Aug 10, 2009

First Fire Ants, Killer Bees, Rasberry Ants, What Next

While I am not a fan of bees (I think I am allergic, last time I got stung I had a welt the size of a travel Kleenex package on my thigh), I know how vital they are to pollination, not only for flowers and fruit in our yards, but for worldwide agricultural production. Today, care of The Nature Conservancy and Scientific American - 60 Second Science, I came across this article regarding the latest threat to the honey bee. I clicked through to the links, I find the information fascinating :o)

Viruses, grueling journeys, monoculture diets. U.S. honeybees have had it rough lately, and millions have perished from the mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD). But now some of the nation's bees have a new threat to contend with: ants. And not just any ants. These ants are crazy—Rasberry crazy ants (Paratrenicha species near pubens), to be precise.

Named for their helter-skelter scamper, which contrasts with most ants' standard rank-and-file march, the tiny invasive ants were first noticed in near Houston, Texas, in 2002 and have been destroying electronics, pestering picnickers and gunking up sewage pumps ever since. And now they have started to go after local honeybee hives, according to a recent Associated Press report.

Beekeepers say the omnivorous ants swarming the hives appear to be less interested in the sweet honey inside than they are in the bee larvae there. And once a hive is decimated, the ants will take over and use it to raise their own young. One beekeeper reported that the ants had destroyed about 100 of his hives in the past year. Aside from the crops they help to pollinate, the bees also produce about 4.9 million pounds of honey a year, the AP said.

But these insidious ants have yet to gain state recognition as agricultural pests, which would free up more money for research into their lifecycles and biology. But in order to gain that title, the Texas and U.S. departments of agriculture require more study. And many feel that time is of the essence.

"This is absolutely idiotic," Tom Rasberry, an exterminator and the ants' namesake, told the wire service. "If killing honeybees does not put it in the ag pest category, I don’t know what does."

These ants are on the march—or scatter, as it were. Local researchers note that they are spreading north at a good clip and are now found in more than 10 Texas counties. They're easily transported accidentally through trash and plant material, according to the information on the University of Texas A&M Center for Urban & Structural Entomology Web site. Bees and electronics don't seem to be the only targets of these crazy ants. They also appear to have a taste for everything from ladybugs to fire ants. But even the experts are frustrated by the lack of knowledge about these new nuisances.

"There are literally thousands of things we need to find out," Rasberry said, "otherwise we're going to do just like we did with the fire ant and wait until it was too late."


  1. "Rasberry Crazy Ant" has to be one of the best names ever...except it makes me feel all creepy-crawlie. Poor bees.

  2. I am super allergic and boy does that sting hurt too! Red ants, mosquitos, etc. They all love to bite me.

  3. I do feel bad about the bee situation, even though I hate them and all their dang cousins. I am very allergic. :(

    be well...

  4. wow that is scary..I love bees. good entry Ken!

  5. Hi Ken,
    Good Lord, it's bad enough that "Killer Bees" have made their way through my neighborhood. Now they're being followed by Rasberry Crazy Ants. What next, Looney Lemon Locusts?

  6. I'm a wee bit allergic as well. I haven't been stung since I was a kid (due to being extremely cautious) so I have no idea if that allergy has stayed the same, gotten worse or better. I used to swell pretty badly. (I once got stung on the foot and it looked like I had been hit by an anvil in an old cartoon) We have a strict policy of no honey bee killing here, unless they make the hive insides the walls of the house, otherwise, you do not kill the honey bee. We have killed some wasps that are known to kill honey bees but the only reason was where they put their wasp nest. It was an area I frequented and they were pretty pissy bugs. I didn't want to get stung.


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