Research Warns of Crazy, Computer-Eating Ant Invasion

The Wooster

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Jul 15, 2008
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Research Warns of Crazy, Computer-Eating Ant Invasion


They've already wiped out the fire ants, now they're coming for your Dell.

Consider, for a moment, the fire ant. We don't like fire ants, largely because they're notoriously aggressive little turds known for their exceptionally painful bite. The good news, for those of you who live in the southeastern US, is fire ants are being wiped out by a competing species of ant. The bad news is that the competing species, Nylanderia fulva - dubbed "crazy ants" because they dart around erratically - not only attack and kill other ants, they also have a penchant for swarming into electrical machinery and eating the circuitry.

Yep; computer-eating, crackhead ants. Great.

The crazy ant was first spotted back in 2002 by a pest controller in Houston, but the species wasn't officially identified until last year. According to a recent paper from researchers at the Texas invasive species research program at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory in the College of Natural Sciences, the ant has since spread to 21 counties in Texas and 20 counties in Florida. They've also been spotted south of the Mississippi and in Southern Louisiana.

"When you talk to folks who live in the invaded areas, they tell you they want their fire ants back," said Ed LeBrun, one of the researchers who penned the paper. "Fire ants are in many ways very polite. They live in your yard. They form mounds and stay there, and they only interact with you if you step on their mound."

Crazy ants, however, don't give a toss about your personal space. They swarm wherever they can, occupying any enclosed spaced in large numbers. Naturally, they end up filling up electrical equipment, and that's where things get weird. For reasons we don't yet understand, the ants have a tendency to chew through electrical wires. When they reach the delicious electricity underneath the wire's rubber coating, the ants are electrocuted, but in their death throes they release a signal calling other ants to attack the wire. This results in uninsulated wires surrounded by balls of crazy ant carcases, which, if you'll forgive the pun, isn't conductive to the device's operation.

Even better, the crazy ants are difficult to kill. They're resistant to traditional insecticides and destroying one colony doesn't discourage others from expanding and taking its place. Much like the fire ant, the crazy ant isn't native to the US. In its native Argentina and North Brazil, there are several predators that keep the crazy ant under control. Not so in the good ol' US of A.

"Perhaps the biggest deal is the displacement of the fire ant, which is the 300-pound gorilla in Texas ecosystems these days," said LeBrun. "The whole system has changed around fire ants. Things that can't tolerate fire ants are gone. Many that can have flourished.

"New things have come in. Now we are going to go through and whack the fire ants and put something in its place that has a very different biology. There are going to be a lot of changes that come from that."

Source: Biological Invasions [http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10530-013-0463-6 ] via The Register [http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/05/20/ant_fire_crazy/]


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The_Great_Galendo

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Sep 14, 2012
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If they're resistant to traditional insecticides, maybe they can wipe out the colony by taunting it with a live wire. I'm sure we can find plenty of electricity for all the ants that want to come chow down.
 

Daaaah Whoosh

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Jun 23, 2010
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Well, looks like Americans are no longer at the top of the food chain. It's been a good run, hopefully I can emigrate to Canada before the ants get to my computer.
 

Charli

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Nov 23, 2008
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Electrified psycho, mutant ants. GREAT. JUST GREAT.

I KNEW IT WASN'T GONNA BE ZOMBIES. SOME HOW I JUST KNEW IT WOULD BE WEIRDER.
 

frizzlebyte

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Oct 20, 2008
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The_Great_Galendo said:
If they're resistant to traditional insecticides, maybe they can wipe out the colony by taunting it with a live wire. I'm sure we can find plenty of electricity for all the ants that want to come chow down.
That would be fantastic if it would work, actually. Maybe some sort of low-amp electrical stakes that you put in the ground around your house? The effectiveness of that would probably depend on proximity to the hive/nest, but I wonder if they have considered this as an actual, non-joke solution?

I haven't seen any of these buggers yet, but I have no doubt that, between this and the annual psocid infestation we get (little white insect bastards that eat old books and paper), it's gonna be a fun time from now on.
 

MiskWisk

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Mar 17, 2012
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My god...

The end of the world is nigh! The Iluminati have taken control of ants and now seek to plunge the world into a new dark age!

Captcha: old man winter
Oh no. Now winter is coming too!
 

uchytjes

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Mar 19, 2011
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Ok, this is what we do. We get a ball and cover it in uninsulated wires. THEN we run an electric current through it. THEN we give it to the ants and wait.

OT: well. Fuck. I may need to get "crazy ant" insurance once they start making their way north. Or do they not like cold weather? If thats the case then I may be safe.
 

Ukomba

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Oct 14, 2010
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Oh, don't worry about that, that's just how HEX works. If you're having an issue just add another Ram skull or give more cheese to the mouse.
 

Scarim Coral

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Sound like the insecticons (Transformers G1) made into flesh! Now I'm hoping they won't reach onto UK soil!
 

Longstreet

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Jun 16, 2012
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Orbot_Vectorman said:
hmm... who got hold my lab subjects and set them free?.....
So you are the one responsible for creating them.
Go sit in the corner, and don't come out until YOUR computer has been eaten. How could you.

Now we just gotta stop all import to/export from the USA and the rest of the world will be fine.
 

Quorothorn

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Apr 9, 2010
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.......wot.

I remember fire ant nests as a constant Thing whenever I visited Florida: they would just be hanging out in those mounds, and honestly were more of a fascination than a bother or threat to me, though I was of course a visitor and never lived long-term in Florida. This, ah, this definitely sounds worse.
 

Big_Boss_Mantis

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May 28, 2012
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Can't believe that no one said it yet, but here it comes:

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

You may continue the discussion.
 

Dr.Awkward

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Mar 27, 2013
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Grey Carter said:
The crazy ant was first spotted back in 2002 by a pest controller in Houston
Because I wouldn't say it was "spotted" then...

EDIT:

Grey Carter said:
Even better, the crazy ants are difficult to kill.
But there is a solution!:

Grey Carter said:
For reasons we don't yet understand, the ants have a tendency to chew through electrical wires. When they reach the delicious electricity underneath the wire's rubber coating, the ants are electrocuted, but in their death throes they release a signal calling other ants to attack the wire. This results in uninsulated wires surrounded by balls of crazy ant carcases, which, if you'll forgive the pun, isn't conductive to the device's operation.
If you put something like a miniature solar-powered Van Der Graaff generator by their anthill, wouldn't that kill them en masse?