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

LESS DREADING, MORE DOING

This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

Donations have started slow, and we hope that explaining, level-headedly, why your support really is everything for our reporting will make a difference. Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” or in this 2:28 video about our merger (that literally just won an award), and please pitch in if you can right now.

payment methods

LESS DREADING, MORE DOING

This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

Donations have started slow, and we hope that explaining, level-headedly, why your support really is everything for our reporting will make a difference. Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” or in this 2:28 video about our merger (that literally just won an award), and please pitch in if you can right now.

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