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Islands of fire ants floating in Houston floodwaters

Amid the horrific devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, several islands of fire ants have been spotted floating on the rising floodwaters in Houston.

The fire ants, which are known for their painful bites and venom, appear to have perfected their survival skills by coming together to create a raft or a structure of some sort.

A study released in July from researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that fire ants  are able to link their bodies together thanks to the sticky pads underneath their feet.

When they do unite, the moving ants from afar resemble a pile of dirt or wood chips. 

Amid the horrific devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, several islands of fire ants have been spotted floating on the rising floodwaters in Houston. The above image was shared to Twitter by CBS National Correspondent Omar Villafranca showing the ants in an island

Photos and videos shared to social media in recent days from the Houston area show the creepy insects floating, as experts are advise people to not touch the ants.

CBS National Correspondent Omar Villafranca tweeted a photo of fire ants formed into a ‘protective island’ floating in the city.  

Houston Chronicle reporter Mike Hixenbaugh tweeted a video showing the red ants on Sunday and advising not to touch them as they will ‘ruin your day’. 

The captivating video shows thousands of the dangerous ants grouped together in a dark colored mound as the entire colony floats on water.  

Making things more interesting, a study from 2011 from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a group of fire ants can sustain buoyancy in water from days to as long as weeks. Plus, they can get into formation to create a raft in as quick as 100 seconds.   

The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension service has urged people to use extreme caution around floating fire ant islands.    

‘Avoid contact with floating mats of fire ants. If you are in a row boat, do not touch the ants with the oars since they can ‘climb aboard’ via the oars,’ Texas A&M Agrilife Extension specialist Paul Nester wrote in the guidance note.   

 ‘Occasionally, floating ant masses are encountered even indoors in flooded structures.’

He also advised people working in floodwater to dress appropriately.  

‘Cuffed gloves, rain gear, and rubber boots help prevent the ants from reaching the skin. If they do, they will bite and sting,’ he wrote. 

‘Remove them immediately by rubbing them off. If submerged, ants will cling to the skin and even a high-pressure water spray may not dislodge them. 

‘However, a spray made of diluted biodegradable dish­washing liquid may help immobilize and drown them.’

Nester wrote that even after flood waters disappear, fire ants ‘can be underneath anything’. 

‘When picking up debris, pay attention to what is on, under, or in it— especially if the debris has been sitting in one area for several days,’ he wrote. 

‘Fire ants love to get under carpet strips, furniture, and old wood to re-establish their colony.’

This is not the first time floating fire ants have been spotted during floods. 

In 2015, the colonies formed rafts during the floods in South Carolina.   

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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