Video of fire ants building ‘raft’ on newly-filled Lake Dunlap illustrates their indomitable nature

Fire ants can float until they reach dry ground

Here’s a fact that might ruin your day — fire ants can float.

And not just one of them. The whole colony.

KSAT viewer Jon Lindley shared a video with KSAT showing a huge swarm of the red devils floating on the water in Lake Dunlap. The lake was recently refilled nearly four years after a partial dam failure. Areas that were dry for the last four years are now underwater, and that’s created floating mounds of fire ants.

“I was trying to get the video without getting my kayak too close so they wouldn’t crawl on my kayak and attack,” Lindley said.

Lindley said he had to navigate carefully on the lake because there were several large rafts of fire ants.

“Fire ants are known to do that, and (it’s) one of the ways they spread. Also why rivers and other bodies of water don’t stop their spread,” said Texas A&M AgriLife Entomologist Molly Keck. “The water may have risen due to rain and, as soon as it goes down, they’ll get back to the soil. Or they will eventually float their way to land and crawl on.”

It’s a phenomenon that’s been seen before, including in the flooding after Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area.

Texas A&M AgriLife calls them an “efficient competitor ant species.” That’s a nice way to say these ants know how to survive and spread.

They were accidentally brought into the United States from South America in the 1930s on ships through the port of Mobile, Alabama. They’ve been in Texas since the 1950s and now infest more than two-thirds of the state, AgriLife says.

So, if it’s impossible to drown fire ants, how do you kill them?

Texas A&M AgriLife recommends a broadcasting bait insecticide over your entire yard once between late August and mid-October and then treating individual, problem mounds with approved mound drench, granule, bait or dust insecticide. You can read more about how to do that on the AgriLife website.

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About the Author:

Julie Moreno has worked in local television news for more than 25 years. She came to KSAT as a news producer in 2000. After producing thousands of newscasts, she transitioned to the digital team in 2015. She writes on a wide variety of topics from breaking news to trending stories and manages KSAT’s daily digital content strategy.