The flooding after hurricane Harvey has brought a new terror to Texas: Colonies of fire ants forming into a giant mass to float in the rising water.
Houston Chronicle reporter Mike Hixenbaugh tweeted a video of hundreds of thousands of fire ants Sunday, with a warning that one ought not touch the ball of insects.
— Mike Hixenbaugh (@Mike_Hixenbaugh) August 27, 2017
The floating fire ants phenomena is not unique to Houston, Texas, which may see more than 50 inches of rain before the storms are finished.
Fire ant colonies survive floods by gathering together and forming a raft with their bodies.
“Floodwaters will not drown fire ants. Instead, their colonies emerge from the soil, form a loose ball, float, and flow with the water until they reach a dry area or object they can crawl up on,” Paul R. Nester of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, wrote in a warning about the fire ant flotillas. “Floating fire ant colonies can look like ribbons, streamers, mats, rafts, or an actual ‘ball’ of ants floating on the water.”
If the ants touch the skin, “they will bite and sting,” Nester said.
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