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If You’re Heading to Houston to Help With Harvey, Watch Out for Floating Mountains of Fire Ants [VIDEO]

Hurricane Harvey has devastated south Texas. Thankfully, thousands of people are and already have headed down there to help. We need to make sure they’re aware of a floating menace though. Fire ants.

I’ve seen this phenomenon on science shows before and didn’t even think about it being a problem in Texas. But yes, Texas has fire ants. And when a fire ant’s colony gets flooded or the colony needs to move across a body of water, they all cling together into a giant pile in order to support and protect the queen and the unborn baby eggs.

From a distance and on the surface of the water, they just look like floating debris. But as soon as they come in contact with another floating object, they partially break their island to explore what they’ve hit. This can mean thousands of ants crawling onto boats or oars or arms and legs in search of dry land.

But there’s a way to stop them: soap. See, a fire ant’s exoskeleton is hydrophobic, which means it repels water. That’s how thousands of them float in giant piles like they do. But a little bit of soap will lower the surface tension of the water and they won’t be able to float anymore and will sink and drown.

So if you’re headed to any flooded area, keep soap with you for when you see floating islands of death coming your way.

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