Can ants clean my computer? (Kurt, Brentwood, Maryland, USA)


Good evening,
I had accidentally spilled a drink on my laptop. I took it to "repair" but some keys remain slightly sticky. Recently my Macbook Pro was invaded by ants, and I figured they were after the remaining sugar residue. My bug-proof laptop is now riddled with bugs!

I was thinking I could use the ants to remove the remaining residue instead of squashing them. How quickly can they clean up sugar? Will they all leave once they are done, or will they try to make a nest in there (the laptop I am now typing on). These ants are pretty small so I think they can get under the keyboard keys. This is a much less expensive solution and doesn't require disassembly or very costly repairs.

Thanks!


Kurt: 

I personally do not think that this is a good idea, but it depends, like you suggested, on what the intentions of the ants are.  It is possible that they are just going for the sugar, in which case they will quickly lose interest when they've eaten it all.  The length of time it will take them to do this depends on a lot of different factors, like how many ants are involved and how dried up and difficult to eat the sugar is - I would guess somewhere from a few hours to a few days.   

Although many ants are very good at cleaning up sugar, some of them are also quite good at chewing through plastic. Many of the species of ants that are often found living around humans seem to have a strange affinity for setting up nests in electrical equipment, and damage to the wiring almost invariably follows.  Two species of ants leap to mind that seem particularly prone to this behavior: the Raspberry Crazy Ant, and Monomorium destructor.  M. destructor, as the name suggests, is especially good at chewing through things, including electrical insulation.  Neither of these ants has been reported from Maryland-- the Raspberry Crazy Ant is mostly known from Texas, and M. destructor also tends to live in warmer areas (athough specimens have been collected in Tennessee and New York State).  You might consider browsing the Ants of Pennsylvania page, (likely candidates for your ants are Monomorium pharaonis and Tapinoma sessile).  

Even so, without knowing exactly which species of ant is infesting your computer, I would advise you to discourage the ants as quickly as possible.  As much as I am interested in ants, I would be nervous if they started showing interest in my laptop!  

Nylanderia sphttp://urbanentomology.tamu.edu/ants/exotic_tx.cfm

Monomorium destructor 
http://www.issg.org/database/species/impact_info.asp?si=960&fr=1&sts=&lang=EN

- Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk team

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