In what sounds like a low budget horror film, voracious swarming ants that apparently arrived in Texas aboard a cargo ship are invading homes and yards across the Houston area.
The hairy, reddish-brown critters are know as “crazy raspberry ants” — crazy, because they wander erratically instead of marching in lines like normal ants, and “raspberry” after Tom Raspberry, an exterminator who fought them early on.
“They’re itty-bitty things about the size of fleas, and they’re just running everywhere,” said Patsy Morphew, who is constantly sweeping them off her patio and scooping them out of her pool by the cupful. “There’s just thousands and thousands of them.”
The newly recognized species is believed to have arrived in a cargo shipment through the port of Houston in 2002 and has spread to five Houston-area counties since then. Scientists are not sure where they 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.
Besides sucking juices from plants and feeding on beneficial insects like ladybugs, they are also attracted to electrical equipment, for reasons that are not well understood by scientists. They have ruined pumps at sewage pumping stations, fouled computers and at least one homeowner’s gas meter, and caused fire alarms to malfunction.
Exterminators say calls from frustrated homeowners and businesses are increasing because the ants — which are starting to emerge by the BILLIONS with the onset of the warm, humid season — appear to be resistant to over-the-counter ant killers.
I wonder how long it’s going to take these crazy ants to work their way to California? They’ll probably hitchhike in a truckload of vegetables and fruits from the Houston area.
** A suitcase full of South American army ants in the cargo hold of a Brazilian airliner that lands at San Francisco Airport?
** A school of man-eating piranhas concealed in a shipment of “harmless” tropical fish being sent to a local pet store from the Amazon River Basin? (Look out water skiers!)
** Giant bird-eating tarantula-type spiders mixed in with a shipment of bananas to your local Raley’s supermarket?
The possibilities are endless. Anyone want to add to this?
Is this the end of the world as we once knew it? /Gary