Fire ants: ‘Electric’ stinging ants!

imagesThe fire ant is the common name for several species of ants in the genus Solenopsis. These aggressive ants are native to South America. The bodies of mature fire ants are divided into three sections: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen, with three pairs of legs and a pair of antennae. They vigorously defend their nests, attack in large numbers and sting repeatedly.

Like many other ants, the red fire ants frequently infest electrical equipment and utility housings. Some of the common electrical equipment harmed by these ants include air conditioners, telephone boxes, circuit breakers, transformer boxes, switch boxes, electric pumps. Two types of ant activity cause problems to electrical equipment: the movement of entire colonies into electrical housings, and the affinity foraging worker ants have for electrical fields and switching mechanisms. Fire ants are found in electrical housings year round. Electrical housings (such as outside electrical disconnects, junction boxes, pad-mounted transformers, etc.) provide warmth during winter months, a dry nesting site during heavy rains, and an undisturbed nesting site throughout the year. Imported fire ant colonies are often found at the base or near electrical unit housings. When a colony moves into an electrical box, worker ants import soil for nesting. This material can cause corrosion and interfere with maintenance operations. In electrical transformer boxes, oil regulates the temperature in half of the box. When moisture from the mound causes corrosion, the oil leaks, inhibiting temperature regulation and resulting in failure of the transformer. In addition to corrosion, once inside, the ants chew on insulation and can cause short circuits. Let us also look at the reason for the affinity of foraging worker ants to electrical fields and switching mechanisms. Worker ants leave their nests in search of food to bring back to the rest of the colony members like the larvae, other workers, and, indirectly, to the queen and reproductive ants. However, worker ants can become a problem when they enter electrical equipment switching mechanisms. Worker ants of many ant species including carpenter ants, acrobat ants, and crazy ants have an affinity for oscillating magnetic fields (60 cycles per second). When sufficient numbers of ants build up in a switching mechanism and bridge the gap between an open switch, they are shocked and electrocuted. The shocked ants release communication chemicals (pheromones) or other signals that attract other worker ants. The result is that switching units can become tightly packed with the bodies of dead, electrocuted worker ants, causing the mechanism to fail.

The fire ants are commonly known as “super ants” not due to their phenomenal size or ability to leap between buildings or bridges but due to the sheer size of the colonies, these ants create. These bizarre insects look similar to garden ants but gather in far bigger colonies. In Texas alone, the act of gnawing by fire ants led to the cost associated with damages to electrical and communications equipment totaled $146.5 million per year (Lard et al. 2001).Electric ants are also becoming increasingly common throughout the UK, where their attraction to electricity causes an estimated £1.7bn worth of damage every year.
Let us have a look at this recent incident which took place in the UK

‘Electric’ stinging ants set to swarm across the UK – and can cause power blackouts and fires
June 1st, 2016, Mirror, UK
The UK is bracing itself for an invasion of ‘electric’ ants after the stinging pests were imported into the UK in pot plants. Bosses at Cleankill pest control says that householders should be ‘on guard’ for the insects taking up residence in their gardens and homes. Cleankill boss Paul Bates warned that people should watch out for ‘unfamiliar’ pests in their homes and gardens. The ants, called Asian super ants, got their nickname because they are ‘obsessed’ with electricity cables and chew through them causing blackouts and fires in business and homes. Mr. Bates added: “Electric ants can be very disruptive as they will gather around cables or junction boxes and cause them to short out – this can result in blackouts and, in the worst cases, fires.
“Our main worry is more have come into the UK in imported potted plants this spring and that we will have difficulty getting rid of them as they are resistant to the treatments we would normally use for ants.”

So, is there a sustainable solution to prevent such huge damages caused by these pesky ants? We at C Tech Corporation have come up with a solution. Termirepel™ anti-insect additive, a C Tech Corporation product is the best solution for the prevention and control of insect infestations. Termirepel™ is a non-toxic, non-hazardous and eco-friendly insect aversive.

It follows 6 tiered mechanism, which is extremely effective on insects like ants, termites, beetles etc. It is available in the form of masterbatches which can be directly incorporated into the polymer matrix during processing of wires and cables. This would be an efficient way of deterring the ants from chewing the cables and wires and thus negate the possibility of a short circuit. Gruesome accidents like above can thus be avoided.

Also, Termirepel™ liquid concentrate can be added to paints which can then be applied as a top coat on the wires and cables, junction boxes etc. for protection. Termirepel™ is thermally stable and does not degrade on exposure to heat and sunlight. It does not kill or harm the insect but repels them. It does not volatilize and does not degrade the soil. It is RoHS, RoHS2, REACH compliant and FIFRA exempted.

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