A few days back in the evening, I opened my laptop and saw a long line of fierce red ants doing a merry QWERTY dance. It was nothing short of a campaign of shock and awe by these formicidae. At first I thought it was a new low for these ants to colonize my laptop but then I recalled that ever since we switched to organic food at home, it has been Ant Fest 2011. Sometime back they managed to make a living from organic turmeric so I guess my laptop really wasn’t a big deal.
But the question still remained; what would attract the ants to a laptop?
Ants are always on the search for a cool spot on a hot afternoon and innards of the laptop are a conceivable sanctuary. A few minutes after plugging the laptop charger into the mains, the circuits warmed up and the ants rudely woken up started pouring out onto the keyboard and out of the ports.
The only other reason an ant might wander into a laptop is the possibility of food. We have been scrupulous about not eating anywhere near the laptop so I was quite confident that I was not at fault here.
However even an hour of charging the laptop did not quite lick the ant problem. Moreover I was concerned about the possibility of several ants trapped inside causing inadvertent damage to themselves and the motherboard. I can’t blame the R&D boys at HP for not anticipating this problem. In any case my computer was two years old and I decided to combine the search for red ants with a general cleanup.
At the laptop service centre, I had to firmly put down accusations by the engineer that I had spilled food on the laptop. We then discussed a wild theory about a solvent or glue used in the computer manufacturing process being ant food grade. I got my laptop a day later after a thorough cleanup.
The next day when I took out the laptop from the bag, there was a new line of ants running through the keyboard. So all I had now was a clean laptop with brand new ants making merry.
Use nature to train nature
We have been researching natural ingredients for a wide variety of household applications using a very important principle of repelling insects and not killing them. This principle used with natural ingredients has created a win-win on four levels:
- Household insects cannot develop immunity to natural ingredients. They however can get around chemicals as demonstrated by mosquitoes around the world that have developed resistance to DDT. Once hailed as the wonder compound to fight malaria causing mosquitoes, DDT started losing its effectiveness in just five years of use.
- At a fundamental level, the so called household pests have an equal right to hang around our homes and gardens. When we use common chemical insecticides to kill cockroaches we are no better than the school bully. Not to mention that the pyrethroids and other hydrocarbons used in these insecticides are dangerous to human health as well.
- Natural pest controllers repel insects and do not kill them and create a pleasant fragrant space for us.
- Once these insects have been repelled from our home, they pass on the information about the natural repellents to fellow insects, reducing future attacks. However, using an insecticide to kill them also kills the information flow. To explain how this information flow might work we borrow the idea of Morphic Resonance by Rupert Sheldrake. His hypothesis says that every system in nature has a collective or pooled memory called “Morphic field”. So organisms not only share genetic material with others of their species, but are also shaped by a “field” specific to that species. So an ant repelled by Thyme oil today is a strong indicator that succeeding generations of ants will also be repelled by Thyme oil.
The fragrant laptop
So we came up with the solution of using an essential oil mix to repel the red ants. We sprayed a piece of cloth with essential oils of Thyme, Tea tree & Rosemary and placed the laptop overnight on it. The next morning there was no trace of the red ants.
To be doubly sure I now have this essential oil infused cloth in my laptop bag to make it ant-proof.