Nature

Alien-Like Pink Bubble Masses Invade Post-Harvey Houston

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Residents in many of the flooded areas of Houston have been reporting strange, pink blobs of bubbles floating in standing water or attached to houses and utility poles. Neighbors took to social media to do some collective pondering about what the substances could be. Finally, someone recognized the bubbles as the eggs of the apple snail. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that the eggs should be more prevalent on usually-dry land around the Houston area, traveling from bayous, lakes, and streams via flood waters to places where the snails don’t normally live.

Everything’s Bigger in Texas – Even the Snails

Apple Snails

Photo: Flickr/Ravenblack7575

In true Texas fashion, the species of apple snail commonly found in the Houston area, pomacea maculata, is the largest species found in the United States, Stuart Kuehn, Texas plant health director for the USDA, has said. They’re called the “apple snail” because they can grow to be as large as an apple.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, apple snails are indigenous to South America and were introduced into Taiwan from Argentina for commercial production in the 1980s. From Taiwan, the snail was distributed to developing countries to help the rural poor earn additional income through backyard rearing and to supplement protein in their diets. From there, the snails spread from South America to Southeast Asia and reached Hawaii in the 1990s. In Hawaii, it has caused significant damage to taro, even destroying the crop before harvest. They eat aquatic plants and can damage wetlands and carry parasites that can affect humans. Farmers and scientists are working together to make sure they don’t damage Texas rice crops.

Many Displaced Critters

Apple Snail eggs

Photo: Flickr/muzina_shanghai

In addition to the apple snails, many other species have been spotted in areas that they’re typically not found in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Numerous alligators have been found – some even in homes – after the storm as well as fire ants, who make a floating raft out of their own bodies. As the flood waters recede, many hope that these displaced creatures will find their way back to their normal habitats.