Ants on a Computer
September 5, 2006 9:08 AM   Subscribe

I believe there are ants living in my laptop.

This morning, I saw three ants crawling on, around, and INTO my computer (through the USB port or audiojack, I'm not sure which). How can I get rid of them? Our house currently has a bit of an ant problem and we've been using Terro (Toro?) to get rid of them, but naturally I am hesitant to use a sticky poison near my computer.

For the record, it's an iBook G4.
posted by Flamingo to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've seen this happen to a Router, you might have spilled some soda and its worked its way into your laptop, causing them to be attracted to it. At least, thats what it was with my router. I would just try and solve the ant problem with some traps.

Unless you REALLY want to disassemble your computer to track them down.
posted by gregschoen at 9:12 AM on September 5, 2006

Ants live in the nests they borrow underground, so there's no possibility they are genuinely inhabiting your computer. Unless there is a significant food supply in your computer (i.e. you're really bad about eating over it and it's full of crumbs, or you spilled soda on in and there is a dried pool of sticky sweetness inside) it is also unlikely they are doing anything other than exploring around and happening to spend some time in there.

Ants range around, exploring, and leaving a pheromone trail so they can return to their nest. If they find a food supply, they eat their fill (and then some), return to the nest, feed others in the nest with food they regurgitate, and give the signal that there is a food supply to be exploited. Soon a trail of ants is going back and forth. This is how baits like Terro work, they utilize a slow poison, giving ants time to return to the nest, start poisoning the colony, and give the signal so that soon the whole nest is wiped out.

Any ants will either leave the computer or die in there. Either way it's unlikely it will do any harm (though they say the first computer bug was a literal "bug...") Short of taking it apart to clean it out there isn't much you can do. Putting any sort of bait on or near the computer will only make the problem worse by attracting ants to it. Make sure the area where it usually sits is clean and free of food debris.

I used to swear by Terro (it is cheapest and it works) but I've come to prefer the self-contained, enclosed baits they sell because they're less messy.
posted by nanojath at 9:24 AM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

The other reason they may be swarming in the computer is because it's warm, or has a pleasant EM field, or whatever aspect of electronics it is that manages to attract bugs. If you turn the thing off and let it sit cool for a day, I bet the bugs will have all evacuated.
posted by blueshammer at 10:12 AM on September 5, 2006

Many small ants mistake the EM field of electrical devices as something living. Leave it off for awhile and set out ant traps around your computer desk. Ideally you want to leave the computer completely off when it is unattended.
posted by JJ86 at 10:16 AM on September 5, 2006

I had an ant colony living in my desktop Mac hard drive once. The drive started getting flaky so I opened up the case and saw that ants had chewed through the seal on the hard drive and were marching in and out of the drive. So anything is possible as far as where ants will live. And they CAN damage your computer!
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 10:25 AM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's probably them going after the crumbs under your keyboard, at least that's what it was with my iBook G4 with ants. I took off the keyboard [it's super easy] and got the crumbs out of it and then also cleaned out anything that seemed remotely foodish and wiped down the outside to get any food tasting stuff of of it. I put an ant trap behind it and made sure to bring my coffee mugs and any other foodish utensils and/or dishes down with me as soon as I used them. They didn't seem to last long after that.
posted by jessamyn at 10:39 AM on September 5, 2006

if you're leaving it on a desk, wash the desk with soap and water ... (not the laptop!) ... this will destroy the pheremone trails the ants are following to get to your laptop ... and make sure there aren't crumbs or something in your computer
posted by pyramid termite at 11:03 AM on September 5, 2006

You need a debugger.

Seriously though, move the laptop or clean around it to erase their little chemical trails and you should be fine.
posted by krisjohn at 3:47 PM on September 5, 2006

I once found an ant crawling in between my Apple wireless keyboard. I used a canned air duster to blow it out onto the desk.

Don't forget to turn off your computer before you try this, or anything else recommended here.
posted by invisible ink at 11:17 PM on September 5, 2006

Wipe down your work-station, remove sources of water from near-by and, if all else fails, plaster a big "Anthill Inside" sticker on the PC case.

(Sorry, couldn't resist).
posted by ninazer0 at 3:03 AM on September 6, 2006

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