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Hurricane Harvey: Texas flood waters have floating colonies of venomous fire ants

People have posted images of fire ant-colonies floating in the flood waters in Texas.

science Updated: Aug 30, 2017 13:43 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Hurricane Harvey,Texas floods,Texas
A colony of fire ants floating in flood waters. (Twitter)

Users on social media websites posted images on of fire ants floating in raft-like colonies to survive the flood waters in Texas.

Fire ants -- or Solenopsis invicta -- have the ability to link each other in a chain to create a flotilla that can sustain them till they hit dry ground. At first sight, these colonies can appear to be harmless brown debris.

The specie, which can organise into towers as well, have sticky pads on their feet that help them assemble collectively into shapes, said researcher Laura Castells in an article for Nature.com.

Fire ants are naturally aggressive and its venom can cause itching or a burning sensation which can last up to an hour, the NBC news reported. Some people can have more adverse reactions, including difficulty in breathing. However, US media said there have been no reports of serious ant-bites so far.

Responding to an image of fire ants floating in Texas, curator of entomology at the University of Texas Alex Wild tweeted: “Holy crap. I have never, in my entire career as an ant researcher, seen *anything* like this.”

How do you avoid the ant rafts if you’re stuck in flood waters?

First, try to avoid them from striking you, by creating waves of water to deviate their route. If they’ve already hit, the best thing to do is to rub them off as quickly as possible, The Verge quoted an entomologist Molly Keck as saying.

Fire ants were found in the floodplains of the Paraguay river in South America and they reportedly entered the US in the 1930s.

At least 30 people have died in flood-related incidents after Hurricane Harvey -- one of the most destructive storms in US history -- battered Texas for the fifth day on Tuesday. Thousands are stranded and a curfew has been imposed in Houston. Weather official said parts of the state are expected to receive heavy rainfall again.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Aug 30, 2017 13:42 IST