'Crazy Rasberry Ants' travel to Oklahoma

Tuesday, July 22nd 2008, 12:32 am
By: News 9

By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

HOUSTON -- Exterminators across Oklahoma have been put on high-alert for a new, smaller species of ants that invade homes in Texas.

They are known as "Crazy Rasberry Ants", and some say it's only a matter of time before the crazy ant invasion marches north.

Tom Rasberry is an exterminator who's fighting a losing battle. His enemies are billions of ants named after him.

"They're very hard to control," Rasberry said.

The "Crazy Rasberry Ants" are like nothing scientists have seen before.

"Oh, it's just a tingling feeling, like a bunch of small creatures crawling across you," Rasberry said.

The good news is they don't bite humans, but it seems like they're everywhere and that's making life in Houston, a 'living hill.'

"A week and a half ago, I was at this site and there was a dead snake they obviously had killed," Rasberry said.

The infestation is forcing people and animals in some neighborhoods to stay indoors.

The unwelcomed critters are small enough to invade electrical equipment.

"They short out anything from fire alarm systems to pull systems to computer systems," Rasberry said.

There are products that will kill the ants, but there's nothing on the market that can control them. It's a non-stop nightmare for people in Pearland, a Houston suburb.

"It's nothing for a homeowner to vacuum up a vacuum cleaner full of these things on a daily basis," Rasberry said.

Some fear they'll continue to migrate north unless something is done now.

In 2005, Rasberry first discovered the ants in two areas around Houston. Now, they've spanned to five other Texas counties.

"In two weeks you can multiply this by two and in two more weeks multiply it by two again," Rasberry said.

Rasberry said more research is needed to better understand the ants and their background.

The mystery of the ant's origin remains. One theory is they arrived at the port of Houston on a cargo ship possibly from the Caribbean.

"There's so many things that we don't know because there has not been any research and to get that you have to have funding," Rasberry said.

To date the only notable research has been conducted by Jason Myers - a Texas A&M student.

"They seem to really enjoy humid areas and they do not do that well in cold climate," Myers said.

Meyers feels the ants may steer clear of Oklahoma, but admits scientists said the same thing about fire ants.

"Every year that goes by these things will spread to another five or 10 counties," Rasberry said.

Rasberry said unless federal funding is made available for additional research, Oklahoma may find the same crazy critters living and thriving as they are now in Texas.

There is one benefit to having the new ants around. Because of their large numbers and their density, researchers said the crazy ant colonies have taken over fire ant colonies in the affected neighborhoods.