back to article They WANT to EAT YOUR COMPUTER - welcome your ANT overlords

A massive horde of computer-killing "crazy ants" are invading the southeastern US, killing other species as they go. New research released today in the journal Biological Invasions warns the aliens have wiped out at least one other ant invader, the exotic fire ant, but are also targeting local ants with deadly precision. More …

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  1. Frankee Llonnygog

    It's no joke

    One data centre thought they'd combat these wee beasties with spiders. The inevitable chain of events followed, and the data centre ended up being swallowed by an old lady.

    She's dead, of course.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's no joke

      Being from the southeast, I'm very much aware of these pests. It's not all electronics they are interested in, but just some electrical and moisture. So, you could put a keyboard in the yard. They would never touch it. But a relay for , say a well motor, or an electrical outlet, and they swarm it. I don't know what the difference is between a wet computer verses an outlet, but there is and that's what they want. They especially are a problem in electronics for A/Cs and wells. They crowd the relay contacts (nothing else electrical in or around the area) and get crushed, preventing the relays from closing.

      I deal with them the same way I deal with fire ants, I purchase a spray bottle of ant killer (Home Defense MAX) once a year and spray around all items (thus my multiple years of experience with them.) every 6 weeks.

      All other electronics, my pump, salt water machine, lights, etc...... no problems. Relays and outlets..... it's like they are committing mass suicide.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's no joke

        If possible, get some Roach-Proof (boric acid) and sprinkle that around the affected devices. Lay it down pretty thick - like you are the Winchesters laying down a circle of protection from demons. Arthropods don't like the stuff - it gets into their joints and tears them up, causing them to dehydrate, as well as getting into their spicules and choking them.

        1. Wzrd1

          Re: It's no joke

          Diatomaceous earth should also be effective. It abrades the coating over their chitin and they dehydrate.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Boffin

          Re: It's no joke

          Erm, boric acid works on ants as a stomach poison. It doesnt affect their joints in any way at all....Furthermore, they wont ingest it unless its mixed with a sugar or protein based food (honey/peanut butter).

          Besides, Quantum Maxforce (Imidacloprid) will deal with the entire colony....

          1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

            Re: It's no joke

            We always mixed 3 parts boric acid powder with 1 part confectioner's sugar to treat for roaches. I'd try that. If they don't go for it, try tweaking the mixture a bit. Make sure to keep pets/kids WELL away from it.

          2. peyton?
            Headmaster

            Re: It's no joke

            Actually, ants (and surprisingly roaches as well) are very hygienic, and will frequently clean themselves and each other. In the process, they will usually ingest some of whatever is on them.

      2. Suricou Raven

        Re: It's no joke

        I would guess they react either to something outgassing from the plastic, or the electrical field - even a small field is going to play hell with ant antennae.

        Simple enough to test, though. Dump some electronics in the garden without power, see if they are attracted.

      3. Nigel 11
        Boffin

        Re: It's no joke

        If they're attracted to relays and motors (?motors with brushes only?) then I'd hazard a guess that it's Ozone or

        Nitrogen Oxides that attract them.

  2. stucs201
    Coat

    Call for Ponder Stibbons

    We obviously need to start building computers like Hex instead of messing around with electronics.

    (The robe and point hat. Pass my staff while you're at it, yes the one with the knob on the end)

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Call for Ponder Stibbons

      And there are people wondering where all the bees are.

      They are working on the replacement of the replacement of Deep Thought.

  3. Notas Badoff Silver badge
    Joke

    Why's your bugzapper sitting on the ground?

    "Ants"

    You don't use bugzappers for ants!

    "Watch..."

    Wow, look at that thing sparkle....

  4. Anonymous Сoward
    Holmes

    If they like the taste of circuit boards, why don't we make them out of something that doesn't attract these things?

    Maybe we can expect pesticide sprayed PCBs at the factory whilst they think of an alternative.

    1. easyk

      maybe

      A PCB is made up of sandwiches of epoxy, fiberglass and copper. I doubt ants can sense glass or copper but they might be picking up a chemical signal from the the epoxy. A small change to the epoxy chemistry might put them off.

      It is not clear to me that they are attracted to the PCB though. It could be a chemical signal from wire insulation or something to do with electric fields. Some research is required. No matter what it probably doesn't make economic sense to make special electronics for what is now such a small market segment. Some other mitigation is needed.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: maybe

        Research is definitely required. This is far more interesting than some of the utter crap that gets funded, simply proving or disproving the ants being able to detect EMF would be worth the research, not that this sort of testing would be particularly expensive!

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: maybe

          Did you see the list of states affected?

          Any research into the evolutionary behavior would have to conclude that Jesus did it.

        2. Graham Hawkins

          Re: maybe

          If the link was proved, we could make them all little tin-foil hats....

  5. Don Jefe

    Maybe

    Maybe they eat stink bugs. That would be something at least.

    Fire ant bites do hurt terribly bad they can also be deadly to house pets. My girlfriends, at the time, dog was bitten to death by a disturbing a bunch of them. Poor thing, I couldn't do anything to help it.

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    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

        If we've started putting hashtags in comments, that's a new low.

      2. Steve Knox Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

        What is wrong with the downvoting turds lately?

        Windows 8 sucks. #dealwithit

        Windows 8 is entirely irrelevant to this article. If you want to bitch about an OS, do so in a relevant forum.

        If you want to use hashtags, do so on another site.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

          You still used a hashtag.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

        "What is wrong with the downvoting turds lately?

        Windows 8 sucks. #dealwithit

        "

        You must be new here. "Eadon" continuously posts anti-MS posts at all opportunities - even if the topic isn't about windows.. Such as this one.

        People have asked him to stop - he won't, hence all the downvoting.

