Floating Piles Of Fire Ants Present Yet Another Hazard For Houston Flood Victims
As if dealing with the flood waters wasn’t enough, victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston have another dangerous hazard to look out for.
From alligators and snakes to bats and cows, we’ve heard of numerous displaced animals floating around in the floodwaters, but these creepy crawling mounds of insects may be the amongst the worst.
Not long after the waters began to rise in Houston, fire ants began to come out of their underground tunnel as their instincts kicked into full survival mode. The insects literally began to stick together.
linking their claws and clinging to one another in massive rafts and balls that floated and spun in the current
According to a New York Times report, the ants have a special coating on their “armorlike bodies” that allows them to repel water. A video shot by Chronicle medical writer Mike Hixenbaugh shows just how creepy these dangerous insects look.
— Mike Hixenbaugh (@Mike_Hixenbaugh) August 27, 2017
People on Twitter replied to his video sharing their experiences with these clumps of fire ants and none of the stories were pleasant.
Had a golf ball size group wash up on my foot during flooding near Austin. Screamed like a b and ran home to a fistful of Benadryl.
— eric westpheling (@ericwestpheling) August 28, 2017
Fire ants are vicious when they attack, locking on to humans with their jaws then “injecting a stinging venom that burns” their victim. Now imagine that type of attack coming from a massive pile of these little insects.
If subjected to longer periods of disturbance, the ant cluster acts like a fluid. When a coin is dropped into an aggregation of the insects, the group reforms slowly around the object. Scientists at Georgia Tech have been studying the physics and behavior of fire ant clusters, which have a consistency they say can be wobbly like Jell-O or flow like ketchup.
These “piles” of ants can drift for days until they find a log or some other surface to cling to.
Have you ever had an experience with fire ants? If so, share your story in the comments below.