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Arming Texas for War on Crazy Ants

Arming Texas for War on Crazy Ants
UT scientists are all in for the fight against crazy ants. Image: Crazy Ant (Nylanderia fulva), Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In 2014, the staff at Estero Llano Grande State Park, on the Rio Grande outside Weslaco, began seeing large colonies of ants they did not recognize around the buildings and in the restrooms. Then staffers began noticing the ants driving birds out of their nests — a particularly bad thing at a park that is part of the Rio Grande Valley's World Birding Center.

Rabbits in the park no longer fled from humans; the ants had blinded them by secreting an acid into their eyes. Turtles became so covered in ants they would leave their nests to submerge in water. On night hikes through the park, less charismatic but equally important native species such as scorpions and tarantulas rapidly disappeared. Even visitors including schoolchildren were being swarmed if they stopped on a trail.

"We sought help," says park superintendent Javier de León, "and we were lucky enough to find UT and Dr. LeBrun."

Ed LeBrun and his fellow biologists at The University of Texas at Austin knew what the pests were — tawny crazy ants. The ant is quickly becoming Texas' next big invasive insect problem, possibly worse than the fire ant. Discover their plans to fend off the invasion in this story from the UT News website.

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Thursday, 20 June 2019

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