What is in this article?:
Many non-native pests, from fire ants to slithery, slimy worm-like creatures, have come into the U.S. and made themselves at home, often causing widespread economic damage and other disruptions to life and commerce, says Blake Layton, Mississippi State University entomology professor. “It’s important that we remain on the alert for these invaders," he says. "You never know when one will have the potential to be the next boll weevil — or even worse.”
Brown marmorated stinkbugs are among non-native insects that have found a home in the U.S. Homeowners in the northeast U.S. tell tell of sweeping out five-gallon buckets full of the insects, which can damage fruit and landscape plants. —Rutgers University photo
Hairy crazy ants
Recently, the media have given a lot of attention to hairy crazy ants, also called raspberry crazy ants and Caribbean crazy ants.
“These began showing up in Mississippi about three years ago,” Layton says. “They also don’t sting or build visible mounds, but their populations can be really huge, and they will come inside in vast numbers. They don’t bother human food or pet food, but they can short out electrical circuits, well pumps, and other electrical devices, and if you disturb them they can be all over you in 30 seconds. They feed on other insects and plant nectar/exudates.
“Homeowners tell me they can kill them, but they may end up with a half inch thick pile of dead ants.
“We think they originated in South America, were then introduced into the Caribbean, and from there probably came into the U.S. on ships or in potted plants.
“At present, we know of two places in south Mississippi where they’re located, but we think they will spread rapidly. We don’t have any idea how far north they will move.”
Other non-native pests that have taken up residence in Mississippi or elsewhere in the U.S., Layton says, include:
• Land planarian: “It’s long like an earthworm, slimy like a snail, with a head like a cobra.” A predator of earthworms, it can be up to 12 inches in length. It has been in Mississippi for quite a while.
• Formosan termites: “They were first found in 1984 in coastal areas of Mississippi and now about 25 counties have infestations, including one documented at Tupelo in northeast Mississippi this year. They can eat a lot more, a lot faster, than the more common eastern subterranean termites.”
• Brown marmorated stinkbugs: “These have come from the northeast U.S., where they’ve been well-established for some time. They’re harder to control and have a much stronger odor than our other stinkbugs; they’re also more damaging to fruits and some landscape plants. They will also come inside in large numbers; homeowners in the northeast tell of sweeping out five-gallon buckets full.”
• European hornets: “They can be up to 2 inches long and prey on honeybees. We don’t have that many in Mississippi yet, but there are a lot in Arkansas and Tennessee.”
• Giant resin bees: “Something of a curiosity, they showed up in Mississippi about 8 years ago and have spread all over the state. While they don’t bore holes in wood like carpenter bees, they will go into holes already present.”