News / USA

Tiny 'Crazy Ants' are a Giant Nuisance for US Gulf Coast

Reuters
Every few days, Joe Stuckey unleashes chemicals on the legions of tiny ants that invade his home and swarm over his 40-acre property south of Houston. Once they die, he scoops up them up by the shovel-full. Then he repeats the ritual.
    
"It's literally a huge problem," said Stuckey, a Houston environmental attorney.
    
Stuckey is one of several landowners who allow researchers to use their property to learn more about tawny crazy ants, a nuisance spreading rapidly across the U.S. Gulf Coast.
    
Originally from South America, the ants were discovered in Texas in 2002, and there have been confirmed sightings in at least four other states - Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida. They are "within four miles of Alabama right now," according to research scientist Joe MacGown at the Mississippi Entomological Museum.
    
The good news: Tawny crazy ants do not sting or bite like fire ants, which have been around since the 1970s.
    
The bad news: Tawny ants multiply very quickly and like to make their home in warm, tight spaces including around electrical equipment, under floorboards and in car engines.
    
Large swarms of the ants have been found in the mall area of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, although they have not done any significant damage, said NASA Houston Facilities Management and Operations Chief Shelia Powell in an email.
    
"We are principally concerned about the possible damage to infrastructure such as electronics, employees' automobiles, and our facilities," Powell said.
    
NASA uses a local extermination company, which has come up with a temporary strategy using frequent application of multiple products to kill them, she said.
    
Still, not enough is known about their physiology to predict how far north or inland they will travel, and how best to eliminate them, experts said.
    
"You almost have to see it to believe what a nuisance these can become," said Robert Puckett, an associate research scientist at Texas A&M University. "I've been in people's houses where they show me trash bags full of ants they've swept up."
    
Diana Tahtinen, who owns a home south of Houston, estimates having spent about $1,000 a year for pest control during the last three years of battling the ants on her land.
    
"It has a huge impact on your quality of life," she said.
    
The ants hitch rides in landscaping and building materials and even on shoes or cars, which is common for invasive species, said David Oi, a research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
    
Although financial losses have not officially been tallied, Tom Rasberry, a Houston exterminator credited by local experts with discovering the ants in the U.S., believes that the costs over a decade of damage could be in the hundreds of millions.
    
State and federal funds to combat the ants have been slow in coming, Puckett said. But Texas A&M has several projects in the works to learn more about the ants, thanks partly to state funding formerly reserved for fire ants that has now been opened up to tawny crazy ants.
    
Traditional extermination chemicals do not seem to work.
   
"You can spray and it will kill tens of thousands, but they come back," said Stuckey. "If you took a restaurant-sized pepper jug and poured it on the floor, that's how thick they are."
    
"This year's been the worst ever."

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid