Insect experts around Texas are working to keep the invasive and costly crazy ant from migrating to other areas.
“This species was brought in from South America and their numbers are what make them so bad,” Entomologist Kevin Kasky said. “Their colonies are in the several millions. They will take over whole landscapes. They get into electrical boxes. They’ll short out electrical circuits.”
Kasky, who is also the owner of All American Pest Management in Irving, explained that crazy ants are also known as raspberry or tawny ants across the country.
“They get their name because crazy ants look crazy," he said. "Normal ants you see in a line and they are following that pheromone trail. Crazy ants are following that pheromone trail as well, but they are all over the place.”
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Crazy ant colonies have been spotted in the Houston area, but some think their migration is only a matter of time.
”They are human-translocated. People have potted plants that they have outside that they move,” Kasky said. “They pick up the potted plant and they take it with them and they are inside that potted plant.”
When they arrive, they can be a very costly problem and their colonies are filled with several million active ants.
“There are so many of them that they will overwhelm houses and your food supplies and gum up the works,” Kasky said. "They will clog up things that don’t need to be clogged up."
The ants can get into computers, televisions and even heating and air conditioning systems.
“They’ll get on the contacts and their bodies will touch between the contacts and short things out,” Kasky explained. “The dead bodies in there clump around and it no longer works, so that all has to be pulled out [and] changed.”
While they can devastate crops and homes, the ants do not hurt humans or pets like fire ants.
“Crazy ants do not sting,” Kasky said. "They will bite if provoked."
The ants have actually been known to drive out fire ant colonies.
“They are actually a natural enemy of the fire ant. They will do battle through sheer numbers. They overwhelm the fire ant colonies,” Kasky said.
The goal now is to keep the ants from moving further into Texas and the United States.
“I don’t want to say it is a losing battle, but we’ve been able to slow it down,” Kasky said. “I imagine [it is] kind of like when fire ants were interjected into this area back in the '30s and they’ve spread now.”