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Since they arrived in Australia two decades ago, fire ants have been considered super pests, feeding on crops and killing livestock, pets, and even people.
Now, the nightmare could get even worse.
While residents in Queensland have been dealing with the aftermath of the wild weather that hit the region earlier this month, fire ants were seen forming rafts to travel on flood waters, the BBC reported.
Rafting behavior is a means of survival for ants, Graeme Dudgeon, in charge of the species eradication program, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “So they will take the queen, create a raft by linking their legs together and … just get moved with whatever the current is,” he added.
Other than rafting, the deadly red insects’ favorite transportation methods include organic material, such as sugar cane mulch, traveling by road and sea. It is believed that fire ants, native to South America, entered Australia via shipping containers from the US.
There, they found a hospitable environment without predators. Though they are currently infesting an area near Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, they could find suitable homes in 99 percent of the continent, the Sydney Morning Herald explained.
The Invasive Species Council (ISC) said that if fire ants could raft, it meant that they were in sufficient numbers to do so.
With heavy rainfalls continuing in Queensland, the ISC has warned that further floods could help spread fire ant colonies to other parts of the country. The statement came after new nests were found for the first time in the southern neighboring state of New South Wales last December.
Eradicating fire ants might become a near-impossible task: a queen alone can lay 5,000 eggs per day and start a colony on its own.