Microsoft Subnet An independent Microsoft community View more

'Crazy ants' that destroy computers are immune to insecticide

New invasive ant species found in the U.S. have a sweet tooth for electronics, and insecticides are useless against them.

Slight detour from our usual Microsoft fare, but don't worry, I have plenty to discuss on that front. ABC News just ran a report on a new threat to your-high cost electronics: an ant with a taste for electronic equipment.

Nylanderia fulva, more commonly called the "tawny crazy ant," has invaded the south, from Florida to Texas, and is causing damage in electrical gear and outlets everywhere they go. They are called the 'crazy ant' because of their erratic trail of movement.

The name isn't the issue, though. The tiny ant, only one-eighth of an inch long, can get into wall outlets or any cracks in the home. And researchers have found these little buggers have a real taste for electrical wiring and components, and no one is sure why. In one year alone, the ants are believed to have caused $146.5 million in damage to electrical equipment in Texas alone.

Now, here's the funny part. The ants don't actually like the taste of electronics. They operate on instinct that does not serve them well. One ant will be drawn to a transformer and graze a hot wire. It gets electrocuted and immediately releases a pheromone scent in the air, which lures more ants to their dead comrade.

This is typical ant behavior when they find food. Once one worker finds food, it sends out a chemical signal to the others. They actually rub their tails against the ground so the scent sticks, which explains why they form a conga line to fallen food, dead insects, what have you.

If the crazy ants touch their dead comrade or the wire, they die, spawning more pheromones into the air and calling even more ants to their location. Pretty soon, there are so many dead ants that the electric switches can't close or the insulation is fried and the system short circuits.

The ants have also been found carrying the soil to the warm interior of a transformer, where it collects moisture and eventually fries the electronics.

Like so many invasive pests, humans introduced the tawny crazy into the U.S. The species is from South America, and they don't travel very far. They get around when humans inadvertently transport them.

So you Texans, check your packages. I have enough trouble keeping a half pound of sand out of my PC vents as it is, living in this desert.

Insider Shootout: Best security tools for small business
Editors' Picks
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies