Fire ants band together to survive Hurricane Irma in Tampa

Posted at 7:03 AM, Sep 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-11 07:03:41-04

An usual life raft was spotted in the flood waters in Tampa after Hurricane Irma. 

ABC Action News video shows an army of fire ants clinging to each other to form a floating mat. The ants were spotted at a flooded apartment complex off Fletcher Avenue in Hillsborough County. 

"This is a common behavior with fire ants when their colonies are flooded," said Dr. Grzesiek Buczkowski, an ant specialist at Purdue University. "The ants will interlink their legs and form mats, which can float on top of water."

Buczkowski said that fire ants' bodies are covered in waxes that normally protect them from drying out but that also repel water.

After linking together, the ants float with the current until they reach land, where they begin rebuilding their colony, Buczkowski said. It's a common way for them to spread from one location to another, he added.

But the ants can be dangerous if disturbed as they float in the water. Their stinging bites are painful and even deadly for people who are allergic to them.

Authorities have warned people to be careful of wildlife and insects that may be in flood waters, including snakes and alligators.