Ants try to avoid flooding due to rainfall because their bodies can drown in the rainwater.
Moreover, they hide under the ground or mound anthills of a good height so that rain does not affect them.
Why Do Ants Drown Themselves? Ants drown themselves in water because they have soft legs, and when submerged in water they can survive for 22 to 24 hours. In addition, their low body weight cannot resist the high surface tension of water, which pulls lighter objects down. The ants do not have lungs and respire through spiracles which get closed during flooding. After closing spiracles, they cannot ensure their survivability for more than a day because the metabolic process begins to halt without oxygen. As a result, the ants find it difficult to breathe and start drowning deep in the water. Fire ants form rafts and can efficiently protect the queen and larvae from flooding.
Ants are tiny and soft creatures that follow the pheromone signals and locate their food and water. Sometimes, their communication signals can lead them into trouble, and they drown in water.
Why do ants drown in water?
Ants cannot maintain a floating position for a maximum time and drown after some time. There are many reasons behind their drowning, like their body weight and the force of water.
Lower body weight
Ants are tiny insects with lower body weight that cannot tolerate extra pressure on their bodies. When you exert greater force beyond their limit, they will die.
It is challenging for the ants to float on the water’s surface due to the buoyancy force. However, they can float for some time and then drown themselves deep in the water.
Their lower body weight helps them remain on top of the water, but they cannot maintain the floating position for a long duration.
Inability to propel
The body structure of these insects is not too strong to propel the water behind. Instead, they have very soft and thin legs that cannot support their body during swimming.
Many ants prefer to hide during the rainy season due to their inability to survive flooding. They cannot push the water behind to move forwards; as a result, they drown themselves.
Absence of lungs
Ants do not have lungs in their body, and they respire through spiracles. Some insects, like fire ants, add wax to the opening of the spiracle and restrict the entry of water inside their bodies.
It helps them survive the flooding, but they cannot hold their breath for a longer time. So these insects swim on the water’s surface but drown themselves when they lose strength.
The metabolic processes occurring in the ants need oxygen; these processes halt when they do not get sufficient oxygen.
This way, the ants lose energy to swim and cannot reach the upper surface where they can get exposure to air. When they do not get air exposure for a day or two, they will drown and die ultimately.
High surface tension
The surface tension of water allows heavy objects to float on the top, while the lighter objects cannot maintain the floating position for an extended time.
Water has a higher surface because of the strong attraction between its molecules. Therefore, the ants cannot resist the water, and they drown in the water due to their lower weight.
Some insects can also crawl on water’s surface due to its higher surface tension. They can drown when the surface tension of water lowers, like when it becomes soapy.
Intolerant to oxygen deficiency
The ants cannot tolerate oxygen deficiency because they require oxygen to breathe like us. So they have spiracles on their exoskeleton, which help them in breathing.
The muscles control the opening and closing mechanism of spiracles. However, water can also enter their bodies through the oxygen route, so ants close spiracles to block the entry of water.
Oxygen passes through these spiracles, enter the trachea, and reaches the body parts.
When water enters their bodies by spiracles and fills them with water, it can ultimately lead to drowning and the death of ants.
How long can ants hold their breath?
Ants cannot survive without oxygen, but they can hold their breath for at least one day. They can breathe for almost 22 to 24 hours when they are underwater.
They do not have lungs like us; instead, spiracles are present in their abdomens. Muscles control the movement of these small openings and provide oxygen to body parts.
Moreover, these insects do not go out of breath quickly because spiracles provide sufficient oxygen to survive for long.
Holding their breath for a long time enables them to swim in water for about 22 to 24 hours without going into depth of water.
Can ants swim?
There are different species of ants, and every species has a different capacity to swim in the water as the fire ants can swim efficiently. They do not know about swimming strokes, but they can use a paddle-like movement to float on the water.
So, ants can swim, but it depends on their species type. For example, fire ants can build rafts and protect the queen and the larvae by placing them in the center of the abdomen.
Appendages connect their legs to the body that is not strong enough to repel the water behind and move forward. As a result, some ants are efficient in swimming, while a few of them drown quickly.
Can you drown an ant colony?
It is possible to drown a colony by reducing the surface tension of water. For example, adding a soapy solution to water reduces its tension, and the force of attraction between water molecules decreases.
Soapy water can kill these tiny creatures immediately by reducing surface tension. It dissolves the wax present on the spiracle openings to restrict water entry inside the ant’s body.
In addition, insects can drown if they do not close these colony openings by relaxing their muscles.
Therefore, soapy water interferes with the wax and dissolves it completely, allowing water to enter their bodies resulting in drowning and death.
Do ants drown when it rains?
Ants prefer to remain underground and choose indoor places to live during the rainy season. There is a risk of flooding during rain when the rainwater enters their nests and flushes them out.
Insects cannot protect themselves when they are outdoors during heavy rain and flow with rainwater. However, fire ants can protect themselves efficiently during a rain flood.
Furthermore, they form a raft by linking their legs and mouth and keep the larvae and the queen ant in the center. They can float on the water surface by maintaining a raft position.
These insects have better survivability during floods because they can efficiently form rafts during rain.
These ants can drown in almost 22 to 24 hours because they cannot hold their breath more than this time.
Why do ants keep drowning themselves?
The ants cannot see clearly and move through pheromone trailing. The ants follow each other due to this hormonal signal.
When an excess of water is present in the ground, it seems lesser to the ants due to their poor visibility. So, they can easily get trapped in the water when trying to pass through the water to reach their food.
An ant trapped in the water can attract other insects due to a pheromone signal that can lead to the drowning of many ants.
Therefore, the unique communication style of insects can make them prone to serious trouble. The signal allow other insects to pass through water by following the trail, and they can drown to death.