When there is flooding along the Gulf Coast, there are fire ants. The invasive ants congregate into living rafts, drifting through water until they reach solid ground again. It’s a time-honed survival strategy.
“Holy crap. I have never, in my entire career as an ant researcher, seen *anything* like this,” tweeted Alex Wild, curator of entomology at University of Texas at Austin, in response to the image below.
Meanwhile, in Cuero, the river has brought my aunt all of the fire ants. Yes, those are all (of the) fire ants. pic.twitter.com/dEibWYxAdl— Bill O'Zimmermann (@The_Reliant) August 29, 2017
Of course, Wild told me, it is all perfectly logical. “They actually love floods,” says Wild. “It’s how they get around.” Fire ants displaced by water form rafts; a lot of fire ants displaced by a lot of water will form really big rafts. But still! The sheer size of them is incredible.
After Hurricane Katrina, Linda Bui, an entomologist at Louisiana State University, remembers seeing evacuees from New Orleans come into a field hospital with bands of unexplained rashes around their legs and waists after wading through floodwaters. “They were like something none of the medical professionals had ever seen,” she says. “I was like, ‘Those are literally fire ant stings on top of fire ant stings.’”