"Crazy Rasberry Ants" Come to Houston -- & You Thought Fire Ants Were Bad

Categories: Texas

Rasberry-crazy-ant-big.jpg
Photo courtesy of Joe MacGown, Mississippi Entomological Museum
Formally known as the tawny crazy ant, this ant hails from Central and South America.

On top of tornadoes, hurricanes and this stupid hot Houston heat, it seems as if Houstonians have one more item to add to their list of things to hate: Rasberry crazy ants.

According to Texas entomologists, these ants have been found in more than 23 Texas counties since 2002, and in numbers so large they're driving out fire ants.

"When you talk to folks who live in the invaded areas, they tell you they want their fire ants back," Edward LeBrun, a research associate with the Texas invasive species research program at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory in the College of Natural Sciences, said in a statement. "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."

While dealing with fire ants is a staple for anyone with a history in Texas, these Rasberry crazy ants could very well drive out this pest from backyards, and possibly drive Houstonians from their homes.

"These little tiny ants will invade homes and make life very difficult for those that are so unlucky as to get them," said Roger Gold, professor and Endowed Chair in Urban and Structural Entomology at Texas A&M.

"Unlucky" doesn't begin to cover it. Gold said that while Rasberry crazy ants do not sting or bite like fire ants, they are attracted to electrical boxes and electrical service units and are known for causing problems by shorting out electronic equipment, including in industries around the coastal areas.

According to Gold, these ants are not eating the insulation around the electronic equipment. Rather, the Rasberry crazy ants get into the breaker point or into the electronic circuitry and cause a short.

"A short has consequences in terms of how you preserve the electronics in these things," Gold said. "We do not have any evidence of fires or anything like that, but a short on the computer, particularly in the industrial complex which is down in the Houston area, we know that that has happened. Those are things that people don't talk about necessarily, because there are people who hold stock in that company."

Not only can this be a problem with companies, but also in Houston residential areas. The ants can have costly consequences when they invade air-conditioning systems, and Gold said fixing these problems is very expensive.

"The other problem with [Rasberry crazy ants] is home owners are not necessarily interested in cooperating because it is decreasing their property values when they're trying to sell a home, which many people are," Gold said. "The buyers notice that these ants are there and they know of the difficulties that are involved with controlling them. That reduces values."

Once the ants have found your home, it won't matter if you're kneeling in the garden or sitting inside watching TV -- the ants will invade and will be hard to control. If a home is invaded and any sort of food or anything that could attract the ants falls to the ground, the ants will be sure to discover it.

"They invade houses, there's no question about that," Gold said. "And they occur in thousands upon thousands of little, tiny ants, and they can come underneath the door thresholds and just into any opening in a building."

Gold said home remedies simply don't cut it, and even exterminators will have a hard time killing the ants, since they are known for eating most of the poison baits that kill fire ants. According to Gold, pest control can use a pesticide called Fipronil, a tool the public does not have access to.

"There are no home remedies that are nearly as effective as the commercial pesticide," Gold said. "It's just a fact. Controlling the ants is done professionally and can be expensive because in some cases, it takes multiple trips back to the site to clean up the ants that continue to invade. In other words, if you control the ants in one person's home and they've done nothing about the surrounding properties, they just move back in. [This is a problem] that's not ever going to go away."

While Gold said one positive that comes from the ants could be their ability to control other species, namely by taking them out, the ants still bring a bad situation to any environment.

"Just be vigilant," Gold said. "Like a lot of other insects, you have to be careful you're not taking them home with you. And then if you do have problems with them, you may want to consider professional pest control because of the special permissions for chemicals that are used. There are home remedies that people talk about; however, the best home remedy is just sanitation. Clean up. In real estate the saying is location, location, location, and when it comes to the rasberry/tawny fire ant, it's sanitation, sanitation, sanitation."

For more information on the Rasberry crazy ant, visit urbanentomology.tamu.edu.


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22 comments
Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Wouldn't it be GREAT for the REST of the nation,  if Texas was transformed into one big ant hill ??!!

Houston Press
Houston Press

We have a very solid "No Ork" policy in editorial. They make such a mess.

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

Hey there HP, just curious here.. how much did Orkin pay you to write this article??

Jeff Hill
Jeff Hill

Never have I heard fire ants called polite. Wow.

Rhonda Hare
Rhonda Hare

~ Kimberly Garcia-Powell .. I was referring to this the other day.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Crazy Houston based oil companies INVADE Colorado, and DESTROY the water and wild life !.....

These 'Crazy ants' are a far cry less dangerous and destructive !!!

Sihaya
Sihaya

""A short has consequences in terms of how you preserve the electronics in these things," Gold said.  "We do not have any evidence of fires or anything like that, but a short on the computer, particularly in the industrial complex which is down in the Houston area, we know that that has happened. Those are things that people don't talk about necessarily, because there are people who hold stock in that company."

This is a bizarre set of sentences.  It took me a little while to even understand what he's talking about.  The first sentence -  something about "preservation of the electronices in these things" - just means that electrical shorts break machines.  Duh.  The second statement alleges that companies are conspiring to cover the fact that their equipment gets damaged by shorts for fear of watching their stock plummet, instead of reporting machine damage and collecting insurance to mitigate the issue like normal companies would do.

solluna02
solluna02

grammar nazis get a life! geesh

Roger Harmon
Roger Harmon

Yeah they don't nest like other ants so they are more difficult to poison. Luckily I didn't have them. My insect dude told me.

TheRagingPedant
TheRagingPedant

Is it "Rasberry" or "raspberry?"

Also, I was unaware that Houston even contained 23 counties.

TheRagingPedant
TheRagingPedant

@solluna02 Language is your friend.

Assuming that is you and your young child in your avatar photo, I'll ask you this: What opportunities do you think your child will miss out on if he/she* doesn't learn to properly read and write the Queen's English? One can have a reasonably successful life in this country never using Algebra, but grammar is critical to be taken seriously in any job that requires filing taxes. The ability to communicate effectively is the key initial indicator that most people use to determine just how intelligent (or stupid) someone is. I would bet you don't want to see your baby's career choices limited to mowing lawns when he's 40.

So, go easy on the "grammar Nazis." They're doing it for all of our  childrens' futures.

*I apologize, it's an awfully small photo, and I couldn't tell his/her gender.

conatonc
conatonc

@TheRagingPedant  The article says they've been found in 23 counties in Texas since 2002, not that there are 23 counties around Houston.

TheRagingPedant
TheRagingPedant

@FattyFatBastard 

No Fatty,

The Crazy Rasberry Ant was named after Tom Rasberry, the exterminator who first identified them in Texas. The article jumps between spellings, because, apparently, 'ANTS BE CRAZY, YO*!!!'

(*Voice Media editorial convention.)

dtwilliamson
dtwilliamson

@CoryGarcia @FattyFatBastard @TheRagingPedant 
And yet "raspberry" (with the p) appears twice in the article.

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