Pest Management Solutions -- Texas Tech University

Protecting Electrical/Electronic Equipment From Fire Ant Damage

Principal Investigators:
Harlan Thorvilson
Dept. of Plant and Soil Science
Box 42122
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX 79409-2122
Phone: 806/742-2828; Fax: 806/742-1898

Bobby Green
Dept. of Engineering Technology
Box 43103
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX 79409-3103
Phone: 806/742-3538; Fax: 806/742-1900

Funding Amount/2 Years: $140,000

Relevance/Implication of Project:
Imported fire ants invade electrical equipment and cause damage that jeopardizes human safety. Ant reaction and accumulation in equipment is dependent upon their ability to touch or bridge electrical contacts or bare wires carrying electricity. Current flow through ant bodies causes derangement, incapacitation, gaster-flagging, and release of gut contents and of pheromones. Pheromones excite colony members and attracts them to the site. Clumps of reacting ants develop, and ants pile soil and other debris in the area that may short out electrical circuitry. Equipment failure, expensive repair or replacement, and fire danger result from fire ant invasion. Elimination of fire ant invasion of components will improve safety and reliability of electrical equipment.

Summary of Work to be Done:
We propose to continue design and laboratory and field trials of a TTU-invented, electrical device, developed with support from the Electrical Power Research Institute, Houston Lighting and Power, and Texas Utilities, that repels fire ants from electrical equipment. Objectives include: (1) installation and monitoring of the latest version of a static electric device (SED) in pad-mounted, residential transformers at six Texas sites, (2) reinforce SED technology with incorporation of integrated pest management tactics to protect transformers and other equipment, and (3) develop a pre-commercial prototype which is optimized both technically and economically. This project has been identified as a core research project by the Fire Ant Research and Management Plan.