Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Red Ant Menace

In my last blog I mentioned how different the "critters" were here compared to anything you may find in Lincoln, more specifically, Monitor Lizards. In Lincoln, however, you may see the occasional Opossum wandering around in the urban areas.

Well, in this episode, I would like to mention an entomological fact: the red ant menace is something shared between Malaysia and at least, Texas.

We are plagued with Fire Ants and so are some parts of Texas. Other U.S. states may have this problem too, but I know Texas has this problem.

I wouldn't be surprised if these Fire Ants from Hell sent a platoon from Malaysia to Texas to set up a colony. Maybe they hitched a ride on a slow-boat from here to there, landed in the Gulf of Mexico and decided to try overthrowing Texas.

Whatever the scenario is, I've seen and heard the news reports on how menacing these ants are in The Lone Star State. Southern Texas has been a haven for these guys (ants) - this hot location is like a Health Club for fire ants - the U.S., branch.

Here's a website for all you Texans who may want to find out more on fire ant control in your neck-of-the-woods. http://fireant.tamu.edu/

According to USDA studies,
potential United States range expansion of the invasive fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, shows ant problems all along the southern US states. The problem is huge. According to their study, U.S. states ranging from Hawaii, Southern Calf., and all the way to Virginia, have red ant problems.

In Malaysia, these ants and many more species are just as nasty! In the Malay language, these Fire Ants are called, Semut Api. These are fairly big ants (3/4 inch long) with body parts of dark red and black.

There are smaller, menacing species of ants we generally call all of those Semut Merah, or simply red ants.

There are distinct differences among these different red ant species, but it is difficult to concentrate on these differences when you are dealing with swarms of them creeping into your home, attacking you in your sleep, eating your cat's food and all the other menacing things these little red-devils get into.

There are two other ant species I've come into contact with here that are even more dangerous than Red Ants and Fire Ants, but Thank God, they don't live in the dirt around our house.

The first of these kinds is the Semut Kerengga which are about a half-inch or 3/4 inch long and blood red colored. These are simply nasty and the bites are like getting stung by a wasp.

The second of these more dangerous types are the Bullet Ants. These types are supposed to be more at home in tropical South America, but I've personally seen them here in Penang. These are huge, monster ants, 1-inch or more long and very dangerous. I've photographed them once, but since then, I've lost the photograph.

Sometimes, digital images get destroyed when Windows crashes and there is, unfortunately, no backup! Oops! Nevertheless, now I keep at least 3 or 4 copies of all my image files on CD-R.

One huge word of caution, if you are allergic to ant bites, you may not know until it is too late - AFTER you've been bitten a dozen or more times in a single attack episode.

A few weeks ago, I was watching a National Geographic special on the Fire Ants of Texas. Some guy invented these funky boots with fluffy trim at the top: these are mid-calf length boots and come in some crazy bright colors. Apparently, the fluffy trim has some bug-killing agent engineered into the boot. As I saw on the NGS special, these red-killers crept up the white boots, and once they reached the fluff at the top, these ants dropped like "flies", I mean ants!

I want a pair of those boots - they really work!

Any way, the ants, for all the good they may do, they are a menace around here and they are skilled at coordinated, unprovoked attacks. Hommie don't play that! I'm perfectly fine with ants that stay outside and do their business out there. But once they invade my territory and bite me, my family or my cats, that is like a declaration of war.

So watch out ants - stay outside where God meant for you to live.




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