For the Alabama residents who are already suffering from the heavy rains and flash flooding conditions brought on by Tropical Storm Cindy, thereâ€™s yet another terrifying threat to be prepared for: floating masses of deadly fire ants whose bites could prove deadly.
Like something out of a horror movie, red imported fire ants are not killed by floodwaters. If anything, they become even more dangerous, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System warned. Thatâ€™s because fire ants survive even after their colonies are swept away by forming a loose mass and floating along the surface of the water until they reach a dry area.
These amorphous water colonies typically look like ribbons or streamers as they make their way across the water. They contain every part of the colony, from the eggs all the way up to the queen ants, and as soon as the flood waters begin to recede, theyâ€™re ready to glom on to the nearest dry surface and begin toiling to create a new colony.
Unfortunately for Alabama homeowners, man-made structures and items are more than adequate to provide shelter to these death balls until they can create a proper home in the soil.
Entomologists have provided a list of warnings to protect residents from getting seriously harmed or killed by these floating fire ant colonies. Any contact with them should be avoided â€“ even with an oar from a rowboat â€“ and those working in floodwaters should cover up their skin as much as possible to leave none visible for fire ants to bite.
If ants do make contact with the skin, they will almost certainly bite. If the bite is above the water, the fire ant must be rubbed off the skin immediately. If submerged, ants will cling and become difficult to dislodge unless a spray consisting of dishwashing liquid is used to immobilize or drown them.
Even after the flood is over, residents should take caution when moving any leftover debris. Insect repellent, fast-acting insecticides, and long-handled tools should be used wherever possible.