The eyes of Texas are on tiny ants which are shorting out Houston’s electricals, including computers. The Crazy Rasberry Ants have invaded five counties in the Houston area. The natives aren’t too pleased.
The ants — formally known as "paratrenicha species near pubens" — have spread to five Houston-area counties since they were first spotted in Texas in 2002.
The newly recognized species is believed to have arrived in a cargo shipment through the port of Houston. Scientists are not sure exactly where the ants came from, but their cousins, commonly called crazy ants, are found in the Southeast and the Caribbean.
"At this point, it would be nearly impossible to eradicate the ant because it is so widely dispersed," said Roger Gold, a Texas A&M University entomologist.
The good news? They eat fire ants, the stinging red terrors of Texas summers.
But the ants also like to suck the sweet juices from plants, feed on such beneficial insects as ladybugs, and eat the hatchlings of a small, endangered type of grouse known as the Attwater prairie chicken.
If they can handle fire ants, the news isn’t all bad.
(Also spreading like crazy is the original AP article which has now been reproduced verbatim and in full on at least 11 sites.)
This species can do some real damage. The Center for Urban Entomology, Texas A&M University, takes up the tale:
Currently, little is known regarding specific biology of this ant. Texas A&M's Center for Urban and Structural Entomologyis currently investigating food source attraction (Rachel Wynalda, M.S. student), colony growth and immature development (Jason Meyers, Ph.D. student). However, research regarding other Paratrechina species is available and may offer close approximations of this species.
Colonies are polygyne (multiple queens) with moderately sized numbers (~several hundred to few thousand). However, size of the colony can be much greater, especially when considering their unicolonial (supercolony) behavior. The colonies can be found under or within almost any object or void, including stumps, soil, concrete, rocks, potted plants, etc.
Translation for heathen non-myrmecologists (ant studying obsessive maniacs):
They haven’t got a clue. What they do know is that the ants can create supercolonies, which are gigantic ant “civilizations” which in other species are truly awe-inspiring. One super colony in Japan include a huge area about 100 square miles, and in Australia another species has taken over about half of the city of Melbourne.
Which is not unlike the human race taking over a good part of Jupiter.
Super colonies, with so many queens, are practically indestructible.
They’re part of a revolution in ant economics. Solomon wouldn’t have needed to tell anyone to “Go to the ant”. The supercolonies will come to you.
What’s really interesting about the Crazy Rasberry Ants is their behavior. This swarming is probably seasonal, but in some species, hyperactivity is pretty normal.
One thing’s for sure: Houston can call itself Crazy Ant City if they can’t figure out a way of getting rid of them.