Whoa! What Is That in the Houston Floodwaters? Fire Ants Making an Ant Raft.

Their survival mechanisms are amazing.

Al Key/The Denton Record-Chronicle via AP

This story was originally published by HuffPost and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

As if the catastrophic floods in Houston haven’t done enough damage, people are now reporting large colonies of fire ants floating on the rising water.

These fire ants, which are infamous for their painful bites, appear to have an outrageous survival mechanism. And, frankly, it’s unsettling.

Individual fire ants have a slight resistance to water, but that resistance becomes much stronger when they work together. Colonies will link together to stay afloat even in the severe flooding Texas is experiencing.

“They use the wax together on their bodies to keep the queen and other members of the colony in the middle of the ball dry so they don’t suffocate,” Mike Merchant, entomology specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, told Wired. As they float along, the insects change their positions within the pack to help prevent drowning. 

People are thoroughly disturbed by what Mother Nature hath wrought.

Floating fire ants aren’t a particularly new phenomenon, but that doesn’t make it any less horrifying. 

Have a little mercy, won’t you, Mother Nature?

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate