Ants float on a Har­vey sur­vival raft

The Observer - - NEWS WORLD -

HOUS­TON res­i­dents were told to pre­pare them­selves for the worst as ex-Hur­ri­cane Har­vey smashed Texas, but there was one threat au­thor­i­ties didn’t see com­ing.

Colonies of fire ants are band­ing to­gether to form sting­ing hor­ror rafts that have baf­fled lo­cals af­fected by the cat­e­gory 4 storm.

The ants are an in­va­sive species na­tive to South Amer­ica.

They have suc­cess­fully colonised the south­ern US and form ant rafts when a ma­jor storm oc­curs, ac­cord­ing to Sci­ence Alert.

The ven­omous in­sects quickly link to­gether to es­cape flood­wa­ters, putting their queen and lar­vae at the cen­tre of the raft.

The ants then mesh to­gether tightly enough that air is trapped in the mid­dle.

The ants on the bot­tom are knit­ted so wa­ter can’t get in.

The rafts can be large with more than 100,000 ants, ac­cord­ing to one study.

The roles ro­tate with ants trav­el­ling across the top and join­ing the sta­tion­ary layer on the bot­tom.

“We ob­served that ants would morph their raft into a pan­cake shape of two to three ant lay­ers in thick­ness,” re­searchers said.

Ants travel atop the raft and join its edges.

Fire ants can sur­vive in these struc­tures for weeks or longer.

They con­stantly seek new dry land to colonise as they float.

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