Fire ants are known to have an affinity for electrical equipment. Every year, Texas is plagued by a total of $146.5 million in damages caused by fire ants to electrical and communications equipment. Fire ants can damage all different types of electrical equipment, with the most common being switch boxes, electric pumps, air conditioners, circuit breakers, telephone boxes, and transformer boxes. These are the main items fire ants are known for infesting and damaging on residential properties, and the ones you need to keep an eye on to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
Finding which items in your home are at the highest level of danger of being damaged by fire ants is the easy part. It is figuring out why they are attracted to electronic devices in the first place that has made scientists scratch their heads in confusion. What seems to happen is that foraging fire ants come across electrical circuits and switching mechanisms while they are looking for food. According to one study, when foraging fire ants came across open switches where the electric current was active while they were walking about, they would stop in the presence of the electric field. If the electricity was not active, the ants would move on as normal. Once an ant is shocked by individually touching body parts to an open switching mechanism or through the linked touch of a group of ants and said switching mechanism, they display shocked reactions, waving their abdomens in the air to release pheromones that attract more worker ants. The arriving ants that touch the ants already there, then also get shocked and release more pheromones, drawing more and more ants to the electric current they are currently riding. Many ants can accumulate around this kind of point, such as the switching mechanism. Their growing body count and placement in the electric current can then cause the device they are in to malfunction.
Scientists still couldn’t quite pinpoint the initial attraction the ants have toward these electronic devices, however, with it being possible that they randomly come across these areas while foraging, and just happen to get caught and shocked by the electricity being controlled by these devices, which starts the spread of the pheromones that will draw in others. Essentially, the whole thing starts completely by accident. Many scientists now believe that ants are so numerous that the dominant ant species in the immediate environment of these electronics will randomly find some of their workers foraging in them at some point, which will begin the snowball effect caused by the fire ant’s use of pheromones, leading to said ants causing a malfunction once enough of them have latched on to the open current. It seems to all come down to the world having way too many ants in it.
Have you ever found fire ants in any of your electrical equipment?