Tom Rasberry , crazy rasberry ants
David J. Phillip/AP
Tom Rasberry and the "crazy rasberry

Texas Battles Crazy Ants—Bees Are Latest Victim

August 09, 2009 08:00 AM
by Shannon Firth
In Texas, “crazy rasberry ants” have raided at least 11 counties, destroying livestock, technology and honeybees. Experts say the destruction must be stopped but a solution has yet to be found.

The Crazy Rasberry Ant Invasion, Part II

Crazy rasberry ants are named for their bizarre habit of scurrying in every direction at once, and for Tom Rasberry, the first exterminator to figure out how to destroy them, KHOU Houston reported.

The scourge began in Houston, Texas, and moved steadily north; they have doubled their territory in a single year, according to the Associated Press. Because of their impact on farm animals, haystacks and honeybee populations, researchers want the ants classified as an “agricultural pest," but they lack the funding for the appropriate tests.

The Texas Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture won’t fund research until the ants are classified. “It’s a sticky Catch-22,” AP writer Linda Stewart Ball concludes.

Rasberry is more frank. “This is absolutely idiotic," Rasberry told AP. "If killing honeybees does not put it in the ag pest category I don’t know what does.”

On July 28, Rasberry, who is part of a federal-state task force designed to raise awareness about the ants, reported evidence of ants preying on bees, noting that a beekeeper near Houston had lost 100 honeybee hives to the ants last year. “Honey bees are necessary to pollinate our crops," Rasberry wrote on his blog, Rasberry Crazy Ants. "Without these fragile insects we don’t have food.”

Background: Crazy rasberry ants

According to AP in 2008, crazy rasberry ants arrived in Texas via a Houston port in 2002. They became an immediate menace, destroying sewage pumps, computers and gas meters, and making fire alarms malfunction.

Popular Science magazine writer Matt Ransford explains that crazy rasberry ants require special extermination practices. “Even when individuals are killed, the survivors will smartly pile their dead over the pesticide-treated areas to cross to safety.”

Related Topic: Honeybee death rate on the rise

A survey of the honeybee population released in 2008 showed that it had sustained losses of about 32 percent. “That’s an astonishing number," Dennis vanEngelsdorp, president of the Apiary Inspectors of America, the group who commissioned the survey, told the AP. "Imagine if one out of every three cows, or one out of every three chickens, were dying. That would raise a lot of alarm,”

Bees are a critical part of America’s food supply: More than 90 crops rely on bees for pollination, without which harvests of widely consumed fruits, nuts and vegetables could fail.

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