With Tropical Storm Cindy moving into Alabama, residents have been warned of the risks posed by floating colonies of red imported fire ants.

“Floodwaters will not kill fire ants,” warned the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, in a blog post Wednesday. “Instead their colonies will emerge from the soil, form a loose ball, float and flow with the water until reaching a dry area or object.”

The ACES explained that when flood waters begin to recede, floating fire ant colonies will clamber on to anything they come in contact with. “Fire ants are attracted to anything with the potential to provide shelter until a mound can be reestablished in the soil,” it wrote. “Debris piles and piles of items from flooded homes are very inviting. Ant colonies encountered during a flood must be dealt with quickly.”


Residents are urged to avoid any contact with a floating mass of ants, even, for example, with the oar of a rowboat.

Al.com reports that red imported fire ants are an invasive species in Alabama. The ants, which originate in South America, were accidentally brought into Mobile 75 years ago, it said.

The strange phenomenon of floating fire ants was also seen during floods in South Carolina in 2015. A FOX Carolina reporter witnessed the unusual sight while covering flood conditions in Greenville County.