at twice the speed of their larger “cousins,” crazy ants earned their name because of their distinctive, random scurrying behavior. As LeBrun noted, while fire ants tend to stick to their earth mounds outside, these crazy ants love to invade homes — making them a tough pest for homeowners. Believed to be from South America originally, they are not affected by traditional ant poisons. Their colonies have multiple queens, which makes killing off a colony through bait a challenge. After they invade, they’ll find their way into the most unlikely of places.
Where They Live
These ants like to nest wherever they can gain access. In particular, these ants seem to have a rather strange penchant for nesting in and damaging electrical equipment, like wiring, circuits, phones, televisions, and air conditioning units. What’s worse, an ant infestation of electrical equipment and wiring can be highly destructive. LeBrun’s study stated crazy ants caused $146 million in damages in one year.
In August 2013, Houston’s ABC 13 reported this species of ants had been found in 24 Texas counties. While they don’t sting like more traditional ants, they do bite.
How to Stop the Spread
It is always wise to check your vehicles, especially RVs and camping equipment, when taking long trips or visiting infested areas to avoid helping them migrate further north. Plant nurseries, in particular, are a favorite nesting place for crazy ants, and so double-check any plants you buy from a nursery. Remove anything from around the house that could give the ants refuge, like pots and garbage cans. They will eat almost anything, but they prefer sweet foods.
The best solution, for now, seems to be diligence, monitoring, and to avoid transporting them in the first place. While current treatment methods won’t eliminate the pests, they can be repelled through careful use of an FDA-approved poisonous insecticide for emergency use only in Texas. If you believe you’ve been infested by crazy ants, immediately contact a pest-control company with experience dealing with these ants. Avoid traditional pest-control methods or do-it-yourself methods, as they are ineffective and can even make the problem worse.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons