The giant African land snail has competition in the "strange and destructive little invasive species" department. A report released last month by University of Texas scientists shows that "crazy ants" are "invading the southeastern United States and Texas" -- including Florida.
The Tawny crazy ants -- scientific name, Nylanderia fulva -- are worrisome because they have "the potential to change the ecological balance in the southeastern United States, largely because the ants can wipe out colonies of what's been widely considered the insect villain of the region, the fire ant," according to CNN.
Experts say the crazy ants, an accidental import from South America, are in many ways more bothersome than the dreaded fire ant. While fire ants are known to painfully bite and/or sting South Floridians who inadvertently get in their path or step atop a mound, they generally keep to themselves. Crazy ants, however, have a tendency to explore human habitats, and, as the name would suggest wreak havoc.
The ants "'go everywhere,' invading homes and nesting in walls and crawlspaces, even damaging electrical equipment by swarming inside appliances," according to a LiveScience story that appeared on NBC.
Though in theory it would be ideal to rid Southern landscapes of invasive fire ants -- which have been here since about the 1930s and are known to cause their fair share of environmental disaster -- local ecosystems have adapted to the unwelcome guests. Making an abrupt switch to a yet another species of invasive ant would be an additional stressor on ecosystems. The University of Texas scientists also point to a potential for crazy ants to "reduce and homogenize grassland ant and athropod assemblages."
Though the crazy ants have been in the United States since 2002, this new report confirms that the creatures have established themselves in the region and have the potential to impact the environment. Experts say while the ants don't spread as fast or as far as fire ants when working on their own, they are known to hitch rides with unwitting humans. This includes in camping equipment, RVs, and "nursery products," according to Planetsave. Scientists did express some confidence that early and swift action could help to mitigate the spread and impact of the relatively new invasive.