You might wish they were as fake as the "sharks in the streets" photographs, but floating islands of fire ants are unfortunately real. Fire ants, an invasive species in the American south, are banding together to float through Hurricane Harvey floodwaters.
The ants' unsettling ability to survive is also frankly amazing. Ant colonies form watertight balls of ant by connecting themselves together with the queen lodged in the middle of the island. It's not a new phenomenon. It happens almost any time flood waters appear where there are fire ants.
The ants bind themselves together so tightly there is air in the middle of the island, and no water seeps up through the colony, according to Science Alert. The ones on the bottom use their waxy covering and hold tiny bubbles to keep the colony afloat. The ants on the top will move around, occasionally changing places with ants on the bottom as the island floats along, mutating in shape, according to a study of the dynamics of these conglomerations.
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In case you weren't already mortified, the islands sometimes house a population of more than 100,000 ants and can survive for more than a week without making it to dry land.
However, finding dry land is the goal, so many organizations have recommended you stay far, far away. Not only do those stings suck, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension says the ants will move quickly onto dry objects. It recommends you don't even touch the colonies with oars. There's basically no way to sink the horror house boats, outside of dish soap, which can break up the waxy coating that allows them to float.
While there's nothing you can do about these floating carnivals of horror, you can help with the larger nightmare of Hurricane Harvey. Here are a few ways you can help aid Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
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