Tag Archives: fire ants

Rasberry crazy ants establish beachhead in Central Texas

Rasberry crazy ant invasive species poster at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference

In this Saturday’s Austin American Statesman newspaper, I was shocked to see that Rasberry crazy ants were found in Central Texas!

Less than six month ago, in November 2011, I interviewed Dr. Jerry Cook, Associate Vice President of Sam Houston State University, at the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference.

During the first half of my video interview with Dr. Cook, he talked about his new Institute for the Study of Invasive Species. Afterwards, I asked him to tell me about the invasive species that he found the most interesting. He said he does a lot of work on ants and that he studied the red imported fire ants, but that his current favorite to work on was the Rasberry crazy ant (Nylanderia sp. near pubens).

At the time, he said that there were no sightings of crazy ants in Central Texas, but he predicted that they would be coming.

Sadly, in the back of my mind, I knew they were on the march and would be here one day. Yet, I was still surprised that it was so soon.

Stronger than fire ants?

The newspaper article said that the crazy ants were in a condominium in Briarcliff along the shores of Lake Travis, and they probably came from gardening material from Houston, where they were first found by a pest control man, Tom Rasberry, in 2002. (They named the ant after him.)

The ant probably came to Texas from South America, and Dr. Cook said they’re called crazy ants because they move around very quickly and erratically, moving here or there.

They can take over areas from fire ants, which may sound good, but they come in such massive numbers that they can overwhelm and suffocate wildlife, damage electrical systems, and make houses unlivable.

With so many and being so fast and numerous, they are hard to eradicate.

The news of crazy ants coming to Central Texas, so close to my own home, shows the importance of educating people about invasive species and preventing their spread.

Now that they are here, they’ll be very difficult to get rid of. 😦

Your friend,
Commander Ben

P.S. Learn more about the Rasberry crazy ants:

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Austin American Statesman, Fire ants, Institute for the Study of Invasive Species (ISIS), Jerry Cook, Lake Travis, Rasberry Crazy ant, Texas Invasives

Invasive Jewel Cichlid Shatters Native Ecosystems

Although an attractive fish for aquariums, when West African Jewel Cichlids invade the ecosystems in Northern Mexico, they can cause havoc. Ms. Laura Dugan describes her research on this invasive fish, and how she is trying to determine the impacts of the species’ competition with natives and factors for their distribution and spread.

Ms. Dugan, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin, also talked about her lab experiments into the temperature profile of the fish, including their:

  • Thermal range (determined as 14-40 degrees Celsius)
  • Temperature preference (reviewing the results now)
  • Optimal temperature for growth (will be researching soon)

She is also researching the competition between this invasive fish and native fish that live in northern Mexico too. She will weigh the fish before and after the experiments to see if they grew.

Thanks for talking with me Ms. Dugan and for helping me make my first video about invasive fish. I also found your blog talking about your past research.

Science Under the Stars

I had a chance to talk with Ms. Dugan about her research when I attended this month’s Science Under the Stars talk at the UT Austin Brackenridge Field Laboratory.

I learned about Science Under the Stars in May 2011 when I entered my very first science video as part of their video contest. I won first place (yea!), and they gave me a fantastic navy blue shirt (thanks!) with their logo and a fire ant (invasive!) carrying off the state of Texas.

Before this month’s talk, they had a neat activity to help you learn about Charles Darwin’s Finches. They showed plates with different foods, such as rice, beans, and chocolate covered walnuts, and they also had different tweezers and tongs. They showed how the finches developed very specialized beaks (the utensils) to pick up the different sized food.

Conflict Avoidance: How NOT Competing Can Be The Ticket to Success

For the March 2012 Science Under the Stars talk, Ms. Genevieve Smith, a graduate student with UT Austin-Integrative Biology, gave a great presentation.

She gave a lot of examples and talked about many scientists, including one who observed a lot of different species of birds that lived in a tree. He found that the different species lived in different parts of the tree and avoided conflict with each other.

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Filed under College of Natural Sciences, Darwin’s Finches, Jewel Cichlid, Laura Dugan, Ms. Genevieve Smith, Science Under the Stars, University of Texas