The spread of the so-called "crazy ant" is showing no signs of slowing in Florida, according to a new study by the University of Texas at Austin.
Researchers say the ants have invaded at least 20 counties in Florida. The "Tawny crazy ants" originated in South America and were first spotted in the United States in 2002.
According to the study published in Biological Invasions, the ants invade people's homes, nest in crawl spaces and walls and feast on electrical equipment. "Tawny crazy ants" chew through wiring in homes and get electrocuted. However, when the ants die, they give off a distinct scent and attract more ants to the home.
“They don’t sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they are much bigger pests,” said Ed LeBrun, research assistant at the University of Texas at Austin. “There are videos on YouTube of people sweeping out dustpans full of these ants from their bathroom. You have to call pest control operators every three or four months just to keep the infestation under control."
LeBrun says the ants will continue to spread throughout the United States because there are no natural enemies and no natural ways to control the population.
However, the ants may not be able to survive in northern states because so far, the ants have only been found in wet environments with mild winters.