Experts have confirmed that the invasive Raspberry Crazy Ant has now worked its way north into the Tomball area.
Steve Durham, of EnviroCon Termite and Pest told the Tribune that he found the invasive creature at a business on SH 249.
"Until this week we hadn't seen any north of Houston really," he said.
The ant has suddenly migrated north of Houston, infesting areas in The Woodlands, Conroe and Montgomery. Durham says the creature can infiltrate buildings, breaker boxes, well houses, phone switches and even indoor personal computers, causing them to short out. They aren't a danger to humans or pets as they do not bite, but the property destruction they cause has been in the millions of dollars.
"There are a lot of rumors about what the ants do, but they do not cause health problems and they do not cause building fires," said Dr. Roger Gold, an endowed chair of urban and structural entomology at Texas A&M. Gold explained that the ants will crawl into a breaker box looking for food, end up inside a switch and get shocked, releasing a pheromone that causes the other ants to rush towards the same spot. The massive amount of ants and the moisture from their bodies cause the switch to short. Gold stressed that they do not eat or chew on the wires.
The ants were introduced from the Caribbean region into the Pasadena area around 2002, according to Gold. They then travel from place to place wherever plants, sod, hay and other commercial items are shipped.
"There is no limit to where they can end up," Gold said.
The ants can also cause huge ecological problems, as experts say they have no natural predators and can therefore spread rapidly, pushing out other, more beneficial species.
"There can be billions of them per acre," Durham said.
Durham said they also attach themselves to aphid colonies and live off the organic materials and sugars the aphids produce, called honeydew.
The ants are currently found in about 20 counties in Texas and Durham said the Environmental Protection Agency has currently approved use of Termador, which is only available to professional exterminators.
"They have allowed for some products that we don't normally use, but we can use it only twice a year," Durham said.
Both Durham and Gold suggested that residents should first make sure that their yards and grounds are free of shelter that the ants like. Things like rocks, potted plants and wood should be removed or stored off the ground.
"You should remove anything on the ground that retains moisture and provides shade for the ants," Gold said.
"Keep your yards free of debris and keep things stored off the ground," Durham added.
Gold said that while the ant is not a medical problem, it is a big nuisance.
"It's not the end of the world, but it is a pesky little ant."