Florence floodwaters result in ‘islands’ of floating fire ants


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Residents affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Florence could have seen one thing uncommon floating within the storm’s floodwaters: “islands” of fireside ants.

“Hearth ant colonies assemble their nests within the soil. Generally these nests can develop to be Three-Four ft deep. Flooding after a storm occasion, like Florence in The Carolinas, will saturate the soil and push the ants up and out of their nest,” Adrian Allen Smith, a analysis biologist and head of the Evolutionary Biology & Conduct Lab on the North Carolina Museum of Pure Sciences, informed Fox Information in an e-mail Wednesday.

“So, when they’re displaced from their nest, they cluster collectively and kind a residing raft. Staff cling to one another and supply their nest mates floor to face on,” he continued. 

The ants will “float like this till they drift into dry land or the flood recedes and so they can dig into the soil and rebuild their nest,” Smith stated, noting to The Charlottesville Observer the ants will “float indefinitely” if no dry land is discovered. “That’s whenever you get reviews of individuals bumping into them.”

Hearth ants, very like different creatures, akin to snakes, may be displaced from their habitats throughout hurricanes or heavy rainfall that leads to flooding.

As for colonies of fireside ants, the creatures will “kind a unfastened ball, float, and move with the water till they attain a dry space or object they’ll crawl up on. Floating hearth ant colonies can appear to be ribbons, streamers, mats, rafts, or an precise ‘ball’ of ants floating on the water,” Texas A&M College Agrilife Extension specialist Paul Nester stated.


“These amoeba-like ant lots comprise the entire colonies’ members: brood (eggs, larvae, pupae), queen ants, winged reproductive men and women, and employee ants,” he continued.

Whereas the ants work to outlive, the bugs can show to be harmful to people who cross their path.

In response to Smith, rafting hearth ants are “in a state the place their whole colony is unprotected and susceptible to would-be predators” after they’re displaced and floating to discover a new space to name dwelling. This can lead to the ants producing extra venom, he stated, including the bugs have been recognized to ship a number of stings if people come into contact with them.

“Hearth ants are infamous for his or her painful stings. A floating hearth ant colony is 10s to 100s of 1000’s of stinging ants out within the open. In contrast to honeybees, a person hearth ant is ready to ship a number of stings,” Smith stated. 

“Keep away from contact with floating mats of fireside ants. In case you are in a row boat, don’t contact the ants with the oars since they’ll ‘climb aboard’ through the oars. Often, floating ant lots are encountered even indoors in flooded buildings,” Nester suggested within the handout.

Hearth ant stings may be handled by washing the affected space with cleaning soap and water, or utilizing over-the-counter anti-itch or ache relieving lotions, in line with Healthline. These allergic to fireplace ant stings may have a severe response if stung. Indicators of a probably life-threatening allergic response embrace nausea, dizziness and problem respiration, the publication warns.

North Carolina residents nonetheless coping with the aftermath of Florence ought to put on protecting clothes — akin to “boots gloves, lengthy pants, long-sleeve shirts, and socks. Spray insect repellent containing DEET onto your sneakers and decrease pants legs,” Nester really useful.


Spraying hearth ants with a mix of water and biodegradable liquid dishwashing detergent has been recognized to sink the ants as effectively, in line with Nester.

After Hurricane Harvey, Texas residents additionally noticed an inflow of floating hearth ants.

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox Information. You may comply with her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

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