If you thought fire ants were bad, just wait until you get a load of "crazy" ants.
Yes, crazy ants, a species of South American ant whose colony movements are so erratic that researchers could only evoke insanity when describing them.
Also known as raspberry or tawny crazy ants, the insects have spread to Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi since first being spotted in Houston, Texas, in 2002. They "have a taste for everything from livestock to electrical equipment," according to ABC News. They have been known to infest homes, transformers and even electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones.
Unlike its cousin the fire ant (also called the red ant), which it has displaced in several locations, the crazy ant is highly invasive. Moving into competitive territory, crazy ants aggressively compete for other species' resources and establish dominance. Poison bait that works on fire ants is ineffective on crazy ants because the insects won't take it.
“When you talk to folks who live in the invaded areas, they tell you they want their fire ants back,” Ed LeBrun, an invasive species researcher at the University of Texas, said in a UT Austin College of Natural Sciences video. “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.”
LeBrun, co-author of a recent study on how crazy ants have displaced fire ants in Texas' ecosystems, explained that the insects' opportunistic nesting habits are a key factor in their biological dominance. That dominance could mean drastic changes to an ecosystem that's adjusted to the presence of fire ants -- also an invasive species -- over the past 40 years.
While they are omnivorous, the ants do not actually "feast on" electrical equipment, as has been suggested. The ants damage electronics by "forming bridges between the electrical contacts" and shorting them out, LeBrun pointed out.
Though the crazy ant threat to electronics has not been lost on the tech media, the insects are probably more a threat to your air conditioner than they are to your iPhone. As CNET notes, "You might want to think twice about leaving your laptop outside in crazy ant territory, but the ants are more likely to get into fixed equipment, house wiring and even recreational vehicles."