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Nature & Environment US Warned to Prepare for Crazy Ants that Infest Electronics and Kill Livestock

US Warned to Prepare for Crazy Ants that Infest Electronics and Kill Livestock

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First Posted: Jun 11, 2013 05:11 AM EDT
U.S. Warned to Prepare For Crazy Ants That Infest Electronics and Kill Livestock
The species was formally identified as Nylanderia fulva in the year 2012. This is a native to northern Argentina and Southern Brazil. (Photo : Joe MacGown, Mississippi Entomological Museum)

People in the U.S. have been warned about the crazy ants that are making their way into homes this time of year. This new terror with a taste for electrical equipments is causing widespread damage, right from Texas to Florida.

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The species was formally identified as Nylanderia fulva in the year 2012. It is native to northern Argentina and Southern Brazil, and humans have been held responsible for sparking such a full-blown invasion. These ants have recently been given the official common name of 'Tawny crazy ants.'

According to Ed LeBrun, a research associate with the Texas invasive species research program, the dominant crazy ants are reducing diversity and abundance across a range of ant and arthropod species. They starve the other species of food sources.

                                                          

These crazy ants travel everywhere. They are known to invade people's homes, nest in crawl spaces and walls, multiply abundantly, and damage electrical equipments. They don't sting but bite away at livestock. What is even more surprising about these ants is that they are resistant to over-the-counter drugs. So in such cases, the pest control department is the only one who can handle the situation, making it an expensive prospect.

Scientists are still wondering what keeps these crazy ants attracted to electrical wires. The ants caused damage worth $146.5 million to electronics last year, 2012, in Texas.

The bizarre destruction begins when the ants chew electrical equipment or wiring, and get electrocuted in the process. These dead ants emit a scent that attracts even more aggressive ants near the equipment or site. This is a vicious circle, where more ants feed on the electrical wire and more scent is released in the air, inviting more ants to the site.

"Perhaps the biggest deal is the displacement of the fire ant, which is the 300 pound gorilla in Texas ecosystems these days," said LeBrun. "The whole system 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."

Those areas that were occupied by the dominant crazy ants had no traces left of the common red ants. These ants don't travel far, form mounds and come in contact with humans only when we step on their mounds.

The only solution to curb their spread is that people should be careful not to transport them unconsciously.

The study was published in the journal Biological Invasions.

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