        P.S. hashtags don't belong on this site either

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Steven Roper
            FAIL

            Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

            Aaaaaaand so...

            Eadon has, yet again, successfully derailed the first page of a comments thread, pushing all other relevant comments down, by trolling all of you fucking morons into responding to him. One post, and you've all been sucked in and rendered the entire thread worthless with your ranting at him.

            Yes, I know this post contributes to the derailment, but if anyone wanting to respond to this has even one fucking brain cell, this post will remain the last one in the chain.

            My respect for the El Reg community is dropping fast, decrementing every time I see you idiots giving Eadon exactly what he wants.

            Successful troll is successful.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

              Because, of course, Steven Roper is allowed to reply, but the rest of us are "fucking morons"

              Steven, your post reads almost as much of a troll as Eadons.

          2. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

            Re: Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

            Handily, I happen to be a mod, so I'm going to do that universally popular mod thing and remind everyone of the house rules: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/01/register_comments_guidelines/

            Pay close attention to points 2, 3 and 4. Think about what you're saying, be pertinent and don't troll. Don't like what another user posts? Ignore it. Can't ignore it? Use the handy grey "ignore" button next to that commentard's username so you don't have to make the effort to ignore it.

            tl;dr Play nicely or else.

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

              What handy grey "ignore" button??

              1. gazthejourno

                Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

                See screencap below. The button is only visible if you're logged into the forums:

                http://regmedia.co.uk/2013/05/21/ignore_button_commentards.png

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

              Gaz, only Register people and Gold Badge posters get the 'ignore' option.

              If that wasn't the case, the problem would have probably been solved.

              1. gazthejourno

                Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

                Really? I'm surprised ... you can tell I'm new to El Reg's forums! I'll ask Drew about that when I get a spare moment, pretty much every other forum on the internet offers an "ignore" feature as standard. Cheers.

                1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

                  Thanks Gaz. Yep, it seems pretty strange to restrict it. Maybe it was for beta purposes, and then Drew forgot!

                  Whilst you're at it, can you ask for email notifications of post replies :-)

                  Cheers, J

          3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

            "I wasn't aware of it being against the rules on here. Oh you're not a moderator? okay stalemate then."

            I don't think there is anything in the rules about not posting inane status updates every 5 minutes, but if I did, it would be in your right to tell me I'm doing wrong, even though *shock, gasp* you ain't moderator either. Stalemate #2

        2. Crisp Silver badge

          Re: What is wrong with the downvoting turds lately?

          I don't think that downvoting Eadon is that effective. I think he collects downvotes and downvoting him is providing him with negative attention. If people stopped reacting to his obvious trolling, then he'd get bored and go away.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Windows

        Re: Windows 8 computers are safe

        Erm, we just did!!!!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's a documentary on this.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070531/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

  8. Jemma Silver badge

    Sigh..

    Ye gods, how many things can you get wrong in one article? RIFA sting, they dont bite, except to anchor themselves (they then sting in a cute little circle). The venom is the second nastiest after pogomyrmex (itself a 10th as nasty as taipan venom, think a mid range viper or a uk Adder) and its primary danger in humans is either venom overload or anaphylaxis. Add to this that theyre aggressive little sods that make asiatic bees seem positively cuddly and you begin to see why theyre so nasty. Oh and they also love electrics too, traffic lights being a particular favourite..

    Fulva has a secret weapon in that it is one of the super colony ants - RIFA colony is based on a single queen, Fulva colonies have several and related colonies act & react as one. In the wild these can cover large areas and crowd out even species like RIFA.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Count yourself lucky

      Given El Reg's record in entomology I'm surprised they weren't described as termites.

    2. Mark Tribble

      Re: Sigh..

      Thank you for your informative post. I was going to write a similar post explaining the nature of the sting and its effect, but you covered most of it already. One sting is bad. But if you accidentally step on a nest, you can get hundreds of stings at once.The venom is a combination of toxins, histamines (they cause allergic reactions), and formic acid. It causes a small, very painful blister, and the surrounding skin is also irritated. The blisters take about two weeks to heal. Words like "fire" and "burning" only begin to describe the effect.

      Most of the nests I've seen were adjacent to or underneath logs and boards on the ground. The ants also fill up junction boxes if there are conduits leading to the ground. The boxes I've seen were filled with moist dirt. I'm not sure if the ants were eating the wires, but the moisture ruined the electrical parts.

      1. Yet Another Commentard

        Re: Sigh..

        Interesting. The thing that surprises me most is that this is an American thingy, and not Australian, given the antipodes predilection for dangerous creatures. Or are they worse down there?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Sigh..

          > Given El Reg's record in entomology I'm surprised they weren't described as termites.

          That would have meant mentioning Space Marines, and then Copyright Violations Against Space Marines, and then we would be off on a tangent with Andrew.

          Seriously, these ant invasions are weird. It's almost as if an alien intelligence wanted to take us out with better and better engineered stuff .... like in Philip K. Dick's Expendable. Maybe we should talk to the spiders.

        2. Gray Ham

          Re: Sigh..

          I think we have colonies of these things in Australia too ... I seem to remember some time back hearing about it. But not in Canberra, they can't hack the cold winters.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Sigh..

            >But not in Canberra, they can't hack the cold winters.

            Or the politicians

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sigh..

            "I think we have colonies of these things in Australia too ... I seem to remember some time back hearing about it. But not in Canberra, they can't hack the cold winters."

            I am surprised at how docile the big native ants in Canberra are. Friendliest ants I've ever come across.

            1. Gray Ham

              Re: Sigh..

              I think you mean the sugar ants - they don't sting. But, you have probably not met any jumper ants yet ... very nasty sting, big jaws to hang on with and most certainly not docile!

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