NEWS DESK: Thousands in Houston are still stranded or displaced by the rain and wrath of tropical storm Harvey, but a floating menace may add to that despair, reported The Independent.
People are reporting large colonies of fire ants floating on the rising waters that have destroyed homes and property, swept cars and people away, and pushed flood levels to record levels. And, just like those floodwaters, it’s a good idea to stay away from the ants, which are known for their painful bites.
“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, an entomology specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, told Wired
As it turns out, individual fire ants have a slight resistance to water already, but when they band together they can create a terrifying red mass on the surface of water. Once in formation, the ants will move around to prevent individual drownings.
At least 14 people have died in the wake of Harvey, including a family of six who drowned trying to seek safety in the storm. They died after a van being used to conduct a rescue was swept away by strong currents. The bodies weren’t immediately recovered, since the Coast Guard had determined they wouldn’t search for bodies until the water recedes. The father of the four minors who died then wasn’t immediately notified of the deaths by surviving family, and he is currently in prison for violating parole.
Rain is still threatening much of the city, and has forced the Army Corps of Engineers to engage in planned releases of water from the city’s major reservoirs. Those reservoirs have reached record water levels as a result of Harvey, and the planned releases are sending water, potentially, into residential areas.