Insecticide-resistant ant species could wreak havoc on U.S. ecology

Pest explosions: ‘Crazy ants’ that feast on electronics and are invading the U.S. cannot be killed with normal insecticide
June 10, 2013 ECOLOGYA new and annoying species of ant is terrorizing the U.S. and chemicals that kill off other types of the insect are proving ineffective against it. The ‘crazy’ ant, named for the erratic trail it leaves as it makes its way across the country, originated in Argentina and Brazil. But since it was first spotted in Houston in 2002, it has spread to some 21 counties in Texas, 20 counties in Florida and a few locations in Mississippi and Louisiana.  University of Texas researcher and co-author of a study on the creatures Ed LeBrun said the omnivorous ants attack and kill other species as well as monopolizing food sources to the detriment of the entire ecosystem. He said everything from cattle to songbirds are at risk of the tiny ants, despite them being at the bottom of the food chain. According to ABC News, the chemicals that kill the more common red ant aren’t effective on crazy ants so residents should call pest control if they find an infestation in their home. And hopefully they’ll get there before the critters attack their computer. The insects, bizarrely, are attracted to electrical wiring and components and in one year alone caused $146.5 million in damages in Texas, ABC reported. The devastation occurs when one ant discovers the transformer then gets electrocuted when it touches it, and ‘waves its abdomen in the air’ omitting a certain scent. The scent lures for ants to the scene and they too are electrocuted, again sending the scent into the air to attract their friends. Eventually, there are so many dead ants that the electric switches get stuck or the insulation fries and the system shuts down. But LeBrun said the biggest problem of the ant’s invasion is that it has completely eliminated the red ant, or fire ant. And no one knows why. ‘Perhaps the biggest deal is the displacement of the fire ant,’ LeBrun said, according to ABC. ‘The whole ecosystem has changed around fire ants. Things that can’t tolerate fire ants are gone. Many that can have flourished. New things have come in. Now we are going to go through and whack the fire ants and put something in its place that has a very different biology. There are going to be a lot of changes that come from that.’ The crazy ants are most commonly found in coastal areas with warmer temperatures. Known scientifically as ‘Nylanderia fulva,’ they are also referred to as ‘rasberry’ after the exterminator Tom Rasberry who discovered them in Houston in 2002. The ‘crazy’ ants do not have such a painful sting as their insect counterparts, but they are still a nuisance for homeowners. ‘Crazy’ ants have been identified all the way from Texas to Mississippi. Researchers believe that the ants cannot survive in regions that are dry or cold. Unlike fire ants, crazy ants also do not spread as quickly. They can only advance approximately 200 meters per year on their own. –Daily Mail
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10 Responses to Insecticide-resistant ant species could wreak havoc on U.S. ecology

  1. Joseph t Repas says:

    So if pesticides do not work then electrical traps will be needed…Perhaps a metal box put in an area where the ants will not harm anyone or anything with live electrical wires at low voltage…Perhaps with a neon sign on top that says …ANT JEMIMA PANCAKES here… welcome to the COME ON INN and get buzzzzzzzzzzzzed…

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  2. Jerri says:

    Clove essential oil has scared off the ants in my home. In fact a drop of clove oil on a living ant sends signals to the other ants to stay away. I hated doing that but I knew ants have a communication system set up to warn other ants and I used it. It worked….thus far. A weekly up keep of wiping down areas with water, sage essential oil and clove essential oil will keep it under control.

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  3. Daniel Hughes says:

    Nothing that a bit of gasoline and a match won’t fix. (I know that sounds environmentally horrible, but it seems that life on this planet has devolved into a constant “choice between the lesser of two evils.”)

    On the other hand, perhaps a large nest of these guys at NSA HQ is a hopeful thought…

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  4. nanoduck says:

    If people would realize that fire ants are effective pest control, then there would be no need for pesticides. Sure, they build giant mounds all over the place and sting like crazy if you step in them, but they do help keep pests down. Instead of resorting to technology and chemicals, people need to learn how to work with nature and make nature work for them.

