Scientists Look to Fire Ants for Rescue Robot Design

Despite being so tiny, fire ants have gained a fearsome reputation for their stinging bite. Anyone who has ever stepped in a nest or had a summer outing interrupted by these painful pests can attest to their undesired presence. It’s difficult, if not impossible to wholly eradicate fire ants in an area, simply because they are able to tunnel and hide so well, making them an ongoing nuisance and even a health hazard for those already suffering from problems such as diabetes or poor immune systems. But scientists are, in fact, studying fire ants in order to inform the future design of rescue robots, of all things.


A recent study in the Journal of Experimental Biology looked at a particular aspect of the fire ant’s existence: how they build their tunnels. Scientists feel fire ants have quite intriguing engineering skills that allow them to swiftly build non-collapsing tunnels even in loose, sandy soil—an ability that would be helpful for robots searching rubble, looking for victims of a natural disaster, but wanting to avoid shifting the earth so trapped people get pinned or further injured. Scientists hope to adapt some fire ant behaviors and mechanisms in future rescue robot development. However, until they can build a robot that can exterminate all fire ants, here are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Fire Ant Pest Protection


1. Bait the Nests

Many different type of fire ant baits have been developed and can be spread around visible piles. Normally this is in the form of poisoned food which is then distributed through the colony. Recognize, though, that poisoned bait can also possibly affect small animals or children if exposed.

2. Consider Insecticides

Liquid insecticides aren’t just intended to kill fire ants surrounding the nest. The point is to drench the nest to the point that the insecticide kills the queen. This can require several gallons, however, and necessitates getting close enough to the mound to apply it.

3. Hot Water Alternative

Instead of insecticides, several gallons of extremely hot water can also flood the mound enough to kill many of the ants. It isn’t as effective, though, and may require numerous applications.

4. Understand the Scope of the Problem

If you have more than a few mounds on your property, it may be beyond your ability to fully exterminate the pests on your own. At this point, it may be necessary to call in a professional to evaluate the extent to the infestation and offer a more thorough and permanent solution.

Contact OmniShield today to learn more about fire ant pest control.