Ants in Power Points
I saw on BURKE'S BACKYARD(A popular Aussie TV Gardening show) that ants in power points can cause house fires. I often find ants wandering around near one of my power points, but I don't want to get in a pest control company as Don suggested. Nor do I want my house to catch fire. What can I do?
White-footed black ants often nest in wall cavities, & while their forays into the pantry are annoying, they won't do any harm. Indeed, they make short work of any termites attempting to work their territory. But, like humans, ants have a population problem, & they are constantly on the lookout for potential development sites. They prefer small dark spaces with an even warm temperature.
My first encounter with this highly creative use of modern technology was when a cassette jammed in my VCR. On investigation I found ants had been nesting inside it for some time, & had eventually glued up the eject mechanism! More recently I discovered minute property magnates attempting to take over a compact fluorescent light bulb. In switches & power points they could conceivably cause an electrical 'short', but in most cases you would soon become aware of this when using it.
These days many appliances continuously draw a small amount of current, making the active power point an attractive nesting site.
If you prefer not to call in the cowboys, & can't locate or afford a responsible pest controller, you may be interested in the following strategies. They are fairly safe, though item 4 should be used only IF YOU ARE INTELLIGENT & USED TO WORKING WITH ELECTRICITY! BUT I CAN TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY IF YOU DECIDE TO USE THEM.
Prevent any one power point from developing an even warmth by not leaving appliances plugged in, or power switches on, for long periods. Operate VCR's, clocks, answering machines etc. from different power points in rotation. The points must be DIFFERENT - just moving from one socket to another on the same point or power board won't work!
Discourage ants in & around the house by liberally sprinkling their freeways with talcum powder. It's non-toxic, & clogs their poor little systems. But don't inhale it, & remember it makes surfaces very slippery, so use with caution on floors.
If the situation is desperate, lay baits to reduce ant numbers. Mix powdered borax with honey or glycerine. Collect some empty unwashed soft drink cans, trickle a small quantity of the mixture into each one, crumple slightly so they won't roll, & no-one will try to drink from them. Lay these unobtrusively on their sides in the shade near areas of 'antivity'. Take the family into your confidence so they don't take the cans to cash in at the recycling depot.
If ants are wandering near a power point or switch, select a time when you are feeling cool, calm & collected, get some screwdrivers, pliers, a small brush, & a drinking straw, then TURN OFF THE POWER AT THE MAIN SOURCE & LEAVE A WARNING SIGN CLOSE BY THE MAIN SWITCH (You don't want anyone helpfully turning the power back on while you are working! And don't do it yourself when you suddenly realize you could use the vacuum cleaner for this job - you can't! Hence the brush & the straw!)
Carefully remove the suspect point from the wall, taking care not to loosen the wiring from the point. There should be enough slack that you can pull it free from the cavity. Carefully remove any ants & debris from the back of the point or switch - if you have to take it apart to do this, be careful - tape the backs of switches so the spring mechanism stays together. If you also need to remove the wires, take careful note of what came from where - write it down! Then put everything back securely exactly where it came from!
If there are ledges within the cavity, sprinkle them liberally with a mixture of borax & talc. If there are no ledges, liberally smear the area with an essential oil like eucalyptus, pennyroyal or sassafras. The filling in wall-board will absorb it well. You can also smear any woodwork if you wish. DON'T put the oil where it will touch the fitting or the wire, because it eats plastic! Replace the point or switch carefully before you turn the power back on.
NB Borax is no more toxic to humans than many laundry products. Wash your hands after using it, even if you wore gloves, & keep it out of the reach of children. It also works on cockroaches, which also occasionally get into the wiring.
Note: In researching & answering questions about earthwise living, Margaret offers information, opinion, & personal experience, but no quick fixes! Readers should evaluate these offerings in the context of their own situations; they are suggestions, *not* recommendations. Any responsibility for their implementation rests *solely* with the reader.
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