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Crazy, Hairy Ants Invade the US Southwest

Fire ants used to be a big problem in the American Southwest. Now, however, a new species of ‘crazy ants’ has invaded from South America.

“The flea-sized critters are called crazy because each forager scrambles randomly at a speed that your average picnic ant, marching one by one, reaches only in video fast-forward,” writes the Huffington Post. They are also referred to as being hairy because of “fuzz that, to the naked eye, makes their abdomens look less glossy than those of their slower, bigger cousins.”

But the craziest habit of the ‘crazy ant’ is apparently its perseverance. According to the Los Angeles Times, the new invasive species “[creates] mega-colonies, sometimes in homes, and [pushes] out local populations of ants and arthropods.”

As the Huffington Post so poetically describes, the ants have qualities reminiscent of a horror movie:

"Biting ants invade by the millions. A camper's metal walls bulge from the pressure of ants nesting behind them. A circle of poison stops them for only a day, andy then a fresh horde shows up, bringing babies. Stand in the yard, and in seconds ants cover your shoes."

Thus far, the demise of the formerly out-of-control fire ants has been mostly unnoticed because the new crazy ants have been making meals of them. As scientists have not yet found any predators to the crazy ants, says the Smithsonian, their nests are getting out of control

The fire ants, which were once the bane of the Southwest, are now looking almost ideal.  Ed LeBrun, a research associate with the University of Texas, says that although crazy ants don’t sting like fire ants do, they almost make fire ants look ‘polite.’ Fire ants, he says, “live in your yard. They form mounds and stay there, and they only interact with you if you step on their mound.” Crazy ants take it upon themselves to make rounds.

The ants tend to nest in “walls, crawl spaces, house plants or empty containers in the yard,” writes CNN. Officials are unsure how they’ll be spreading through the US, though, as the species is incapable of flight. The only way, they say, is to travel via people’s personal belongings.

Sources: CNN, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian


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