Maybe I am missing something, but for the life of me I cannot see why the authorities don’t see the floods in Houston as an opportunity to decimate the fire ant population by using flamethrowers.
These ants are forming huge floating rafts … ideal targets for a flamethrower I would have thought. I know that detergents disperse the rafts, but detergents don’t kill the suckers, and detergents will have an adverse environmental impact.
If these insects have some kind of ecological benefit to the environment, then I do of course apologize … my understanding is that their ecological significance is about the same as that of the mosquito.
Time is running out if my suggestion is to be implemented …once the floods recede they will be back underground, and unassailable.
While this would be immensely satisfying, it wouldn’t put a dent into the Fire Ant population in Houston. Remember, not all of the city is flooded, so there’s no way you are going to kill all the colonies, and the remaining ones will simply re-poulate areas that have been de-anted.
I fondly :dubious: remember floating fire ant rafts in the Houston area. Oddly, when they contact a human being they can climb onto, they are not grateful for being rescued.
As with all the burn-poison-other scorched earth methods, there are way too many of the vile little beasts to destroy. Discover a highly contagious fatal fire ant disease and you’ll get plenty of Nobel Prize votes.
But who knows what greater and more dangerous predator they’re currently keeping in check? That’s the problem with eradicating any species. If we got rid of all the fire ants, surely the Pod People would take over.
The reason the ants are able to float and form rafts, is that their bodies are hydrophobic. There’s a layer of air trapped next to their bodies. Detergent will reduce the surface tension of the water, and get rid of the trapped air layer. (It also prevents the ants from holding onto each other.) While detergent won’t kill the ants directly, most of them will drown.
Oh yes. I lived in South Texas brush country for 20 years. I’m well-acquainted. One morning I heard someone driving up my 1/4 mile lane. It was early morning and I was still in bed, stark-naked-nude. I grabbed a robe from the closet and unbeknownst to me, fire ants had invaded my closet and there were hundreds of them in that bathrobe. EEE-YOW!!
They also get into things like window air conditioners and destroy the motors. Once they invaded our well pump and destroyed it.
As has been said, just killing the big concentrations in rafts won’t make a dent in the regional population. And while the big rafts have received a lot of attention, probably the vast majority of floating ants are in smaller bunches representing single colonies that would be impractical to scorch.
Besides that, you would have to approach the large rafts by boat, and you will probably have to go through scattered smaller clumps to reach them. This means a lot of fire ants are probably going to get in your boat.
And I don’t think its going to be possible to eradicate all the ants even in the big rafts with fire throwers. Lots of the ants are underwater, and as you scorch one part of the raft it will break up into smaller clumps that will be more difficult to deal with. On top of that, some of the rafts are going to be in places where flames would be a threat to houses or trees.
I read that a rancher who got rid of fire ants because they occasionally killed a calf regretted it. Turns out they routinely ate ticks and fleas, and without the ants, the cattle were actually less healthy due to the greater parasite load.
The total Houston metropolitan area is 8700 square miles. Even if all of it had flooded (only a fraction did), there’s way to much area to search for those fire ants. Plenty of them would be hiding in buildings, in floating trash heaps, in the ground in dry areas - you couldn’t find more than a few percent of them. Not that it makes those fire ant rafts any less scary - normally if you step on a fire ant bed, you only end up getting stung a 5-10 times or so generally. The moment the first one bites, if you are not disabled, you can run or hobble away and brush most of the ants off. The fire ant rafts, if you are unfortunate enough to stick a limb in one, potentially could get you stung hundreds of times. Maybe even lethally - I think there is a lethal number of fire ant bites, though it must be pretty big.