Why ants don’t need floaties.

Hey Matt:

After watching a few serious downpours earlier this year and noticing long lines of ants along my driveway when it was dry, I wondered how they don’t drown during a big rain storm. If my yard floods, how do they all survive? Do they have a way of keeping water out of their tunnels or are there millions of tiny sets of scuba gear under my turf?

-- Bugged in Escondido

Just for the record, ants would never build a shopping mall in a flood plain, which suggests that ants are smarter than San Diegans. They’re smart enough to build tunnel systems under the anthill to drain away any water that gets inside. They even adjust the size and complexity of the tunnels according to the type of soil they’re in. But if the deluge comes, ants are great floaters. Their little exoskeletons make my-t-fine lifeboats. Fire ants will even cling together into a big ant ball and have a group float. Ants don’t have actual lungs and require very little air, which makes life easier on rainy days. If necessary, they can pack their bags and leave. After rain you’ll sometimes see ants repairing water damage to the old homestead. But they’d never, ever build a shopping mall in a flood plain.

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