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Crazy Ants are the new Pest Control Problem in the Austin Area

There’s a new ant in town, and wherever it goes, fire ants start disappearing. It also doesn’t sting or bite. But don’t get excited yet. The Rasberry crazy ant which showed up in Travis County and Round Rock this fall swarms into homes by the hundreds of thousands in search of food.

In the Houston area, where the ants are much more prevalent, they have already made some homeowners miserable, said Roger Gold, professor of entomology at Texas A&M University.

“People that have them said they wish they had the fire ants back,” he said. “We have pictures of families sweeping them up with brooms where there are piles of ants. … They can get into AC systems and short them out.”

When the ants get electrocuted they produce a pheromone that causes other ants to rush in, Gold said, leading to so many ants in the electrical system that it shorts out. An infestation of the ants temporarily shut down a Pasadena chemical plant, causing a $1 million loss, he said.

Ed LeBrun, a research associate at the University of Texas’ Brackenridge Field Laboratory, said the crazy ants haven’t caused Central Texas the problems that have been seen in the Houston area, where they were discovered in Pasadena in 2002 by exterminator Tom Rasberry.

The ants were first sighted in Travis County when a homeowner found them at a condominium complex in the Briarcliff area on Lake Travis in November.

Rasberry crazy ants have been discovered in 21 Texas counties, mostly in South Texas.

Crazy ants have also been found in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, but they are not the same species as those in Texas, said Danny McDonald, a graduate student and research assistant in the entomology department at Texas A&M.

In addition to infesting homes and electrical systems, the ants attack and kill honeybees with acid that they secrete from their bodies, McDonald said.

Rasberry crazy ants are smaller than fire ants but are successful at driving them away because they compete with fire ants for food and usually win, LeBrun said.

“The most likely way they got there is they were brought in with landscape material from Houston,” LeBrun said.

“The amount of area occupied by these ants out at Travis indicates that they have been there for a few years and gone unreported,” he said. “It takes time for these populations to become dense enough that people find them problematic and call pest control operators.”

Crazy ants don’t live in mounds like fire ants but instead live under natural materials or under things people leave on the ground like mulch, landscaping materials and wood, he said.

 

Do I have Rasberry crazy ants in my yard?

To identify whether you have Rasberry crazy ants:

1) Place dead ants in a tightly sealed container with rubbing alcohol such as a pill bottle.

2) Notify the postal service of the presence of alcohol in the shipping container.

3) Send the container by standard mail to:

Center for Urban & Structural Entomology,
Department of Entomology,
Texas A&M University,
2143 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-2143

4) Send the container overnight by UPS or FedEx to:

Texas A&M University,
Agronomy Road, Building 1051, RM 100
College Station, TX 77843-2143

 

Article Courtesy:  By Claire Osborn
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Source: Center for Urban & Structural Entomology, Texas A&M University

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