What do you have to do when confronted by a floating raft of hundreds of fireside ants?
Among the many many scenes of devastation coming out of areas flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey, images of floating rafts of those ants have gone viral on social media.
The ants are frequent within the areas of the Southern United States in that have been hit by the floods. The- floodwaters lift the ants from their anthills on the bottom, & dangling collectively, they’re capable of drifting for miles until they find dry land to re-establish a colony on.
The sight of lots of of drifting rafts of red imported fire ants is nightmarish for anyone who has felt the ant’s fiery sting. In excessive situations, they’re capable of sending an individual with an allergy in to anaphylactic shock.
Paul Nester, a Houston-based fire ants professional at Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service, has this main recommendation: “Keep away from, keep away from, keep away from.” Give these rafts of ants a large berth.
Professional tip: Do not touch the floating fire ant colonies. They may spoil your day. #Harveypic.twitter.com/uwJd0rA7qB
â€” Mike Hixenbaugh (@Mike_Hixenbaugh) Aug. 27, 2017
He states people should not try to poke the raft or try to drown them by pushing it underwater. It can backfire, he states: “If anyone comes in touch with that, hits it, well then, the ants instantly will stream onto in that individual identical to they would onto a log or onto a bank 'cause they’re on the lookout for high ground.”
Fire ants are professional survivalists, he states â€“ even pesticides are solely as much as 90 % efficient on them. “You all the time have a surviving part of the population,” he states.
In the meantime, in Cuero, the river has brought my aunt all the fire ants. Yes, these are all (of the) fire ants. picture.twitter.com/dEibWYxAdl
â€” Bill O’Zimmermann (@The_Reliant) Aug. 29, 2017
Nevertheless, in a flood state of affairs, there’s an sudden approach to battle the balls of fireside ants: spraying them with diluted biodegradable dishwashing liquid, at a ration of about two tablespoons of soap per gallon of water. The- ants will slowly begin to drown & die, Nester states.
Right here is why in that works.
Fire ants are nonterritorial, which means in that you could typically find greater than 500 mounds per acre. & as floodwaters come by means of, “you possibly can just think of them effervescent out of the bottom after which they get up on the water. They’re in this ball in that has a high surface tension so the water can not encroach on the inside.”
These rafts contain all members of the colony â€“ the queens, the staff, the eggs, the larvae. They usually can survive a mileslong trek, Nester states. “If a wave hits, it doesn’t matter. It is such a high surface tension in that that raft is just not affected in any respect. … They form such an in depth ball the water just can not penetrate.”
This video from Georgia Tech researchers demonstrates how troublesome the ant rafts are to sink (h/t The- Washington Post):
The ants achieve such a high surface tension by intertwining their legs, forming a sort of mat, Nester states. Their bodies are coated in an exoskeleton in that repels water.
Nevertheless, Nester states whenever you spray the soap mixture on the raft, “it tends to scale back in that surface tension & the ants begin to break off they usually basically all drown.”
Nester acknowledges in that “not everybody has a bottle of soapy water of their pocket while they’re strolling down a flooded area.” With out one, it is best to steer clear.
Rafts of ants can even present issues to people navigating flooded areas by boat, Nester states. The- floating colonies can “just kind of explode onto” boats, or climb onto paddles.
As rescue efforts continue, he warns in that floating fire ants rafts will typically take refuge in debris piles. That may be dangerous for people working to wash up & rebuild.
If you end up coated in fire ants, Nester states you need to keep away from jumping in to water or making an attempt to hose them off. The- water just makes the ants cling to your body even more durable, & it may make them more more likely to sting you.
“Wereally advocate in that people just brush them off to the most effective of their potential,” he states.
What elaborates the extraordinary water survival talents of fireside ants? In 2014 on WBUR’s Right here & Now, Georgia Tech’s David Hu states it has to do with their origins:
“They’re initially from the wetlands of Brazil, where it is flooded several times each one week. When in that happens, they’ve to pull their complete colonies out from underground, which is where they live, they usually have to float around & survive in this fashion. They have been really forced to rely on one another in a means in that is far deeper from different ants.”