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Months After Harvey, Another Flood: One Of Fire Ants

A flood-adapted ant species could see a boom in its population thanks to Harvey

A Solenopsis invicta, or Imported Red Fire Ant.
A Solenopsis invicta ant, or Imported Red Fire Ant.

Just after Hurricane Harvey you may have seen photos of giant ant rafts floating in floodwaters. The ants in those photos are the Imported Red Fire Ant, which come from an area in South America that frequently floods.


"Most ant species can't do that,” said Scott Solomon who, along with other researchers at Rice University, is tracking how ants are responding to Harvey.

Because the imported fire ants evolved to survive frequent flooding, they have an advantage over species native to southeast Texas.

"It's possible that fire ants are going to come back with even more ferocity than they had before Harvey simply because it's possible that their competitors are going to be harder hit than they will," Solomon said.

Solomon said the average person will be unable to tell the difference between imported and native fire ants. However, imported ants have fewer natural predators in the region, and have a higher density of colonies than native species.

Because of their advantages over native species, once the imported ant population makes a rebound, they could see a boom in their numbers.


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