What would happen if red ants crawled into your laptop?

BY Marshall Brain / POSTED August 27, 2009
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You Asked:

What would happen if red ants crawled into your laptop? — Ramya, Tirupati, India

Marshall Brain Answered:

For some reason, some species of ants are attracted to electronic devices. Ants do a lot of damage to electrical equipment like air conditioners. If the ants get inside a home or business, they seem to love computer equipment as seen here:

Why are the ants attracted to electromagnetic fields? That is still unknown, as described in this article:

Fatal electrical attraction: Invasion of the insects from Hell

No one is yet ready to offer a theory. But biologist Dr. William P. MacKay of the University of Texas at El Paso and entomologist Professor S. Bradleigh Vinson of Texas A&M have succeeded in eliminating a number of possible factors.

They have found fire ant behavior does not correlate with a-c frequencies, or with the presence of ozone, electromagnetic or magnetic fields. Nor is the type of insulation used on wiring a factor. In tests up to 140V a-c and 350V d-c, both attracted almost the same number of ants at the same voltage and distance. However, they did find that when electricity was turned off, ants attracted to d-c power dispersed more rapidly than those who had been experiencing the nirvana of an a-c source.

While the Texas researchers still don’t understand the reasons why the ants have a fatal attraction to electric fields, they have been able to devise successful control techniques. Based on their studies, they recommend using terminal cap protectors to prevent bridging, and denying entrance to the insects by enclosing mechanical relays in metal or plastic cases and sealing them, as well as all entrances to padmounted equipment, with epoxy cement. In laboratory tests, silicone rubber sealants and roofing cement proved ineffective.

If ants do find your laptop computer (or any other electronic device), you want to remove them as quickly as possible, before they short out the equipment. Unplug the laptop, remove the battery and with luck they will leave on their own.

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