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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora