Crazy Ants Invade, Crave Electrical Juice

Crazy for the juice. Gotzek D, Brady SG, Kallal RJ, LaPolla JS

The "crazy rasberry ant" (Nylanderia fulva) continues to make the news as it invades Texas and Florida, rolling over fire ant populations with their staggering numbers. Seeing as how these tiny newcomers lack the painful sting of their red cousins, you might even take that for good news.

But as Scott Simon reports over at NPR, it's not all good news. The crazy ants are tiny, but they positively overwhelm homes, short out electrical boxes and crawl all up in your computer.

Why do these unholy legions crave electricity? It's an open question, but some species of ants are capable of detecting electromagnetic fields and might even use the Earth's magnetic field as a navigation tool. So there theory here is that crazy ants mistake the fields associated with electrical gadgetry as road signs. It's also possible they're just scouting a new nest with a dry interior and easy-to-defend entrances.

The problems begin when crazy ants chew up insulating material around wires. The first ants through fry themselves on the juice and alarm pheromones draw hordes more into a growing pileup of ant corpses.

Now let's check these crazies out in action and see why they earned their moniker:

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.