Another Gift From 2020 To Texas – Fire Ant Islands
2020, the year that just keeps giving, has unleashed another horrific insect scourge.
On top of murder hornets, killer wasps and zombie crickets; 2020 also upped the hurricane ante this year. We've had so many this year that forecasters had to resort to the Greek alphabet in naming them. (They actually ran out of regular names.) Hurricane Beta made landfall in Texas bringing tons of rain, flooding, and the usual damage accompanying hurricanes. It also threw in an extra little gift, floating fire ant "islands".
When I was a kid growing up in Houston, we feared wandering into a fire ant hill as much as stumbling across water moccasins and copperheads. Just one of these little bastards can pack several painful stings. Getting stung by multiple ants is sheer hell and when you start talking 10's or 100's; you're headed for the hospital. (Any more than that, and you may be headed for the morgue.) To escape flooding, fire ants build "rafts" which lie on top of the water, making walking through floodwaters dangerous. They don't travel in small groups either with each raft consisting of up to 500,000 ants.
Fire ants sting up to 5 million people per year and send 25,000 to the hospital according to a Smithsonian article. The rafts on the water are an added bonus to all the sharp and potentially infectious and/or disease-bearing refuse you may step on under the water. Along with the venomous snakes, 'gators, and other dangerous critters in the water; all trying to escape the flooding.
Just when I thought 2020 was running out of tricks...