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The Invasion of the ‘Crazy’ Ants: South East America Faces a Growing Infestation

Update Date: May 20, 2013 10:57 AM EDT
Crazy Ant
These 'crazy' ants infest areas while driving out local populations of ants and arthropods. (Photo : Wiki Commons/ Gotzek D, Brady SG, Kallal RJ, LaPolla JS (2012))

The southern region of the United States has recently been plagued by invasive species, such as the Giant African Land Snail and the seasonal giant mosquitoes. Now, the citizens residing in the southeast have one more pest to deal with. The south American Ants, known as the Nylanderia fulva, have infested nearly 20 counties within this area, pushing out other insects. Due to their bullying behaviors, erratic movements and massive numbers, they have been dubbed the 'crazy' ants, and now, controlling these insects could be vital in protecting other insects.

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According to Ed LeBrun, who is a researcher at the University of Texas' invasive species research program, these crazy ants were first cited in a Houston, TX suburb back in 2002. Since then, the ants have travelled and infested several other areas. Due to the fact that these ants are native to northern Argentina and southern Brazil, they have no natural predators within the United States, allowing the colonies to grow in massive numbers. These ants' populations easily surpass the numbers of other ant species. On top of that, traditional poisons used to eliminate these ants are only minimally effective, and when they are effective, the rate of growth is so fast that within just a few months, these ants are invading the same area again. These mega colonies are capable of pushing out and killing local populations of ants and arthropods. One particular species that has experienced the deadly effects of these mega colonies is the fire ant.

"When you talk to folks who live in the invaded areas, they tell you they want their fire ants back," said LeBrun. "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 has published a study on these ants in Biological Invasions, believed that these ants travelled to America via the Port of New Orleans and have since multiplied rapidly. Although these ants have not been tied to causing any diseases, they are a menace to deal with. Not only have they wiped out at least five colonies throughout the area, they are literally everywhere. These ants like electrical equipment as well, which causes more damage than fire ants.

"[The crazy ants] don't sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they are much bigger pests," LeBrun added. "You have to call pest control operators every three or four months just to keep the infestation under control. It's very expensive."

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