Paratrechina pubens, something similar to ants, is becoming famous

Scientists do not quite know what to call them, they are so new. But folks in the damp coastal belt south of Houston have their own names (some of them printable) for the little invaders now seemingly everywhere: on the move underfoot; infesting woodlands, yards and gardens; nesting in electrical boxes and causing shorts; and even raising anxiety at Hobby Airport and the Johnson Space Center. “We call them running ants,” said Diane Yeo, a homeowner in suburban Pearland, turning over a planter by her swimming pool to reveal a seething carpet of ants, yes, running, each about the size of the letter “i” on this page. That was not the worst of it. “Looks like they’re carrying eggs,” said her husband, Bob. The ant is a previously unknown variety with a staggering propensity to reproduce and no known enemies. The species, which bites but does not sting, was first identified here in 2002 by a Pearland exterminator, Tom Rasberry, who quickly lent his name to the find: the crazy rasberry ant. “I sprayed some pesticide just to knock them down,” Mr. Rasberry recalled on Thursday. “But the next year I went from seeing a couple thousand to millions of them.”

Mr. Rasberry demonstrated in a patch of woods not far from his business, Budget Pest Control, that the ants were swarming under every clod of grass and over every tree branch and limb. And the ants’ seasonal gestation period, which reaches its peak in the summer, is just beginning, said Paul Nester, a program specialist for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service of Texas A&M University. “They’re the ant of all ants,” said Dr. Nester, who said they had infested five coastal counties, “and are moving about half a mile a year.” But he said broad areas of Texas and beyond were probably not threatened because the ants preferred the warmth and moistness of the coast. Variants of the species found in Colombia have been known to asphyxiate chickens and even attack cattle by swarming over their eyes, nasal passages and hooves, according to the Center for Urban and Structural Entomology at Texas A&M, which is conducting much of the research on the ants. via NYtimes.

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