Crazy Raspberry Ants

News reports have been buzzing about this species of ants since their discovery in 2002. The crazy Rasberry ants resemble the crazy ants that are common across the Southern U.S., but they are actually not related. Scientists think these ants are related to some ants in Central and South America.

Pest management pro Tom Rasberry was the first to encounter these new ants, so they were given his name. People call these ants “crazy” because of the way the workers run erratically while they search for food.

When the Rasberry crazy ants move into an area, they seem to displace all of the other ants. They also wipe out a lot of beneficial insects like ladybugs. The Rasberry crazy ants bite fiercely and they infest in astounding numbers. When they are established in an area, children and pets don't like to go out into the yard. Some people think it is “good news” that the Rasberry crazy ants eat fire ants. However, many people who have experienced both ants say they would rather have the fire ants back.

Rasberry crazy ants nest in the ground. They make their nests under things like woodpiles. A single colony can have several nests. The workers move between nests on established trails.

The ants seem to be attracted to electrical equipment. Several industrial plants have had to shut down until the ants could be controlled. Homeowners report the ants moving into swimming pool filters, air conditioners, and even automobiles. The ants have caused numerous equipment failures from short circuits and overheating.

There are a lot of questions about the impact that these ants will have on the environment. Scientists wonder whether wildlife and birds will migrate to other areas to get away from the invading ants.

A related ant species in South America caused problems with grasslands. The ant workers protect aphids and other plant-feeding insects. The ants eat the honeydew that the aphids produce. There were so many aphids feeding on the grass leaves that the grasslands began to dry up and die. Scientists wonder if something similar can happen here someday.

These new ants brought some other disturbing “tricks” with them when they came to the U.S. Exterminators report that the new crazy ants do not seem to like many of the ant baits that have worked against other pest ants. When some of these new ants are killed by insecticide spray, the rest of the ants in the colony use the bodies of the dead ants as stepping-stones to get across the area that was sprayed.

Scientists think that the Rasberry crazy ants will continue to march outward from the Houston area. They suspect that the ants will spread by hitching rides in household items, luggage, potted plants, and even in garbage trucks.

To help prevent ants from invading, homeowners can do some basic things. Caulk any cracks around doors and windows. Replace missing weather-stripping and make sure exterior doors close tightly. Move woodpiles away from the house and rake mulch and dead leaves at least 12″ away from the foundation.