A previously unknown species of ant was discovered in Texan coastal counties around Houston in 2002, by an exterminator, Tom Rasberry. So far they are known in five counties. They are prolific and tend to run around crazily. They are similar to a Columbian species, Pareatrechina pubens, and may have evolved from them. The ants have more than one queen in a colony.
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. It lists some of the findings on its Web site: urbanentomology.tamu.edu/ants/exotic_tx.cfm.
Jason Meyers, a doctoral student in urban entomology at Texas A&M who is writing his dissertation on the ants, described them as enigmatic and confirmed that they were discovered by Mr. Rasberry. They belong to the genus Paratrechina, like others seen in Colombia, the Caribbean and Florida, Mr. Meyers said, but are different enough for entomologists to only guess at their species, listing them for now as “near” pubens.
Nobody wants to confront their weight in ants; but Afarensis on scienceblogs.com points out that there is already some hysteria about the new ants.
How do the people in Columbia deal with their close relatives?