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Updated: 07/17/2018 03:55:40PM

Fire ants and floods

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Red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta)

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Fire ants can’t think or speak, but even if they could they wouldn’t be phoning FEMA. Floods favor fire ants. The region of South America where the imported fire ant originated is largely flat and subject to seasonal flooding. When these fire ants were (accidentally) brought to Alabama and Florida they got off the boat already adapted to their new home.

Dr. Mark Deyrup, Program Director of the Entomology Program at Archbold Biological Station states, “With the rain during and after Hurricane Irma local fire ants once again demonstrated their water resistance. As soil became soaked, fire ants emerged from their subterranean tunnels and began to build the typical mounds of loose soil in which an entire colony could take refuge. When water rose further, colonies relocated to slightly higher land, or the bases of trees and shrubs. If a building was the driest place around, fire ants didn’t wait for an invitation, as many of us discovered. When a fire ant colony was completely overwhelmed by water its members may have joined together in a big ball of ants drifting along until it reached land or an object such as a floating log.”

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