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“Crazy” ants come to Austin

They’re on the move.

Hello, Austin!

There’s a new ant in town, and wherever it goes, fire ants start disappearing. It also doesn’t sting or bite. But don’t get excited yet. The Rasberry crazy ant which showed up in Travis County and Round Rock this fall swarms into homes by the hundreds of thousands in search of food.

In the Houston area, where the ants are much more prevalent, they have already made some homeowners miserable, said Roger Gold, professor of entomology at Texas A&M University.

“People that have them said they wish they had the fire ants back,” he said. “We have pictures of families sweeping them up with brooms where there are piles of ants. … They can get into AC systems and short them out.”

When the ants get electrocuted they produce a pheromone that causes other ants to rush in, Gold said, leading to so many ants in the electrical system that it shorts out. An infestation of the ants temporarily shut down a Pasadena chemical plant, causing a $1 million loss, he said.

“They have huge populations made up of hundreds of thousands to multiple millions,” Gold said.

Ed LeBrun, a research associate at the University of Texas’ Brackenridge Field Laboratory, said the crazy ants haven’t caused Central Texas the problems that have been seen in the Houston area, where they were discovered in Pasadena in 2002 by exterminator Tom Rasberry.

Not yet, anyway. See here, here, here, and here for more. The map on the sidebar of the story shows that the ants have been sighted in Travis, Williamson, and Bexar counties, but not in counties in between them and the Houston area. Seems to me that means they just haven’t been spotted, not that they’re not there. At this point, it’s just a matter of time before the take over the state. Brace yourselves.

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