Jun 22, 2017

A terrifying threat from Tropical Storm Cindy: Floating masses of deadly fire ants

Alabama
USA
by
Peter Holly
,
Washington Post
A swarm of fire ants clings to a chain-link fence and floating debris in 2004 in Lithia, Fla. Photo: Chris O’Meara, AP
A swarm of fire ants clings to a chain-link fence and floating debris in 2004 in Lithia, Fla. Photo: Chris O’Meara, AP

Tropical Storm Cindy may have been downgraded to a tropical depression Thursday, but that doesn’t mean Gulf Coast residents are in the clear.

As the storm moves inland, it’s still expected to dump enough rainfall between Texas and Florida to cause severe flooding, which raises the possibility of another threat that may take some locals by surprise: floating fire ants.

The notoriously tough insects are just as dangerous when they’re wet as they are dry, according to Alabama officials, who are warning residents to keep their eyes peeled for floating mounds of fire ants.

“Floodwaters will not kill fire ants,” the warning states. “Instead their colonies will emerge from the soil, form a loose ball, float and flow with the water until reaching a dry area or object.”

“Floating colonies can look like ribbons, streamers or a ball of ants floating on the water,” the warning adds. “These amoeba-like masses contain all of the colonies’ members — worker ants, brood (eggs, larvae, pupae), winged reproductive males and females, and queen ants.”