Texas: Beware the Fire Ants Floating in Flood Waters

 In Domestic, Science

There is a dangerous red army in Texas right now that the experts say you should watch out for: carpets of fire ants. Don’t try to rescue them, they can float for weeks. But if they touch a dry surface, they may unload themselves on it, even if it’s your leg.

If you’re from Texas, you likely already know about them. If you’re not…they can deliver a nasty sting. Some people are terribly allergic to them. An article in the Smithsonian Magazine warned of these red marauders that are currently providing yet another danger to the residents of flood battered Texas.

The Smithsonian wrote:

“…any creatures without gills or flippers—snakes, alligators, deer and more—are seeking higher ground. One of the most dangerous refugees from the floods, however, are floating rafts of stinging fire ants.

These ants first came to the U.S. from Argentina about 75 years ago, spreading through Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Florida and even California, Elizabeth Pennisi wrote for Science in 2011. Without natural predators they have spread aggressively and in densities 10 to 100 times greater than in their native range. The ants sting up to 5 million people per year in the U.S. with their painful, itchy venom, sending 25,000 people to the hospital each year.

But the strangest, and right now scariest, trick the ants have is their ability to glom together into giant floating rafts composed of up to 500,000 wriggling critters to survive floods.”

“Fire ants are capable of building what we call ‘self-aggregations. They can build little boats, little houses called bivouacs and even bridges to cross streams by being the building material, linking their bodies together and forming strong networks.” David Hu, biomechanics researcher at Georgia Tech

So the message to all rescuers from out outside of Texas: if you see a red carpet floating in the water, leave it be. It’s hostile.

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