The floods going on right now in South Carolina are big; cars are getting stuck in the floodwater, people are traveling by small rafts or boats in some areas, and dams are collapsing, but one type of creature is just floating on the surface, not giving a care about anything: fire ants.
Fire ants have been witnessed by FOX Carolina’s Adrian Acosta creating large rafts using their own bodies that are able to float on top of of the water’s surface by using the physics behind surface tension. By creating a long, spread-out surface on the surface of the water, the ants don’t actually break the surface tension, and as a result, they’re able to simply float atop the water as it moves.
Acosta thought they were just floating mounds of mud before he got a closer look.
The fire ants are seen in the video below simply crawling atop one another while floating atop the flowing water to survive the floods, rather than staying in the deep underground caverns that they dig to protect their queen, brethren, and children. As it turns out this is normal behavior by fire ants in these kinds of situations, but it’s something very interesting to observe when it happens.
In a last-ditch effort to survive, fire ants take all of their eggs with them atop the raft and attempt to keep them safe from the water until it recedes. The big brown blob you see floating around is the cluster of fire ants, and the small white spots you see throughout the blob are the fire ant eggs.
In a 2011 study, performed by engineering professor David Hu and graduate student Nathan J. Mlot at the Georgia Institute of Technology, scientists hoped to learn more about fire ant behavior in flooding situations, and similar behavior was uncovered.
“They’ll gather up all the eggs in the colony and will make their way up through the underground network of tunnels, and when the flood waters rise above ground, they’ll link up together in these massive rafts,” Mlot told National Geographic. “Even when they’re at the bottom of the raft, they never technically become submerged.”
It’s essentially the fire ants’ self-defense mechanism against mother nature. It’s why they’ve survived so long and continue to survive in huge number despite these uncontrollable events that threaten their ecosystems.
Source: FOX Carolina, National Geographic