What is the Drip Flotation Method?

Fire ant colonies are much more than just what is visible at the ground level, a large portion of these ant colonies are hidden underground. The nest portion that is above ground is used to regulate the temperature of ants and brood during parts of the day and through certain seasons. Because of the subterranean portion of the nest, it is difficult to get rid of an entire nest of fire ants. These ants, though, have adapted to flood survival and demonstrate some amazing perseverance when faced with a flood.

Generally, the drip flotation method is used for isolating a colony of ants to utilize for a study, but this also may be used in relocating or getting rid of a colony. To use this method, the directions are as follows.

  • Obtain buckets. 5 gallon works fine. Coat the insides with baby powder, this prevents the ants from climbing up the sides.
  • Early in the morning, dig up the ant colony and put the dirt into the buckets. Doing this early in the morning ensures the queens and brood are at ground level warming themselves up.
  • Let the nests settle in the buckets for 24 hours or longer.
  • Set the bucket up under an apparatus that has a slow drip, the slow drip allows time for the ants to evacuate. They will start coming to the surface with brood and will try climbing up the sides. Make sure the sides stay coated with baby powder.
  • As the water fills the bucket up, the ants will have started forming rafts out of their bodies, creating enough surface area that they simply float atop the water. This may take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the speed of the drip.

After the raft is formed, they may be scooped out with a strainer or a cup and it is up to the individual how to proceed. Ants may be exterminated or relocated.

It may be possible to flood the ants out of their colony while they are still in the ground. A wall would need to be formed around the colony to keep the water isolated, and water would need to be introduced at a more rapid pace, as the ants do utilize the raft formation when faced with natural flash flooding. The ground would need to be completely saturated, so in the middle of the day this method may be less effective than proceeding with the original method of digging the colony out, because the water will be absorbed. If the process is done early in the day, it is possible that the ants are in the top portion of the nest, therefor flooding them out may be easier. The choice is up to the person employing the method, and one way might be easier than the other.

Why do Ants Form a Raft?

Social animals like ants, when put in harm’s way, are able to work together to raise the survival and welfare of the group. Ants do this by building rafts out of their bodies and utilizing the buoyancy of the brood and quick recovery of worker ants, which minimizes injury or death. While doing this, the worker ants have the queen ant placed in the middle of the raft and is protected on all sides. Although it would seem extremely risky, workers and brood have high survival rates after they have rafted, and occupying the base of the raft is not any more risky than the top. This is why ants have adapted to rafting when faced with a flood.

This rafting method is especially helpful to individuals working in their yard to rid it of fire ants. When flooded out of their colonies, the ants end up all in one place to form a raft, making it easier for the gardener to isolate them and relocate or exterminate them. The ants may be scooped up with anything from a kitchen strainer to a measuring cup, anything that is easily accessible. The disposal of the fire ants is up to the individual, they may relocate them to a more convenient (or out of the way) part of the yard, or they may choose to exterminate them completely.



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