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There is a bizarre threat out there, especially if you live in year-round warmer climate regions. That threat is from a creature that is only a few millimeters long. It’s reddish in color and has six legs and there’s enough of them out there to shut down chemical plants.
They’re known by several names: Rasberry ants, crazy ants and Tawny crazy ants. They got the name Rasberry after an exterminator named Tom Rasberry, who first noticed their increasing numbers in the state of Texas back in 2002. They’re tiny and don’t bite, but they are weird, remarkable and very pesky creatures.
They are thought to have originally come from South America. They are about 3.2mm in length and covered in tiny reddish hairs. They like to live under stones and debris and don’t have centralized nests or colonies. They also secrete formic acid and are the first creatures who seem to be able to counteract Red Fire Ant venom. A crazy ant, upon being stung by a fire ant, will cover itself with formic acid and then resume fighting – neutralizing the venom. How and why this happens is still unknown.
They are known as crazy ants because of their behavior. They are often seen running crazily and without pattern around kitchen floors and other areas. They are called Tawny because of their reddish-brown coloring.
They can bite, but do not sting. They are so tiny that bites do not cause harm to people.
The problem is that Rasberry ants invade by the millions. They were first identified in Texas in 2002 and quickly spread. Now they are found in dozens of counties around the state with reports of more in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.
Rasberry ants take over. They are known to destroy beehives by invading them in such great numbers they kill the bees. They have been known to suffocate baby birds, like chicks, in coops. In South America, there have been stories of them entering the nasal passages of chickens and suffocating them that way.
Reports from those in Texas who have found them around their buildings say they pile up, sometimes feet deep, around doorways and walls. Often reports say that it looks like a truck has spilled coffee grounds around a building, when they are actually the bodies of dead crazy ants. They die off by the thousands, but just come back in larger numbers.
In addition to this behavior, the Rasberry ants have another quirk that makes them stand out from the rest of the ant world.
Rasberry ants infest electronic devices in huge numbers. In fact, they infest in such large numbers that the often create a current that causes the electronics to short out. Devices like TVs, air conditioning units, laptops and computers can become infested with thousands upon thousands of ants like something out of a horror movie.
Rasberry ants are not alone in this. Often ants check out electronics because they’re warm and ants like to find warm places to nest. However, no other ant seems to have the affinity for electronics like the Rasberry ant.
Exactly why these ants prefer electronics remains a mystery. One theory is that the warmth is the attractant. However, some scientists have suggested that Rasberry ants may be attracted to the electricity and electromagnetic fields that the wires produce.
Sometimes so many ants can group together and enter electronics that they have been known to shut down entire plants. The strange thing about them is that when they are removed, they often return to the exact same place in even greater numbers that before.
A New York Times article cites a Cornell University study that estimates Rasberry crazy ants cost the country $120 billion a year. In 2012, the U.S. government spent $2.2 billion trying to control them and their spread. The exact number of total damage they might cause is unknown.
Rasberry ants now join the ranks of other invasive insects that have become problems in the U.S. in recent years such as Africanized Honey Bees, Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs and giant African land snails.