If you’re in Texas, Florida or other Southern states this summer, watch out for “crazy ants,” warns Edward LeBrun, a University of Texas research associate who studies the species.
Also known to scientists as Nylanderia fulva, they’re called crazy because of their unpredictable movements and swarming populations. The bug is reddish-brown, about an eighth of an inch long and has a hankering for honey dew — with a side of electronics. The insects nest anywhere and are easily transported, but so far have mostly infested Texas and several Southern states after being inadvertently transported from South America by humans.
They’ve spread to 24 counties in Texas, 20 in Florida and a few in Mississippi and Louisiana, according to LeBrun’s study, published in the journal Biological Invasions. They cause about $146.5 million in electrical damage a year because millions of ants are electrocuted in small circuits or wires, where they seek warmth, according to a Texas A&M University study published in April.
There’s no permanent solution yet, and fending off the ants is costly because of the need for repeated treatments. Without them, the ants would return with a vengeance from untreated neighboring areas.