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  5. Patty says:

    Just this very day, my mother-in-law told me to put corn meal around the ant mounds. The ants bring it into the nest and die. It’s an inexpensive “gotta try it”! Good luck. Maybe we should just dump all our electronics for a decade and let the whole situation cool down…..but then we wouldn’t be able to read this great website!

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  6. Irene C says:

    I’m not fond of fire ants, but these things are worse. @Joseph t Repas, I like that. 😉

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  7. Sue Maree says:

    Hi Rosette luv, Thanks for the pole shift link, i had seen it on FB. Have you seen this one yet, was Ram’s prediction that insects would eat your wiring in the house. Well there here ~ in US that is…

    Create a wonderful day! Love Sue Maree

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  8. Dennis E. says:

    Well, you are not going to believe this,but, about 30 years ago or so a movie was produced regarding an expected change in the environment/ecology. In the opening minutes of the movie, the narrator set the scene and it was not expected that the smallest of the species on the planet would be the one effected. What the change did was to increase the ant intelligence greatly in that they built above ground towers that it resembled the Egyptian obelisks or like free mason obelisk, like the washington monument and large underground structures. (I am not making this up).

    Anyway, in the posting, it discussed the ants getting into the electronics and causing damage. Well in the movie they would commit suicide in that they would crawl into computer components or telephone wiring and chew on them and hundreds of bodies would pile up until the deed was done.

    To get a head start, there was another movie regarding an unexpected development in the Bee population intelligence; more like humans in organization and intelligence. The central thesis of both of these movies seem to parallel coexisting in the same environment and that there was a new player on the block who demanded respect.
    Really, I did not make this up.

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  9. I know I am a bit late to comment on this article and the subsequent comments, but I still think some clarification would be useful here. I am an entomologist that works with this ant, Nylanderia fulva. My comments are intended to shed a little bit of light on the subject, and possibly offer some assistance to those that are looking for more information regarding this ant and other pests. The common name of the ant is now the “tawny crazy ant,” for anyone that may be seeking future information about this pest. This ant becomes a pest in urban areas because populations can become very large very quickly (in a few months during the warmer summer months), reaching into the millions.

    To start, the title of the original article is very misleading. The tawny crazy ant is not “resistant’ to ANY pesticide. No ant, for that matter, has ever demonstrated “resistance” to ANY pesticide. I think a better way of describing why current fire ant baits (which are the pesticides primarily referenced in the above article) aren’t effectively controlling the tawny crazy ant populations is because fire ant baits are designed to work with the biology and feeding preferences of…well, the fire ant. In fact, there are MANY other pest ants that do not respond well to fire ant baits, not just the tawny crazy ant. That is because the most effective pest control products are those that are tailored to the biology and feeding preferences of their target pest. This is why researchers (myself included) are currently working to develop products that are better tailored to the biology and feeding preferences of the tawny crazy ant. Third, the photo caption references the tawny crazy ant “feasting” on electronics, and several other comments are made regarding the ants affinity to electronics. I’ll start by saying that these ants do not “feast” on anything electronic. They do, however, have an affinity to electronics, but this behavior is not something new to ants. Attraction to electronics has been observed in other pest species, including the red imported fire ant.

    To address a few comments: @Patty, unfortunately corn meal or any corn grit products do nothing to control ants. That is simply an old wise-tale. And @DennisE, well the story is great but highly unlikely. I think if ants were going to take over, they would have done so long ago :).

    To close, this ant is definitely a considerable nuisance, but not the ant that will cause the destruction of modern society (as media is making it out to be). Currently, 100% eradication is not yet feasible when populations reach their peak (hundreds of thousands to millions of individuals). The best way to avoid issues with this ant is through early detection and by eliminating breeding sites around your home through sanitation (keeping debris such as leaf litter, pine straw, and fire wood picked up and away from the home). I hope this info has helped clear up a few things. Please feel free to tweet me if you have any questions or comments about this or other pest ants.

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