Invasion of the Crazy Ants

Houston is the epicenter for a growing danger to the entire state. A foreign intruder camps out here, lurking in your back yard or inside your walls. It's the Rasberry Crazy Ant — and it's considered one of the fastest-spreading natural threats this state has seen. Laurie Johnson has more.
Music: "The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah."

They're tiny. They're virtually unstoppable. And they're not marching one by one, but rather by the hundreds and even thousands.

"And this little tiny ant, I mean, when you look at it, it just looks like it would not be an issue."

That's Dr. Roger Gold, an entomology professor at Texas A&M University, and head of the Crazy Ant Task Force.

Wait. There's a Crazy Ant Task Force?

"The State Department of Agriculture, Texas A&M University and the federal government are now looking at it and they're saying 'you're right; this is a major issue'. And you'll hear more about this little ant."

That's because Rasberry Crazy Ants, which were first discovered in Pasadena seven years ago in one field, have now spread to 11 Texas counties and appear poised to march on.

Crazy Ants rarely sting or bite. The danger lies in their love for electrical systems. For some reason that scientists don't fully understand, Crazy Ants invade electronic components by the thousands.

"Just to give you some further things that need to be considered, electrical equipment, computers, security systems. We're told that it occurs in the Port of Houston, so that makes it a homeland security issue, so you can see why the federal government might be interested. But what's going to happen when it becomes associated with intensive care units and hospitals, burn units and so forth? And so we're thinking ahead, not to cause alarm, but we need to be on top of this situation."

Crazy Ants have also been discovered near Hobby Airport and on NASA's Johnson Space Center campus.

"It's a blessing for our economy to have these types of businesses, industries, production plants and the like. On the other hand, if they go down because of something as simple as an ant, then it's not good for the state and our image and the fact that we're going to have tremendous financial losses potentially."

The problem is the Rasberry Crazy Ant has no known natural predators, and seems mostly immune to standard pesticides.

Gold says that's why the Crazy Ant Task Force must be diligent to make sure these little guys don't all go marching...

Music: "...down to the ground to get out of the rain."

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...