Beware of fire ants floating in floodwaters - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Beware of fire ants floating in floodwaters

Torrential rain from Tropical Storm Cindy may unleash floating islands of fire ants. (Source: Pixabay) Torrential rain from Tropical Storm Cindy may unleash floating islands of fire ants. (Source: Pixabay)
A swarm of fire ants cling to a chain link fence and floating debris Sept. 7, 2004 in Lithia, FL, after the Alafia river overflowed her banks when the remnants of Hurricane Frances passed through the area. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) A swarm of fire ants cling to a chain link fence and floating debris Sept. 7, 2004 in Lithia, FL, after the Alafia river overflowed her banks when the remnants of Hurricane Frances passed through the area. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(RNN) - There is a hidden danger lurking on the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Cindy - fire ants, the bites of which can threaten the health of people and animals.

The hardy, imported pests from South America aren't killed by torrential rain or floods, the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service said.

No, the water just moves them around.

"Their colonies will emerge from the soil, form a loose ball, float and flow with the water until reaching a dry area or object," the extension service said. 

The colony will greet those who come into contact with it with nasty stings that can be potentially lethal.

Once the floodwaters recede, the ants may hide in debris piles or other inviting places until the colonies can be re-established in the soil.

The entomologists at the ACES say people can avoid the nasty critters by exercising caution. Tips include:

  • Avoiding contact with the floating colony, even with oars.
  • Dressing appropriately when working in floodwaters, with rubber boots, cuffed gloves and other rain gear that can keep the ants from touching your skin.
  • Staying alert when encountering debris piles and when returning to flooded structures

Rub the ants off if they get on your skin. Water will not remove them. However, the entomologists at the extension service said a spray of diluted, biodegradable dishwashing liquid may immobilize them and cause them to drown.

The entomologists recommended using a shovel or another tool if the ants are spotted in debris piles that must be handled. They also suggested using a fast-acting insecticide rather than slow-acting baits during flood recovery. The baits work better on established colonies in the ground, not on dislodged colonies.

Fire ants can be found in all or parts of several states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Fire ants are also sporadically encountered in Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri.

Copyright 2017 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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