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Researchers: ‘Crazy Ants’ Invading, Chasing Out Fire Ants

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Screen capture of a "crazy ant." (Credit: Joe MacGown, Mississippi Entomological Museum and utexas.edu)

Screen capture of a “crazy ant.” (Credit: Joe MacGown, Mississippi Entomological Museum and utexas.edu)

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AUSTIN, Texas (CBS Houston) - Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have found that an especially pesky breed of ant – referred to collectively as “crazy ants” – is invading the region.

According to a press release on the study posted on the university’s website, the breed scientifically known as Nylanderia fulva originated from southern Brazil and northern Argentina.

And their effects on the ecosystems they inhabit could be “dramatic.”

“When you talk to folks who live in the invaded areas, they tell you they want their fire ants back,” research associate Ed LeBrun was quoted as saying in the release. “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.”

LeBrun, who works for the Texas invasive species research program at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory in the College of Natural Sciences, noted that crazy ants “go everywhere” – including into the crawl spaces and walls of people’s homes.

They have also reportedly been known to damage electrical equipment during their infestations.

Their relatively recent appearance in the United States – crazy ants were first seen in a Houston suburb by a pest control expert in 2002 – has been attributed by human movement. There are now reports of the pests in 21 counties of Texas, as well as parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

“They don’t sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they are much bigger pests,” LeBrun said, adding that their colonies can achieve population densities of up to 100 time greater than all other ants in the region combined. “There are videos on YouTube of people sweeping out dustpans full of these ants from their bathroom.”

He added, “You have to call pest control operators every three or four months just to keep the infestation under control. It’s very expensive.”

The study was published in Biological Invasions, the release noted.

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