Fire ants use their waxy bodies to survive Hurricane Harvey's deluge

Posted at 6:44 AM, Sep 01, 2017

An unusual life raft was spotted floating in the flood waters near Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department shared a video Wednesday of an army of fire ants clinging to each other to form a floating mat amid the deluge at Brazos Bend State Park.

"This is a common behavior with fire ants when their colonies are flooded," Dr. Grzesiek Buczkowski, an ant specialist at Purdue University, told ABC News. "The ants will interlink their legs and form mats, which can float on top of water."

Buczkowski said that fire ants' bodies are covered in waxes that normally protect them from drying out but that also repel water.

After linking together, the ants float with the current until they reach land, where they begin rebuilding their colony, Buczkowski said. It's a common way for them to spread from one location to another, he added.

But the ants can be dangerous if disturbed as they float in the water. Their stinging bites are painful and even deadly for people who are allergic to them.

Authorities have warned people to be careful of wildlife and insects that may be in flood waters, including snakes and alligators.