15 May 2008

Ants invading Houston

DALLAS (AP) — In what sounds like a really low-budget horror film, voracious swarming ants that apparently arrived in Texas aboard a cargo ship are invading homes and yards across the Houston area, shorting out electrical boxes and messing up computers.

The hairy, reddish-brown creatures are known as "crazy rasberry ants" — crazy, because they wander erratically instead of marching in regimented lines, and "rasberry" after Tom Rasberry, an exterminator who did battle against them early on.

"At this point, it would be nearly impossible to eradicate the ant because it is so widely dispersed…"

The good news? They eat fire ants… [but] they also bite humans, though not with a stinger like fire ants. Worse, they, like some other species of ants, are attracted to electrical equipment... They have ruined pumps at sewage pumping stations, fouled computers and at least one homeowner's gas meter, and caused fire alarms to malfunction.

Exterminators say calls from frustrated homeowners and businesses are increasing because the ants… appear to be resistant to over-the-counter ant killers.

It's not enough just to kill the queen. Experts say each colony has multiple queens that have to be taken out.

And when you do kill these ants, the survivors turn it to their advantage: They pile up the dead, sometimes using them as a bridge to cross safely over surfaces treated with pesticide.

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