Invasion of yellow crazy ants in 7 villages in the state of Tamil Nadu, southern India. Crazy yellow ants are among the most dangerous invasive species in the world. They don’t bite or sting, but they do spread formic acid.
Insects attack livestock and damage crops, endangering people’s livelihoods.
Yellow crazy ants are among the world’s most dangerous invasive species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
They do not bite or sting, but they do release formic acid, which can cause reactions, reports the BBC.
Yellow crazy ants are taking over India
These ants – their scientific name is Anoplolepis gracilipes – are usually found in tropical and subtropical regions. They move in an erratic, uncoordinated manner, their movement becoming more frenetic when disturbed.
Experts say these ants multiply quickly and can “cause great damage to native wildlife”.
Dr Pronoy Baidya, an entomologist who has done research on yellow crazy ants, says they are an “opportunistic species”.
“They don’t have any preference in terms of diet. They eat anything and everything,” he says, adding that they also feed on other species of ants, bees and wasps.
Insects started killing other animals
The affected villages in Tamil Nadu are located in a hilly region around Karanthamalai forest, Dindigul district. Most of the people here are farmers or cattle owners.
“As soon as we get close to the forest, the ants climb on us, causing irritation and blisters. We can’t even bring water to drink because they swarm there too. We don’t know what to do,” says Selvam, a 55-year-old farmer.
Villagers told the BBC that they have seen such ants in the forest in recent years, but this is the first time they have appeared in such large numbers in the villages, turning life upside down.
Cattle breeders living near the forest say they have left their settlements because of the invasion.
The local forest officer told BBC Tamil that he had ordered officials to “conduct a thorough survey and submit a report”.
Meanwhile, villagers say their animals and even snakes and rabbits have died after being attacked by the ants.
People’s lives are not in danger
Dr. Baidya said it is possible that the formic acid sprayed by the ants affected the animals’ eyes. In humans, the acid can cause allergic reactions, but may not be life-threatening.