I feel like I do a lot of posts about invasive species, but they are a major issue for biologists, so I guess it makes sense. The new invasive species celebrities are Crazy Ants! They are also known as raspberry or tawny ants. I heard about these bizarre bugs on the radio yesterday, and then found an article from the Huffington Post to go with it. The insects invaded Texas back in 2002, and since then have spread to Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi (See figure below). Pest control products that work on other types of ants, such as fire ants, have no effect on crazy ants. Not only are crazy ants resilient, they are also extremely competitive and aggressive, making short work of overtaking rival ant territory. The most “crazy” thing about the ants is their affinity towards electronics. One rumor surrounding the ants is that they eat electronics. According to this article though, “the ants do not actually ‘feast on’ electrical equipment…The ants damage electronics by ‘forming bridges between the electrical contacts’ and shorting them out.” From what I heard on the radio, these ants can release pheromones to recruit more ants to their location, thereby leading to the clusters of ants that will destroy your electronics. The ants have been damaging homes, transformers, and even laptops and smartphones. However, the researchers point out the ants are more of a threat to your air conditioner than your iPhone. This is a pretty intense little creature! Obviously one, lone ant does not do very much damage, but together, crazy ants can really rack up the damages. I really liked this article, plus it links to a bunch of “Invasive Species of North America” in a slideshow at the bottom. The slideshow has some interesting invasive animals on there I have never talked about, such as nutria and cane toads. If you really enjoy learning about invasive species, I suggest you check it out and read the blurbs!
Extra: Here is a video from Animal Planet about the Hairy Crazy Ant. It’s about 4 minutes long and shows how a couple was forced out of their house because of a crazy ant infestation. The scientist in the video also talks about the electrical shortage issue and how crazy ants are different from other ants because they don’t build mounds. Crazy ants build multiple little nests throughout an area, thereby making it extremely difficult to target and eradicate them.