South Carolina Fire Ants Build The Worst Ever Floating Island

Written by Kirstin Opal
Updated: September 23, 2022
© Jennifer White Maxwell/Shutterstock.com
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Here’s a fun fact to start your day: fire ants can float on water. It’s an astonishing sight to see so many of these crawling creatures stacked on top of each other to get across a body of water. The raft-like structure created by the legs of the floating fire ants enables them to drift to a new, dry place where they can start a fresh colony. 

Fire ants have a fatty covering that prevents them from drying up in the hot southern climates, but it also aids in water evaporation when they come into contact with flood waters. We can’t blame them! If a flood is headed your way, you’ll do whatever you can to get to safety and that’s exactly what these insects are doing. 

Even though people are aware of fire ants’ fortitude, their strategies for surviving and relocating during floods frequently catch them off guard. When storms or flooding bring floating fire ants your way, being aware of fire ant flood techniques can help keep you and your home ant-free. Insects known as fire ants are social creatures that coexist in enormous, subterranean colonies that can reach numbers in the tens of thousands. 

Fire ants have well-developed defenses that help assure their survival amid heavy flooding, unlike other underground insects that might drown. When flooding occurs, worker fire ants instinctively join their legs together to construct rafts, which is the fire ant equivalent of holding hands. When ants submerge themselves, air bubbles carry them to the surface where they join the raft.

A comment under the mesmerizing video makes a good point. They say, “What about the ones on the bottom? I guess they just take one for the team.” Don’t worry, fellow animal enthusiasts, we have the answers for you! 

Finding a Landing

On the raft’s bottom, ants in the water come to the top to rest and reenergize as others settle in below. These live rafts are made up of the queens, eggs, and all other phases of life of the fire ant colony. The middle queen is jealously guarded by worker ants, who may also have eggs in their mouths.

The first landing that floating fire ant colonies come across, whether it is a shoreline or a swimming person, causes them to swarm. To ensure the safety of your household, including your pets, you must stay away from these drifting colonies. Once on a person or an animal, fire ants will grip to avoid becoming wet and then sting with their fiery, scorching stings.

If you live somewhere that’s prone to severe weather, such as hurricanes or flooding, be sure to be prepared. You can place ant repellent outside of your home before the weather hits and make sure to keep extra around for after the storm has passed. 

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The Featured Image

fire ants floating
© Jennifer White Maxwell/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs, her 14-year-old dog, or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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