When the average person thinks of stinging insects, not a whole lot of good things come to mind. Often, the two most common stinging insects named first are yellowjackets and wasps, but there is a third that becomes particularly pesky during the hurricane season of June through November. Red imported fire ants are a big problem for homeowners across the southern United States, and this is one aggressive stinging species that has an incredible resilience against the elements.
Floating Fire Ants
When hurricanes or drenching rains come through an area, they typically wash out or scare away most stinging insects and pests. Fire ants, however, aren’t one of them. When flood waters rise, fire ants link their legs together and create sometimes massive floating rafts that help them to drift to dry land where they can rebuild and reclaim their colonies. During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Texas residents were stunned to see huge rafts of fire ants effortlessly floating their way down flooded streets.
How do fire ants float?
Their bodies give them everything they need. The body of a fire ant is coated in a waxy substance that allows them to stay comfortable and not dry out while in extremely hot temperatures, but this same waxy coating has the ability to repel water from the outside. This allows the ants to remain water-resistant and blocks them from becoming waterlogged and sinking under the water’s surface.
Hurricane season is a popular time for fire ant sightings and fire ant problems. As these drenching rains pour down and flood streets, fire ants leave their underground colonies to avoid drowning and take to the surface of the water to ride out the storm. After the waters recede, the ants set out to find new areas to call home, putting them above ground and in prime territory for coming into contact with humans.
What To Know About Fire Ants
Fire ants came to the United States between 1933 and 1945 from central Brazil and settled all across the southern United States from Virginia to Florida, and all the way west to California. These dark red to brown in color. Ants can form colonies of tens to hundreds of thousands large if nests are left undisturbed, and can make their way into the home through small cracks and crevices in your home’s interior.
The sting of a fire ant is notorious, and it feels much like holding an open flame to the surface of the skin. A threatened fire ant will sting a human and then hold on with their mandibles, attaching themselves to their perceived “threat” until picked off one by one. The best way to relieve the pain of a fire ant sting is to wash the area with cold water and follow up with the application of a relieving anti-itch ointment. Typically, fire ant stings do not require hospitalization, but if dizziness or trouble breathing is experienced one should seek medical assistance right away.