Colonies containing thousands of floating fire ants have been spotted floating atop flood waters in Houston.
Screenshot: Storyful/Inform Inc.
Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Large clusters made up of thousands of floating fire ants have been spotted cruising along flood waters in Houston.
The dangerous red ants can form the floating "islands" within minutes as a natural defense mechanism to avoid flooding, USA Today reported.
"If the water rises, they kind of all grab a hold of each other, and they can do this for several days, until they reach higher ground," Clemson University entomologist, Tim Davis, said.
Davis warned that it's best to avoid the floating clusters of fire ants, as they are likely to latch onto humans or other obstacles that cross their path and deliver a powerful bite.
"If one of those rafts comes in contact with you, or you try to break it apart, it will likely disperse and crawl up you," he said.
Louisiana State University entomologist, Linda Bui, recalled seeing multiple reports of evacuees with "unexplained rashes" around their legs and waists during Hurricane Katrian, caused by wading through waters filled with the floating fire ants.
"They were like something none of the medical professionals had ever seen," she told the Atlantic. "I was like, 'Those are literally fire ant stings on top of fire ant stings.'"
Bui also revealed that a common household cleaner can help deal with the floating ant colonies.
"Dawn is a not a registered insecticide, but it will break up the surface tension and they will sink," she said.