WASHINGTON – Forget the fire ant. It’s time to worry about “crazy ants,” according to researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.
Ants from South America are invading portions of the southeastern United States and displacing fire ants, CNN reports. Found so far in Texas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, the insects officially named “Tawny crazy ants” take over an area by killing what they can and starving what they can’t.
Ed LeBrun — a research associate with the Texas invasive species research program at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory in the College of Natural Sciences — says crazy ants are invasive, taking over any space they can.
“They don’t sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they are much bigger pests,” LeBrun says in a 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.”
Crazy ants will invade anything from a container left out in the yard to crawl spaces in houses. They also don’t consume most poison baits that would kill fire ants.
LeBrun says the new ant invasion carries ecological concerns.
“Now we are going to go through and whack the fire ants and put something in its place that has a very different biology,” he says. “There are going to be a lot of changes that come from that.”
Crazy ants were first discovered in the U.S. in 2002 near Houston. Scientists don’t know how far the ants plan to go through the U.S., but they do know they’re hitchhikers.
That is, when you travel, they’ll catch a ride.
“If people living in or visiting invaded areas are careful and check for the crazy ants when moving or going on longer trips, they could have a huge impact on the spread,” LeBrun says.