Crazy Texas Ants Attacking Bees, Computers

Remember that part in the new Indiana Jones?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    This scanning electron micrograph is of a female 'worker' wood ant.

    Crazy ants aren't fun-loving insects who like to party and hang out. They get their common name because they do not walk in a straight line like normal ants, and instead crawl rapidly and erratically. But that is the least mysterious and intriguing thing about these insects.

    The ants first appeared in Texas (Harris County) in 2002, and little is known about their biology, according to the Center for Urban and Structural Entomology at Texas A&M University.

    However, their population has nearly doubled in the last year, moving from Houston north, and become quite problematic in Texas.

    "These crazy ants have attacked parts of Houston in droves, making it almost impossible for residents to enjoy their yards and even disturbing some business operations," Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. "No Texan should have to endure such a pest.

    The ants have been known to destroy electrical equipment, such as computers, sewage pumps, and, most alarmingly, honeybee farms.

    One beekeeper in Alvin, Steve Coplin, has lost nearly 100 hives to the insects each year. When the ants invade, they eat the larvae and then take over the abandoned hives, costing him about $30,000 so far.

    "Everything eats a honeybee -- purple martins on down to dragonflies," Coplin said. "But the invasion of these ants is 100 times worse than anything I've seen. This is something new," he told the Associated Press.

    Texas AgriLife Extension Service and A&M's Center for Urban & Structural Entomology received about $30,000 from the USDA's Agriculture Research Service recently for a yearlong study by to determine how quickly the ants are spreading. They have not issued any results as of yet.

    Holly LaFon has written and worked for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.