Crazy Ants Possess Crazy Defense Against Fire Ants

Crazy Ants Possess Crazy Defense Against Fire Ants

The Crazy Ant was discovered in the U.S. near Houston in the town of Pasadena, TX back in 2002 by an exterminator named Tom Rasberry. This breed is now officially named the “Rasberry Crazy Ant” but isn’t a new species; they have long inhabited South America and have been migrating north.

Their name comes from their discoverer but also from their observed erratic, random movements. Recent scientific observation, which University of Texas ecologist Edward Lebrun refers to as “basic science,” may explain one reason why their movements appear odd. When fighting fire ants, the crazy ant is able to produce formic acid, suck the acid into their mouths, then insert their legs into their mouths to dip them in acid. Once the legs are acid covered, the ants smear their bodies with it and become immune to fire ant bites. Having accomplished this defensive maneuver, they return to battle.

Although this special ability is fascinating, this insight into crazy ant behavior is not yet helpful in finding a solution to their growing numbers. Like fire ants, they swarm and are a menace to wildlife, and thin numbers of other animals by competing for common food sources. The damage they do to property is as bad or worse than fire ants but fire ants are documented as being comparably destructive: it is estimated that farmers and ranchers lose an estimated $750 million yearly due to spreading fire ant colonies, damage to crops, and animal-ant encounters.

Several pesticides are known to be effective against crazy ants but are too expensive to use productively over large infested areas, noted Rasberry.