A FOX Carolina reporter witnessed an unusual sight while covering flood conditions in Greenville County, S.C. Sunday – an island of ants floating on the surface of the water. FOX Carolina’s Adrian Acosta recorded video of what he initially thought was a pile of mud. Fox Carolina’s Adrian Acosta recorded footage of a group of fire ants clinging together to form a life raft as they float on the water.
Fire ants have the ability to form life rafts out of their own bodies, FOX Carolina reports, citing researchers at Georgia Tech. The ants can reportedly remain in the formation for weeks. As South Carolina recovers from heavy rain and flooding, one insect is showing off its clever strategy for survival. Acosta said he initially thought he was looking at a pile of mud, but closer examination revealed a swarm of ants.
The phenomenon is, in fact, a common survival tactic for fire ants faced with flood conditions. As researchers studying the behavior in 2011 explained in National Geographic: In less than two minutes the ants had linked "hands" to form a floating structure that kept all the insects safe. Even the ants down below can survive this way, thanks to tiny hairs on the ants' bodies that trap a thin layer of air.
A reporter from NBC affiliate WSAV spotted and recorded another cluster of ants performing the buoyant feat in Dorchester County, South Carolina. In addition to the usual predators, the ant-rafts need to keep an eye out for soap, Live Science explains. That's because they rely on the surface tension of water to float, and soap will lower that surface tension, causing the ants to fall in.
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