Millions of Tiny Insects Try to Survive Flood After Hurricane, Posing Bigger Risk for Humans

Hurricane Florence left a path of devastation behind her in North Carolina, but humans aren’t the only ones struggling to hang on in the aftermath of the storm. Millions of red ants are banding together to form colonies to help themselves stay afloat in the deep waters.

This is just one more reason why humans need to stay out of flooded streets.

Terrifying footage taken in the flooded streets of North Carolina shows millions of the red ants clinging to each other for dear life to create a living raft. One Twitter user filmed the footage and uploaded it to warn people about the danger.

“Millions and millions of fire ants forming islands and floating on flood waters,” wrote the NBC reporter who posted the video.

Authorities have been warning people to stay out of the flood waters for many reasons. Waters may be contaminated by sewage or there may be dangerous debris lurking just below the surface, so even if the water is only knee-deep, it can result in illness, infection or injuries.

But the fire ants just add another level of danger; if a floating colony were to bump into a person, the ants will treat the poor individual as though they found an island, and they’ll start climbing on board.

This is not a new phenomenon, it’s just a lesser known one. After Hurricane Harvey left the streets flooded in Texas, the same kinds of colonies of fire ants were spotted floating among the debris on the surface.

“Floodwaters will not drown fire ants,” Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist Paul R. Nester tells Yahoo! News. “Instead, their colonies emerge from the soil, form a loose ball, float and flow with the water until they reach a dry area or object they can crawl up on.”

Nester warns North Carolina locals about what to watch out for. “Floating fire ant colonies can look like ribbons, streamers, mats, rafts, or an actual ‘ball’ of ants floating on the water.”

Nester also warns people that a boat can’t save you from the fire ants, so don’t think you are in the clear just because you’re not trudging through the water on foot. “if you are in a row boat, do not touch the ants with the oars since they can ‘climb aboard’ vial the oars,” he explains.

Fire ants can do a lot of damage if a large colony begins to crawl on a person. These ants have a painful bite, and inject a toxic alkaloid venom that is incredibly painful to humans.

To some individuals, too many stings can be deadly. Fire ants have jaws so powerful that a colony can strip all the meat off the bone in a matter of hours.

Authorities say ants aren’t the only living dangers that may be found in the flood waters. Venomous snakes, such as cottonmouths and copperheads, have been spotted in the water. Many have slithered through the waters and sought refuge in people’s homes.

It may be a while before it is safe for folks with flooded homes to go back and check. It may feel worth taking the chance if you know you have valuables that you still might be able to reach, but ultimately if that gamble doesn’t pay off you can find yourself in a lot of pain.

Source: Yahoo
Photos: Gadi Schwartz/Twitter, NASA, U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kyle Hagan, Marufish/Flickr

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