A destructive invasive ant species appears to be on the verge of entering South Carolina for the first time.
A team of Clemson University researchers is tracking them. Entomology professor Pat Zungoli told South Carolina Radio Network that the tawny crazy ant can disrupt eco systems. “They are certainly a threat to ground nesting birds and other species,” Zungoli said.
Native to South America and the Caribbean, the tawny crazy ant was originally found in Texas in 2002. But it has since entered other Southern states, such as Florida, and in 2013 it was discovered in several Georgia counties. Two years later, it was found as far north as the Savannah River, which indicates it soon might invade South Carolina.
The species are called crazy ants because observers often see them run around like they don’t know what they’re doing. But Zungoli said they actually are highly efficient foragers. “They disrupt the bio-diversity of the other ants in a community of species,” she said.
Unlike fire ants the tawny crazy ants don’t sting or bite humans. Rather, it’s their sheer numbers that create the most problems. Because their colonies have multiple queens, they can reproduce far faster than most of their ant counterparts.
Researchers said that on their own, tawny crazy ants establish new territory slowly because they don’t have winged forms that can fly to distant places like some ants do. But since they thrive in a variety of conditions, from shady wooded areas to dry, sandy fields, they tend to inhabit places where they can crawl aboard cars, trucks, boats, shipping containers and plant materials and move from one place to the next like tiny stowaways.