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Do Fire Ants Drown During Floods?

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Tenacious fire ants build living rafts and float to higher ground.

Fire ants don't drown during floods. These tenacious ants build living rafts and float to higher ground.

Wikimedia Commons/Turnbull FL (CC by SA license)
Question: Do Fire Ants Drown During Floods?

Flood waters will quickly fill the underground chambers and tunnels where fire ants live. So do fire ants drown during floods?

Answer:

There's a reason imported fire ants are here to stay in the U.S. These tiny ants are tenacious. Even fast rising floodwaters won't kill a fire ant colony. As soon as water starts trickling into their nest, fire ant workers spring into action.

Workers begin a mass evacuation of the nest, carrying the eggs, larvae, and pupae to safety. The entire colony – workers, queens, alates, and brood – forms a floating raft on the water's surface. They drift along together en masse, looking for higher ground. Workers on the outer edges of the raft reach out and grab onto any structure or plant that may provide refuge.

Fire ants sometimes end up in unusual places after floods. People who live in areas with imported fire ants should be cautious when cleaning up flood debris. Fire ants may take up temporary residence in debris piles, or even inside homes, and may sting aggressively if disturbed.

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