Ant Attacks!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Natural pest controllers repel insects and do not kill them and create a pleasant fragrant space for us.
  4. 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.

0 thoughts on “Ant Attacks!

  1. Your hypothesis on something in the laptop being ‘ant-food-grade’ is not too wild IMHO. I’ve cleaned the insides of more than one laptop and i’ve always seen them being attracted to a glue that is used to keep longish wires in place and some binding substance in the motherboard as well. if you have an old laptop to muck around with, they are most prominent behind the LCD screen 🙂

    1. That is reassuring to hear rajeev ! We thought we were on a wild conspiracy theory involving ants and HP!

  2. Hey Preethi,
    A great article on how to prevent ant in the vicinity… Even I have an army of ants in my place and sometimes they disturb my sleep by getting on my bed…for God know what reason! Being vegan , I don’t crush or kill them , though some end up being crushed and killed when I scratch myself… But its a disturbance! I often wondered how I can prevent ants from spoiling food and sleep!
    I wondered if you would come out with a new product which repels ants and is safe to humans and pet animals….. This sure is a good remedy!
    But am presently tortured by invaders like cockraoches, lizards and spiders…. what would help these little ones from remaining away from my home! I would love to know that as well!

    1. Hey Helen,
      According to our research, ants are attracted to food particles, even spices which we would not consider food. Using lakshman rekha or ant chalk usually just makes them plot another route to the food. You would need to educate them that there is no food available near your bed. As you have a cat, do not use tea tree oil – it is not considered safe for cats.
      I would suggest you do the following:
      1. Sweep the area clean of food particles, including really small specks.
      2. Eat in a designated area and try not to carry a plate of food near your bed or on the sofa.
      3. Sun dry your linen (if there are ants on them) – try to catch the sun between 11 am – 2 pm when it is hottest.
      4. Take half a teaspoon of the Krya detergent in the cloth pouch in a bucket and add half a bucket of water to it. Now pour a tablespoon of neem oil into it and swish the liquid well. Wipe the ant trails and the floor well with this liquid. After you’ve mopped the floor, pour the remaining liquid into the drains of your bathrooms and kitchen (or any drain area that you have roaches coming into). You could also use it as a last rinse on your bathroom floors.
      Many species of house lizards actually act as predators to mosquitoes and roaches, but in small numbers. If you do have a mosquito swarm like we do, there are not enough lizards to counter them. A humane and permanent way to keep them out is to use a physical barrier – like a netlon insect screen on your windows and doors. This of course means that the ones trapped inside will not leave, so you would need to chase them out before fixing the screens. I actually find them quite harmless. I have seen large lizards on some of the farms I’ve visited: they are much stronger than our city bred lizards (probably because of the cleaner air and less toxic environment), and do an excellent job of eating mosquitoes and other flying insects.
      Once your home becomes completely chemical free (no vapours from chemical cleansing agents) your lizards and spiders may also become stronger and do a more robust job on keeping pests away!
      Cockroaches are actually attracted to food, but can eat anything including soap leftovers in the bathroom, and even some of the bits of skin that we wash away everyday in our bath. The only permanent, humane solution is to have a drain fitted well that has funnel shaped sink holes – where the entry point below the drain is narrow to prevent them from squeezing themselves in. That said, the floor cleaner I’ve suggested, is quite repellent to mosquitoes and cockroaches – you can use this everyday to keep your house relatively insect free.
      Spiders: hmm, I would let them be, unless they are very large and running on you. They again are natural enemies to mosquitoes, and are quite harmless. You can just dust out their webs when they become too unsightly.
      Do try these out and let me know how it goes.

  3. This is a phenomenal article. A very common problem that has a chemical-free solution. Would it be okay if we share this on our Facebook page?

    1. Of course you can! Glad this was of value!

  4. very informative article esp the morphic field theory. appreciate your motto:repel, do not kill.

    1. Thanks Bharathi! Glad you liked it!

  5. Preethi, Your blogs entertain as well as educate !!! An AWESOME combination…just like you..proud of you girl , and prviledged to know you personally :)…your intro para and the different hypothesis and theories had me in splits.

    1. Thank you Utts! So lovely of you to drop in, read and respond – you made my day!

  6. Hi,
    Can you please let me know where can we buy these essential oils Thyme, Tea tree & Rosemary in Bangalore?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Hemanth,
      A quick google search throws up quite a few listings for folks dealing in essential oils. Apart from Namdharis and Nilgiris, you could also check out Aroma World in Indranagar, Farm Essentials in Cooke Town, Blue Hills in Sriramapuram, Mahaveer Ayurvedics & surgicals in Malleswaram.
      Do let me know how these remedies work out for you.

    2. Hi Hemanth,
      Essential oils are easily available all over Bangalore. The ones sold in Nilgiris is affordable. Most big shops sell essential oils – typically found in the beauty/cosmetics section. Certain chemists also keep essential oils.
      Regards,
      Chitra

      1. Thanks for this Chitra!

  7. Hi,
    I landed in your website after ET article about your company.Keep those articles coming.
    Come out with the solid form of krya detergent powder.All of them dont use Washing machine.
    Regards,
    Shivakumar

    1. Thanks Shivakumar! The Krya detergent powder works well in hand wash as well – we don’t have a bar format because the process uses water.

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