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Flooding in Houston Brings Out Floating Islands of Fire Ants

31 Août 2017

Stefan Cover, an entomologist and curatorial assistant at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, said the insects, which are native to southern Brazil and northern Argentina, are known to dwell near the floodplains of rivers, where seasonal flooding often occurs.

People with allergies to them can also get angry welts or even anaphylactic shock from the stings.

As a colony's mound becomes overwhelmed by a rush of water, the ants will scurry to the top of the structure.

In earlier research, my colleague David Hu and I investigated how these tiny creatures weave their bodies into water-repellent lifesaving rafts that float for weeks on flood waters.

In a July study, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found fire ants link their bodies with one another to ensure colonies stick together - an action made possible thanks to the sticky pads underneath their feet.

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And if that dry object happens to be an unsuspecting human, the results can be painful: fire ants will bite and sting.

The rafts can be large with more than 100,000 ants, according to one study. They will then disband, get comfortable on land, and begin to dry off.

The National Weather Service is warning people in Texas and Louisiana to avoid the flood water for other reasons as well - it may carry an electric charge from downed power lines, or hide risky debris.

There have been no public reports of flood victims suffering fire ant attacks as of midday Tuesday, according to NBC News. They will ruin your day.

In a 2015 interview, Clemson University entomologist Tim Davis said, '"If one of those rafts comes in contact with you, or you try to break it apart, it will likely disperse and crawl up you'".

Flooding in Houston Brings Out Floating Islands of Fire Ants