The following is from the TexasInvasives.org iWire newsletter:
Rice University ecologists are checking to see if Hurricane Harvey's unprecedented floods gave a competitive boost to red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) and tawny crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva), two of southeast Texas' most important invasive ants. Fire ants in particular are well known to be flood-adapted: they survive by forming floating balls of ants.
"We're conducting monthly pitfall sampling at 19 established sites in the Big Thicket, a national preserve near Beaumont," said Sarah Bengston, an ant expert, co-principal investigator and Huxley Research Instructor of BioSciences. "Rice's team has been working at these same sites for three years, and we know fire ants and tawny crazy ants, which are each invasive species, had begun to penetrate the intact native ecosystems in the park before the hurricane. We now want to know whether Harvey accelerated this invasion process…If the floods cleaned the slate by drowning all the native ant colonies in the area, our hypothesis is that this may provide a competitive advantage to invaders."
Learn more at sciencedaily.com. See also this article from NBC News on the floating balls of ants seen after Hurricane Harvey.