#1 By: Maggie Koerth-Baker, December 9th, 2013 16:36
#2 By: grimc, December 9th, 2013 16:57
Was really hoping the guy's name was Leiningen.
#3 By: kpkpkp, December 9th, 2013 16:58
Maybe Dali had the right idea.
#4 By: Mellivora Capensis, December 9th, 2013 17:09
What about one of these guys?
Warning, you are unprepared for the cute.
#5 By: fuzzyfuzzyfungus, December 9th, 2013 17:21
I wonder if their alleged electrical sensitivity could be used against them?
It's clearly a problem if they are building up in masses inside electrical equipment not designed to be filled with ants; but I'd imagine that designing a bug-zapper style system that puts off a very zesty electromagnetic field; but is also resistant to fouling by tiny electro-roasted ant corpses could thin their ranks with brutal efficiency...
Given that putting high-voltage devices (eg. UV sterilizers in air ducts) in maintenance shafts of various sorts is already done, some sort of combination attractant/deathcorecharnelslaughtermachine barrier at ingress points seems like a self evidently excellent idea, certain not to void your fire insurance!
#6 By: Jim_Kirk, December 9th, 2013 17:36
My respect for Dale Gribble just went up a few notches...
#7 By: Cary, December 9th, 2013 18:09
They could clean the dust out of the vents at the same time...
#8 By: Bytebro, December 9th, 2013 18:45
I'm just disturbed that someone would measure ants in pints. I could go with pounds, or (preferably) kilos, yes. Pints? This tells me nothing useful about the density of ants, and therefore whether there were many many little ones or just a few humongous fat ones. Living things by volume, just wrong; by weight or mass, conceivable, surely?!
#9 By: Boundegar, December 9th, 2013 18:48
#10 By: Smash Martian, December 9th, 2013 19:17
I think that by the time you've got enough ants to be able to measure them by multiple pints, the actual numbers are almost irrelevant.
Even with the big inch-long bull ants we get round here, 1 pint of ants = too damned many.
#11 By: Alice Weir, December 9th, 2013 21:06
We have them in FL - first saw them over near Tampa. They ate the speaker module out of my GPS.
Cleaned them up, left Tampa. A few months later, I returned, and there they were again.
I had that same idea about them being attracted to electrical fields, but when I tried it, couldn't seem to attract them.
Another idea was that they are attracted to the heat generated. They seem to go after specific pieces of electronic equipment, even when there may be multiple items around. But, once they find something they 'like', they'll stay put even when it's turned off for long periods. They headed for my GPS unit each time I got them, and nothing else.
This makes me think there are some materials inside that they prefer to eat. Very likely an adhesive, since I found them eating the duct tape off of some cardboard. And, they went after that GPA unit whether I plugged it in indoors, or out.
I do have a fix for them, once you have them, though. Take whatever they crawled into, put it in a plastic bag. Stick the bag in the freezer for a while. You might have to take the cover off and blow the dead ant bodies out of it, but it'll kill 'em. I'd imagine a similar fix might be hacked together to get them out of ducts and walls, too.
#12 By: Nate, December 9th, 2013 21:51
The ants are weird and fascinating, but the story told by the exterminator is all wrong. Here's a more nuanced perspective: http://www.myrmecos.net/2013/12/06/crazy-ants-the-new-york-times-and-the-failure-of-americans-to-support-basic-research/
#13 By: fuzzyfuzzyfungus, December 9th, 2013 23:37
It doesn't explain why they pick a target in the first place; but I suspect that, once they do, they (either deliberately, or in death) hose the thing down with signal pheremones nice and thoroughly, ensuring that their swarm mates will be all over it until the traces finally dissipate, which can take a while.
Though, if they are doing that, pheremone baits would be another option. We did a little experiment in BIO, some years back, with a species of termite whose trail-forming pheremone apparently has close chemical similarity to an ingredient in the ink of cheap bic ballpoints: Just draw some lines, and the termite would obediently go all line-following-robot on them, regardless of how purposeless the pattern. Probably what it feels like to be in advertising, on a smaller scale.
#14 By: Alice Weir, December 9th, 2013 23:50
Pheromones are also a possibility, of course. I'd certainly expect any other ants to follow an old trail. And, it's not like you'd wash electronics down afterward.
Although that still doesn't explain why they choose electronics in the first place - unless something in there smells like ant goodies to them. What got me in the first place was them choosing that one item when there was other stuff to choose from. I must've gotten 40 ants out of that one unit each time. They're very tiny compared to carpenter ants or fire ants, and lighter in color.
I made a third trip over to that area, and they left the GPS and everything else alone - but it was a new house and had been gone over by a pest control person repeatedly before I ever arrived.
Can't explain them eating the duct tape adhesive at all. Must have something sweet in it? They absolutely decimated it, though! If I wanted to trap some of them, I'd try that way.
#15 By: rocketpj, December 10th, 2013 01:17
Cockroaches do the same thing. At one point I worked on a Polish ship that was very infested with roaches. My tape player stopped working and I opened the back to find hundreds of the little bastards. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about it even 20 years later.
#16 By: Beanolini, December 10th, 2013 04:16
Pints have long been the preferred measure for maggots sold as bait. Anyone fancy going halves on a pint of 'disco maggots'?
#17 By: CLamb, December 10th, 2013 10:12
A species of ants attracted to electrical fields? Sounds like they're just begging to be weaponized. I wonder how they'd stand up to the radiation in an Iranian nuclear fuel plant?
#18 By: Alice Weir, December 10th, 2013 14:59
LOL - just as I saw this post, I started hearing this weird o-scope noise. Sounded like an old scifi movie or something. Turns out, it's a contractor looking for an underground pipe with a loud metal detector. Freaky thought ensues:
if these things are drawn to electromagnetic fields somehow, then they should probably have some amount of iron content in their teeny leetle bodies, right? If correct (or maybe even if not) - they can totally be screwed with using magnets. Even better - electromagnets?! Just the thought of it...
#19 By: fuzzyfuzzyfungus, December 10th, 2013 16:00
Does anybody here have access to a decent university library or other institutional subscription?
I've found references to "Premiers résultats d'une irradiation prolongée au césium sur les populations de fourmis en Haute Provence" by Le Masne and Bonavita-Cougourdan, published 1972; but I'll be damned if I can find a copy online.
Our Google Overlords know about it; but no ebook for you.
#20 By: CLamb, December 10th, 2013 21:58
Earlier this year BB covered a researcher using magnets to screw around with ants by painting them with magnetic paint. http://boingboing.net/2013/01/30/why-put-magnetic-paint-on-ants.htmlSomeone has also been researching natural magnetoreception in insects as well. http://academic.research.microsoft.com/Author/35848238/j-f-de-oliveira
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