Seeing your hometown disappear beneath high flood waters must be a surreal experience. Spotting buoyant islands of fire ants gently floating across the surface of flood water would also be an odd site to say the least. However, this is exactly what several residents of various southeast US towns are claiming to have seen in the flood waters that resulted from Hurricane Florence. Although spotting groups of floating ants of any species is not an everyday site for most people, experts claim that these sightings can be expected in regions that have become flooded. If the floating ant clusters happen to be fire ants, then avoiding them is a smart idea, as they can be dangerous to humans who make contact with them. In fact, numerous people have reported injuries after bumping into these fire ant islands. Fire ants are already aggressive insects within their normal habitat, but they are far more aggressive when struggling to stay afloat in water. There’s something about the sudden destruction of their nests by rampaging flood waters that puts fire ants into an unpleasant mood. Much like all insects, fire ants become more aggressive when they are distressed and unable to retreat into the safety of their nests.
Insects like bees, wasps and ants value their nests, and this is why they will not hesitate to go into attack mode when their nests are tampered with. Although clusters of floating ants may seem interesting, you don’t want to make contact with them, as they could be fire ants. So why are fire ants floating in clusters on the surface of flood waters? This may seem like a reasonable question, but then again, where else are ants supposed to go during floods? Fire ants, like many ant species, create nests below the ground’s surface. When an area containing fire ant nests becomes flooded, the water loosens soil, causing the nesting fire ants to rise up into the water. Once the surviving ants reach the water’s surface, they hook themselves to one another in order to create a raft-like cluster. These ant-rafts will continue to float until dry land is located. In this situation, fire ants become vulnerable to predators, as they are exposed, and cannot seek refuge in their nests. When fire ants are distressed and exposed to predators, they produce more venom than normal, and they will attack anyone or anything that approaches them. Sometimes, floating ants are found clustered together in indoor structures that have become flooded. Earlier this year, many Texas residents reported seeing ant clusters floating about in the flood waters that resulted from Hurricane Harvey.
Have you ever found a cluster of ants floating on the surface of water? Have you found any living insect floating on the surface of water?