There are dozens of insects that can infiltrate your air conditioner and cause issues, but none of them are quite as annoying as the crazy ant. Named after its zig-zagging walking pattern, this type of ant is known for starting a cycle of death inside the air conditioner and ruining the electrical contacts that start the entire unit. Understand where the ants come from and learn some techniques to keep them away to avoid having to make multiple repair calls this summer.
What are Crazy Ants?
The tawny crazy ant is a species native to South America, but it arrived in the US during the early 2000s and has established populations in many of the warmer states like Texas, Arizona, and Louisiana. This relative of the stinging fire ant is less known for biting and more widely recognized as the small brown ant that wanders into air conditioners to die in mass numbers. Many homeowners open a non-responsive air conditioning unit only to find a foul-smelling pile of dead ants. Sometimes the ants are also nesting inside the cavities of the unit, but this pile up can also occur without any long-term nests.
Why Do They Love Air Conditioners?
The ants only enter the air conditioning unit as part of their natural exploration for food and shelter, although some HVAC repair technicians wonder if they're attracted by the vibrations or odors of the unit. It only takes one ant to start a cycle of death by:
- Touching two metal contact points, creating a short circuit that kills the single ant
- Releasing pheromones upon death
- Attracting others ants with the odor, which also get electrocuted and die.
Each new ant that wanders in to respond to the distress call dies and adds their pheromones to the mix. Within a few hours, you can end up with hundreds of tawny crazy ants streaming into the A/C, especially if they're nesting in another part of the unit and ready to respond.
What Kind of Damage is Caused?
Most of the time, it's simply the short circuiting effect of the ant bodies causing the air conditioner to stay off or switch off after just a few minutes of use. In some cases, the sheer number of ants blocks the blades of blower fans or prevents air from flowing through the filters. A repair technician can check for other types of damage to the wiring and delicate electrical components while they're cleaning out the dead ants to make sure the unit will run smoothly again without multiple visits. If the ants have attracted any predators to dine on them, you'll also need to discourage the insects or small animals from visiting after the ants are removed.
How Are Crazy Ants Controlled?
Instead of waiting until your A/C doesn't switch on to call for repairs, take a proactive approach to keep the crazy ants away in the first place by making your air conditioner less attractive to them. If there are nests, have the unit open and thoroughly cleaned to remove nests and eggs that would continue the infestation. Place bait a few feet away from the A/C unit for a few weeks after the nests are eliminated so that any stragglers or new colony scouts are eliminated before they can start a new nest.
Don't leave any food or standing water sources around the unit, including sap-producing plants or sugary flowers. Finally, scrub the exterior of the A/C unit and the walls around it with a combination of dish soap and water. This destroys the scent trails that the ants use to signal sources of food or nests, reducing the chances for a re-infestation.
Contact a pest control company as well as an air conditioning repair company for more information and help, or visit websites like http://www.capefearair.com.