Texans in the Houston area are battling rampaging hordes of "voracious swarming ants" which have inexplicably developed a taste for electronic equipment, Chicago Tribune reports.
The "crazy rasberry ants" - which apparently arrived aboard a cargo ship in the port of Houston back in 2002 - got their common name "because they wander erratically instead of marching in regimented lines" added to the surname of Tom Rasberry, an exterminator who crossed swords with the invaders early in their attempted conquest of Texas.
While the insects have a traditional penchant for the "sweet juices" of plants, they have also "ruined pumps at sewage pumping stations, fouled computers and at least one homeowner's gas meter, and caused fire alarms to malfunction".
Ominously, the critters have been sighted at NASA's Johnson Space Center and close to Houston's Hobby Airport, although they "haven't caused any major problems there yet".
Indeed, homeowners are currently bearing the brunt of the assault, as a shaken Patsy Morphew of the Pearland suburb of Houston explained. "They're itty-bitty things about the size of fleas, and they're just running everywhere. There's just thousands and thousands of them. If you've seen a car racing, that's how they are. They're going fast, fast, fast. They're crazy."
The ants "appear to be resistant to over-the-counter ant killers", and hard-pressed exterminators want the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to "loosen restrictions on the use of more powerful pesticides".
The Texas Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, is collaborating with Texas A&M University researchers and the EPA on how to stop the ants. However, A&M entomologist Roger Gold admitted: "At this point, it would be nearly impossible to eradicate the ant because it is so widely dispersed." ®
The crazy rasberry ant - a newly-recognised species - is known to science as Paratrenicha species near pubens. Scientists are uncertain where they originally came from, but they are seemingly related to Paratrechina longicornis, aka "crazy ant" - another non-native which has spread across the eastern US and is also found in California and Arizona.