Hurricane Harvey has caused much devastation along the Texas coast; many cities have been hit hard by constant rain and flooding. According to some experts, there is another danger that is not as obvious, but could have dire consequences. Tiny fire ants are appearing in rivers and flooded areas. They are venomous and their bites can cause extreme pain and discomfort.
During the storm, the ants found a creative way to avoid drowning; the colony interlocked their legs to create floating ant mounds. As a native Texan, I have personally faced the wrath of these vicious ants.
University of Texas at Austin curator of entomology Alex Wild told The Atlantic, “They actually love floods,” he explained. “It’s how they get around.”
One Texas native took a disturbing photograph of a giant ant colony floating in the Cuero River.
If a flood destroys a fire ant hill, the colony will latch onto one another and create a sort of raft that expands several feet, allowing them to float to dry land to build a new mound.
Their mounds appear almost immediately following a heavy rainstorm and are almost impossible to remove. If a person pours insecticide directly on them, they become suspicious and will not take it to their queen. If you place it around their colony, they may not pick it up.
Louisiana State University entomologist Linda Bui explained that the fire ants increase in their aggression toward humans. Their particular bites are stronger because they have 165% more venom than a typical ant.
During Hurricane Katrina, Bui examined several victims who complained about rashes from wading through the waters of the flooding that followed the storm.
Bui told reporters, “They were like something none of the medical professionals had ever seen.” She adds, “I was like, ‘Those are literally fire ant stings on top of fire ant stings.’”
Bui gave constructive advice on how to disperse the floating fire ants: dish soap. “Dawn is a not a registered insecticide,” she explains. “but it will break up the surface tension and they will sink.”