During localized flooding brought on by Hurricane Joaquin during October of 2015, a reporter out covering the weather almost stepped on what he thought was a pile of mud but turned out to be an “island” of fire ants floating along the surface of flood waters.
Although fire ants are found across much of North America, not everyone is aware of their unique response to heavy rains and flood conditions. Since fire ants make their homes in the ground, they understandably react in extreme ways when those homes are threatened by floodwaters. When threatened by water, ants latch on to one another, weaving their bodies together into a sort of raft made entirely out of members of their own colonies.
Due to the tightly knit “weave” of the ants, water cannot penetrate the raft allowing the ants to stay dry. This water-tight nature provides the raft with the buoyancy force necessary to float. (Ant Lab)
The water-tight raft does more than just help the ants stay buoyant: it also allows them to create air pockets that keep them from drowning. Since they can, in effect, carry their own air supply around with them, they are able to stay afloat this way for days or even weeks. It’s as ingenious as it is alarming.
If you live in part of the country that’s impacted by fire ants, be sure to educate yourselves their habits in the face of heavy rains and flood waters. If you don’t you could place yourself in danger of interacting with one of these floating “rafts” of fire ants. Imagine stepping on one or brushing up against one by mistake while wading: those ants would consider you a godsend and begin heading to higher ground immediately.
To keep your home and yard fire-ant free, make sure to consult with a pest control professional today.