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

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

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

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a 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