Mother Nature Strikes Back
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Have You Seen This?

Have You Seen This?

Did you notice that all kinds of natural disasters seem to come down on us hard and fast lately, in just about every corner of the globe?


Everyone who watches the news has of course heard of the recent, devastating earthquake in China that has killed about 70,000 people. And now the Chinese survivors may also have to deal with flooding from the so-called “quake lakes,” alpine lakes created by the earthquake whose fragile natural dams could give way at any moment.


We’ve also heard about the equally devastating cyclone catastrophe in Myanmar, with 133,000 reported dead or missing. Closer to home, the National Weather Service stated that 2008 is likely to break the U.S. record for the number of tornadoes in a year, with a preliminary count of 1,191 twisters so far. The current record is held by the year 2004 with 1,817 tornadoes, and we may yet surpass it.


But aside from these events widely promulgated by the mainstream media, there is another, lesser-known and rather destructive phenomenon going on that could come right out of a bad horror movie.


Now, I’m not exactly known as a Bible thumper, even though I have my own wayward spirituality I subscribe to. But even I was reminded of the biblical plagues when I read about this one. The new plague attacking America from the south is… ants.


More precisely, “Crazy Rasberry Ants,” a species that is believed to have arrived by cargo ship and that has been to date unknown in this country. The flea-sized mini-pests apparently feel attracted by electrical equipment and have a voracious appetite. So far limited to the state of Texas (but probably not for long), they have already caused power blackouts, malfunctions in fire alarms, and failures in computers and other electronics.


The ants, whose name comes from their erratic zig-zagging – they don’t march in orderly lines like other ants – and from the name of the first exterminator who tried to get rid of them, are all but unstoppable. They don’t respond to the usual ant repellants and killers, and they are so tiny that they get into every nook and cranny before you know it. First spotted in 2002, meanwhile they have spread throughout the greater Houston area, and according to the Houston Chronicle, “homeowners daily sweep up dust bins of their dead and maimed.


“Jason Meyers, a Texas A&M University entomology doctoral candidate who has studied the ants, said no one is certain where they came from. What is known, though, is that their range rapidly is expanding. Two poisons – Termidor and Top Choice – are available to exterminators, but unless a sufficient ‘buffer zone’ is established around an infested property, additional ants simply will crawl over the bodies of their fallen comrades.


“Rasberry said he treated a half-acre plot with insecticide, returning months later to find the area covered thickly with two inches of dead ants. Living insects teemed on the top layer of insect corpses.”


The ants have been seen to short out pipeline valves, clog up well and swimming pool pumps, destroy computer hard drives and other electronic equipment. What’s worse, they have been sighted on the grounds of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and near Hobby Airport, Houston’s oldest commercial airport.


"There are heavy populations right on the edge of Hobby Airport," Rasberry said. "If you set a plane in a hangar or on the tarmac, they will get into anything sitting on the ground. That's a significant concern. I don't know if they (aviation officials) are aware, but we've told a few customers who own private planes they keep at Hobby."


I don’t know about you, but if I were an astronaut or someone flying into Houston on business, I’d be very uncomfortable knowing that a swarm of minuscule critters might have infested the electronics of the spacecraft about to shoot me into outer space or of the plane I’m about to board. But that’s just me, of course.

Posted 06-02-2008 12:52 PM by Shannara Johnson