Red Imported Fire Ants—
Your Landscape’s Hidden
Electric Personality

Fire Ants in Electrical Housing

Red Imported Fire Ants In Electrical Utility
Photo Credit: S.B. Vinson/TAMU

Being attacked by the red imported fire ant is one of the first concerns we think of when it comes to dangers in the home landscape.   As if the health concerns weren’t bad enough, damage to electrical equipment in the landscape and around the home is a major problem caused by hidden fire ants. They are attracted to electrical equipment of all kinds.

Scientists at Texas A&M University researched the electric connection and found it is the electrical field that attracts the red imported fire ant rather than magnetic or electro-magnetic fields, vibration or ozone emissions from the electrical equipment. 

At the University of Florida in Gainesville, scientists with the USDA Agricultural Research Service found out that semiochemicals released when a worker fire ant inadvertently completes a circuit are what attracts other workers to the electrical equipment.  That’s a lot of science; not much relief as yet.

Fire Ants in Service Panel
Remains of Fire Ants in Service Panel
Photo Credit:  Kenny Woller/Lakeside Inspection

Hidden Danger from Red Imported Fire Ants
Reasonably, average homeowner or electrical service worker isn’t all that interested in the imported red fire ant’s biological eccentricities.  Their major concern is why, for example, the air conditioner died or the well pump quit.  Who can blame them?  These are headaches in and of themselves.

This is no minor issue.  In Texas alone, service workers have reported that one third of all repairs to air conditioners in the summertime were the results of red imported fire ants shorting out the terminal blocks.

These demon ants find their way into power supplies, stripping wires and causing short circuits.  They wreak havoc with airport runway lights and traffic signals. They will nest in pad utilities in your yard, your well pump and outdoor electrical outlets.  Even the sealed electric meter is not immune. 

They also nest in microwave transmitters, including your home cooking device.  Your kitchen microwave is especially vulnerable.  Once inside the house, the red imported fire ant is drawn into the kitchen, attracted by the smell of grease.  Once there, they set up housekeeping in the appliance.  See the video from the BBC for an unbelievable view of fire ants crawling on food cooking in a microwave. As you can see they trot around without being affected at all.  They seem virtually indestructible.

Next - How To Treat and Maintain Electrical Equipment Infested with Red Imported Fire Ants

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