Friday, September 27, 2013

The Ants That Destroy Computers and Start House Fires - Are They Headed Your Way?

‘Crazy Ants’: The ants that destroy electronics march into Georgia photoImage of a queen, Nylanderia pubens - observed in Starkville, Miss.,

They are relentless and they are bloody horrific in their damage - to household electronics, especially computers, as well as getting into electric sockets and starting house fires. They've now become such a force in parts of Georgia, that residents are actually having to move! Will Florida be next, maybe seeing the varmints march all the way to Miramar near County Line Rd?

Make no mistake, this critter is for real not part of a scifi flick as portrayed in the 1956 movie, THEM!.   The "tawny crazy ant", scientific name nylanderia fulva, can overwhelm environments quickly, travel in massive groups and moves in a quick, erratic fashion. They can cause major havoc, including ruining electronics, if found close to homes or buildings. According to one study published in April in The Journal of Biological Invasions,  these tiny, reddish ants can destroy the fire ant communities that Georgians know well. Now,  that is serious, given fire ants used to be the bad guys on the block.

Yes, fire ants can leave hellacious stings, but despite the fact they may build mounds close to homes, they're usually not aggressive unless bothered. Tawny crazy ants, by comparison, actually seek household electronics to feed on. And while they don't sting like fire ants, they do use sheer numbers to overwhelm other ant populations.

Ron Harrison, director of technical services for Orkin, said he would not be surprised if the tawny ants survive in Georgia, or parts of Fla.. According to him:

They will displace fire ants. They are just so prolific. The whole ground can be moving. I would not be surprised if they can survive in our area."

University of Georgia agriculture and natural resources county extension agent James Morgan found the ants on Aug. 15 in Alban, GA at an assisted living facility in a vacant duplex and out building. He said:

I found that they can cause problems. When they’re in the house they can get into wall sockets and short-circuit things,”

He explained that the ants are attracted to electrical outlets because of the warmth coming from them, but small electronics aren’t the only things tawny ants enjoy. 

They get into light fixtures, electrical breakers, computers, handheld devices and things like that,”

This, according to Joe MacGown, research technician for the Mississippi Entomology Museum, adding:

And in Houston they have even gotten into large equipment in factories, and they have had serious problems in that area.”

But why are they called crazy? Morgan explained:

"They sort of crawl around erratically, hence the name ‘crazy ants'. Fire ants build mounds, and these ants don’t build mounds or nest. They have colonies and can have multiple queens.”

The beasties were discovered in Texas in 2002, and it's believed the ants originated from South America where they've been known to ruin pastures because of their overwhelming numbers. They've been driven toward N. America by global warming, climate change.

According to expert MacGown:

The main thing is that they have superhigh numbers. They call them supercolonies. You’re talking about massive populations, and they can affect other wildlife, even small birds and lizards. They just eat everything.”

Hopefully, the altitude here in Colorado will be too great for them to settle in, we have enough pests as it is.

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