I, for one, Welcome our New Hairy, Crazy Overlords
October 4, 2011
In this photo provided by Mississippi State Entomological Museum, a worker Nylanderia pubens (ant) specimen is seen in Starkville, Miss., Friday, Nov. 6, 2009. Hairy crazy ants are on the move in Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. The flea-sized critters are called crazy because each ant in the horde seems to scramble randomly, moving so fast that videos look as if they’re on fast-forward. They’re called hairy because of dense “hair” that, to the naked eye, make them look less glossy than their cousins.
Next time your Aunt Teabag or Uncle Dittohead asks “what’s the big deal about being a few degrees warmer?” – show them this video. Note: put hot coffee down before viewing.
It sounds like 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, and then a fresh horde shows up, bringing babies. Stand in the yard, and in seconds ants cover your shoes.
It’s an extreme example of what can happen when the ants — which also can disable huge industrial plants — go unchecked. Controlling them can cost thousands of dollars. But the story is real, told by someone who’s been studying ants for a decade.
“Months later, I could close my eyes and see them moving,” said Joe MacGown, who curates the ant, mosquito and scarab collections at the Mississippi State Entomological Museum at Mississippi State University.
He’s been back to check on the hairy crazy ants. They’re still around. The occupant isn’t.
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. They’re called hairy because of fuzz that, to the naked eye, makes their abdomens look less glossy than those of their slower, bigger cousins.
Texas A&M University reports that “Effective products involved with the treatments are not readily available to the consumer. If you suspect your house or property is infested with these ants, call a professional pest control provider. After treatment, or when making multiple applications over time, piles of dead ants must be swept or moved out of the area in order to treat the surface(s) underneath.”
The A&M factsheet also notes – “..it is a semi-tropical ant and potential northern distribution will be limited by cooler weather conditions.”
Well, not for long.