News & Blog

Blog Post Wednesday 20 August 2014

Electricity-Addicted Ants: Making Your Bad Habit Look Good

Catch any bus or train across the country and you’re sure to find a glut of passengers with their eyes glued to a smartphone or tablet. With the digital age having well and truly taken hold, electronics are no longer luxury items but both compulsions and necessities in equal measure.

We huddle around our devices in droves, keen to absorb, play and communicate. Sometimes people become so obsessed with their digital lives that they forget to eat and even sleep. 

Asian super ant

But we fallible humans aren’t the only creatures on earth to form obsessions borne from electricity.

Home owners throughout the world have long scratched their heads at odd marching lines of ants, intent on not just conquering your sandwiches… but also your electrical items.

In England, The Independent recently reported an ‘invasion’ of Asian Super Ants. Already an issue in Gloucester, the Lasius neglectus has been discovered in Buckinghamshire as well as London.

“The super ant’s attraction towards electricity is stronger than its compulsion to eat or drink, meaning it can gnaw through electricity cables and nest in electrical equipment and plug sockets,” The Independent said.

“These ants usually nest in electrical items and this means they can pose a fire risk and when they swarm can cause blackouts.”

These little guys aren’t known as ‘super ants’ due to their phenomenal size or ability to leap between buildings in a single bound. Rather it is to do with the sheer size of the colonies these ants create. With numbers skyrocketing into the tens of thousands, having one of these electricity hungry convoys move in and nestle into your wiring can be devastating to your home.

The Asian Super Ant isn’t the only ant hungry for an electric hit.

In America, the big electricity addicted ant is the Tawny Crazy Ant. Last year, Douglas Main of Live Science reported a marauding infestation of crazy ants singlehandedly destroyed 90 out 150 air-conditioning units in a Texan apartment building.

“When the crazy ants enter these devices their bodies can create connections between electrical contacts, which can lead the circuits to short out and electrocute the ants,” Main said.

“This causes them to release an alarm pheromone, a scent ants use to communicate that they are ‘under attack,’ likely attracting the ants' kin to come and fight.”

So the more ants that get zapped, more ants will come to avenge their deaths, leading to more ants getting zapped. It’s a vicious cycle that can ultimately short circuit the device they are nesting in, cause a serious power outage, or even start a fire.

We Australians certainly don’t get off scot-free. In the Northern Territory alone Singapore Ants reportedly cause more than $1 million dollars in damage to electrical items every year.

­So why the electric death wish?

Scientists are yet to pin point why some species of ant are so attracted to electricity, but it is thought that they are probably attracted to the magnetic field or heat electronics give off.

One big factor these specific species of ants share is that they don’t have established colonies. So rather than digging their own holes and tunnels, these guys would much rather move into your DVD player, electrical sockets, or wall cavity instead. Stinking squatters.

If you have a concerning ant infestation in or around your electrical appliances, devices or outlets, be sure to contact your local exterminator.

You can also get more information from your relevant state government department.

Queensland

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry: 13 25 23

New South Wales

Department of Primary Industries: 1800 084 881

Victoria

Department of Health, Pest Control Program: 1300 887 090