Fire ant colony forms makeshift raft to survive a flood

Emerald Pellot
·2 min read

In gross but cool news, fire ants are actually dope little engineers.

Vishwanath, an environmentalist, was documenting wildlife in the Madurai district of the Tamil Nadu state in India when he stumbled across a colony of fire ants.

The monsoon rains had flooded fields in the region, but fire ants are apparently built to survive such events. Vishwanath recorded the massive colony in a stunning act of survival. 

The ants joined their bodies together to construct a buoyant raft which allowed them to safely float above the water’s surface. 

“It was the first time that I saw it. It is a part of my nature conservation activity, often observing the behavior of wildlife when I saw the ants,” Vishwanath told Newsflare. ”The ants turned themselves into a raft and floated to survive the sudden flood and rise in water level.”

Fire ant colonies can survive for weeks as a raft. They can also form towers by weaving their bodies together in the same way. If a group of ants encounters a plant stem during a flood, instead of a raft, they form a protective tower around the plant (to keep the eggs, brood and queen safe inside) that repels raindrops. 

When a group of scientists studied fire ant behavior they found that the insects were able to build complex structures by following simple rules.

“If ants are moving above you, remain in place. If not, move randomly and stop only if you reach an unoccupied space adjacent to at least one stationary ant,” Craig Tovey, a professor of industrial and systems engineering, told CBS.

Following these guidelines is how the ants know where to go when making towers or rafts. Pretty cool.

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