Fire Ants Escape South Carolina Flood

Fire Ants & Flood PicGood morning, everyone. I’m back to work and the downtown area of Charleston is starting to dry out. I can’t say the same for areas north of where I live, though. Dams are breaking around our capital (Columbia), and we’re downstream. Roads and bridges are collapsing or are in danger of doing so. Although Charleston and Berkeley County schools are back in session (as of yesterday), Dorchester County has closed their schools through the end of the week due to impassable roads and unsafe bridges. Meanwhile, as we deal with the mess caused by the flooding, we discovered yet another reason to NOT walk around in flood waters.

Here, we all know the dangers of walking around in flood waters. Not only could you be swept away, but there are often alligators and poisonous snakes in the water. (We have Eastern Rattlesnakes and Cottonmouths/Water Moccasins here.) But who would’ve thought that mounds of fire ants would be floating on the flood waters??

Over the past few days, many of these floating rafts of fire ants have been found in Dorchester County. (I’m sure, they’ve been found elsewhere, as well.) Take a look at this video, captured by WSAV photojournalist, Chris Murray. (I tried to embed the video, but WordPress didn’t recognize WSAV’s format, so you’ll have to click the link.)

Looks like something out of a horror movie, doesn’t it?

According to scientists, fire ants can assemble together in a raft in less than two minutes! They use their claws, jaws, and adhesive leg pads to join together. Their water-resistant exoskeletons also secrete an oily substance that helps them attach to smooth surfaces. They can float on water like this for days!

It sure explains how I got attacked by fire ants after a rain storm one night. A couple years ago, I went outside to check the rain gauge after a heavy rain. I knew I had no fire ant hills between the back door and the raised bed where the rain gauge was, so I didn’t even bother to look where I was walking. I didn’t know that fire ants can float in puddles of water – and they jumped on me while I was outside. I didn’t feel the bites until I was in my kitchen. They had crawled up my pants legs! You should’ve seen me squealing and jumping around, trying to pull my pants off – right there in the kitchen. (Good thing no one else was home!) And then, after killing the ones on me, I had to chase down the others, in my underwear, to kill them before they got lost inside my house and started a colony inside! It was a sight, that’s for sure. And the pain was intense. Not something I’m likely to forget anytime soon. (By the way, I applied organic apple cider vinegar to the bites several times over the next day or two; not only was the pain relieved, but also, the bites didn’t leave scars.)

Well, I thought I’d share this interesting fact with you. And here we thought the flood would give us one good thing – killing all the mounds of fire ants in South Carolina. No such luck. Now, if someone had just thought to pour a few drops of dish soap on the rafts of fire ants, the surface tension would’ve been broken; and they would’ve drowned. What a dream!

Have you ever seen one of these fire ant rafts?

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4 comments on “Fire Ants Escape South Carolina Flood

  1. Hey Rosemarie here in Florence we saw mounds and mounds floating and our mouths just flew open..It must be near impossible to kill these irritating things..Glad you’re doing ok over there. We have road closures but things are looking up here. Take care.

    • I’m glad you’re doing okay. Charleston is expecting extremely high tides this weekend, with more rain on Saturday, plus the rivers gorging (we’re downstream from Columbia). May not be pretty downtown.

      As for the fire ant rafts, if you have any pictures of them, share them with us on my Sanctuary Gardener Facebook page. I’d love to see them.

      Personally, I think I would freak out if I saw them in real life. Hey…if you see them again, put a few drops of dish liquid on them (if you can reach them without them touching you). That’s supposed to make them sink and drown. I’d like to know if it works. bwaaahhh!

      Rosemarie

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