HH: Avoiding Fire Ants

Potentially fatal stings can be doubly dangerous after severe flooding

Another danger stemming from floodwaters is a threat from fire ants. These pests, already terribly familiar to many industrial workers in the Southeast and Texas regions for their ability to destroy electrical equipment, become especially problematic during a flood as they form their own floating mounds in order to survive.

Fire ant stings are extremely painful, can be fatal, and when multiplied by mass amounts in an already unsanitary situation can lead to serious infection. When floods come, the ants form floating masses—effectively called rafts—that contain their entire colony. Fire ant rafts can look like ribbons, a mat or an actual “ball” of ants floating on the water containing worker ants, eggs, larvae, pupae, winged males and females and queen ants. This presents a much more severe threat in numbers, and aligns brutally when the floodwaters take them towards people and dwellings. The rafts float until they come into contact with something large, solid, and stationary: such as a tree, a mailbox, a garage, or a house.

The electrical equipment damage caused by these imported pests is extensive and often unexpected, as EA Engineering Editor Dick Nailen wrote in our May 2016 issue. This article discussed the buildup of nests, short-circuiting of electrical contacts, switch malfunctions, transformer, oil leakage, and corrosion. Learn where the ants came from and where they’re going, the species to watch out for (more than one is involved) and the methods of control.

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