Hurricane Florence is causing a threat that many Carolinians may not be aware of – fire ants.
Fire ants, which carry a dangerous sting, are an invasive species in the region and are especially adept at surviving massive flooding.
The insects band together to create rafts that float upon the flood waters until they are able to reach ground again. Business Insider’s Kevin Loria reported on the phenomenon during Hurricane Harvey during Hurricane Harvey last year.
The raft carries all members of the colony including eggs, larvae, queens, winged ants, and workers, according to Texas A&M University.
This survival tactic poses a threat to rescuers since the rafts look like debris, and if they come into contact with boats, the fire ants can disband to sting those on board.
“If they ants manage to touch your skin, they’ll immediately start biting and stinging, as they are usually wont to do,” Texas A&M warns.
“It’s important to rub them off immediately – submerging them won’t work, as they’ll just cling to the skin. Even a high-pressure water spray might not remove them.”
Already, multiple news outlets have posted videos of so-called fire ant rafts that they have come into contact with:
Millions and millions of fire ants forming islands and floating on flood waters. #HurricaneFlorence pic.twitter.com/iLZoMugmZI
— Gadi Schwartz (@GadiNBC) September 17, 2018
WHOA! @JeremyDanMoore spotted this fire ant mound while reporting in Stantonsburg N.C. Be careful of floodwaters! pic.twitter.com/xwwakNlIHK
— Jacob Rodriguez (@jacobreports) September 18, 2018
Fire ants may also pose a problem when residents start returning to their homes. The colonies tend to remake their hills wherever the flood waters deposit them, and that can mean in yards where children and pets play, according to the Post and Courier.
Aside from fire ants, scientists and officials warn that floodwaters can contain snakes, downed power lines, and diseases. It’s best to stay out of the floods if you can.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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