Insects’ Fatal Love for Machines
By Nandkumar Kamat
ENTOMOMECHANOPHILY’ is a term which you would not find in any dictionary because I have recently coined it after experiencing some strange encounters with the insect world. Entomomechanophily means the insect’s attraction or love of the machines and especially the electrical and electronic equipments.
This is an area ignored by the mechanical, electrical and electronic engineers and all those who are associated with the product design cycle. If they really intend to protect the electrical and electronic equipments in the domestic/office environment to the satisfaction of the customers then they would have to incorporate insect repellent measures in the design.
I have encountered a blue wasp, which singles out stereo players, stereo speakers, pedestal or table fans or any other electrical and electronic gadget where it could find small orifices. The wasp then hovers frequently near these holes and builds its nest inside. The entrance to the nest is then plugged by a white, clay like membranous material. If one inspects the reverse side of the stereo speakers then the sudden appearance of the white spots would appear striking.
When you pierce the ‘nest curtain’ the wasp may crawl out. I have no idea whether the wasps reside in these nests or lay their eggs like the ‘potter or mud wasps’.
I have found the blue wasp a terrible nuisance, often drilling holes in the wooden doors if a mechanical gadget is not found in the house. If these wasps get inside the video monitor, CPU or printer, imagine the condition of the sensitive electronic circuits in the machines. Prevention is better than cure. So I have sealed all the orifices on electrical and electronic gadgets with small strips of masking tape. That has repelled these wasps. This is to elucidate, how the insect world in our neighborhood is adapting itself to the human habitats.
Beside the blue wasp other wasps also visit the machines but if these are shifted constantly then they lose interest. A potters’ wasp built a big mud nest during the monsoon on rear door handle of our car within a few days when the vehicle was parked. Actually the wasp could have built the nest on the wooden beams of the parking place where I had seen the signs of old and discarded nests. But why it selected a machine this time? I have no answer.
Mosquitoes are ‘intelligent’ insects. They know the hidden places and the time to bite an unsuspecting victim. I suspect that these are adapted to automobile environment. I wonder where the mosquitoes which get inside an auto-rikshaw or a car say at Miramar finally end their ride? Often I have been bitten by mosquitoes in public transport. This may be a mobile variety of urban mosquitoes.
Epidemiologists need to consider this dimension of artificial vector transportation also. Because this has been overlooked in the past. Insects are definitely evolving in and adapting to the urban environment and machines faster than we think.
Ants are intelligent and hard working altruistic social insects. But these could be a terrible and persistent nuisance if you have machines in the house. The ants love warmth of computers.
If you have a telephone line connected to an external modem then the arboreal/tree ants use this cable as their highway. On the other side they find a machine-your computer. If the scouting ants go back and report about some food (such as dead insects etc) then the ants lay down a chemical trail on the cable and soon an army starts moving in. Be alert, if you notice any type of ant in and around your computer keyboard, Video monitor or the CPU. Their intentions may not be just scavenging. I have found that within days of installing a new computer the arboreal and foraging ants (both small black, and large red) sense it and slowly march inside. No research is available about such type of ant behavior.
The domestic ants which are tireless digger, excavate the crevices in the plastered brick walls and pile up sand. The ant nests are hidden within the bricks. But when the ants remove their ‘nest trash’ it could be deposited outside. If this trash ends up inside your computer then the machine may break down.
Dust and humidity are the biggest enemies of electronic and digital gadgets. Add the ant nuisance to this and your machines would no longer be safe. A careful scrutiny of the keyboard would tell you that while you work in a well-illuminated area many phototropic insects land on the keyboard. A few get jammed within the keys. The scouting ants visit the keyboard to drag these unfortunate fellows. But in the process several more ants may join the party and then slowly get inside the vital parts of the computer.
After trying various soaps and detergent solutions, Boric acid powder, chilly and turmeric powder as ant repellents, ultimately I discovered that the simplest remedy is a bottle of Amrutanjan ointment which is full of strong smelling herbal oils. Apply a thin coat to all the cables randomly and draw ‘magic line’, an ant repellent barrier around the computer table and the individual units.
Somehow Amrutanjan has kept away the ants from my computer equipments. The ants get confused by the strong smelling herbal oils which mask their faint chemical trails. The ‘Amrutanjan anti-ant therapy’ could also be used for any other machine, which has a small footprint and a lot of external cabling. Ants have a special liking for electrical wall sockets. They pile sand inside the switching mechanism and make these inoperational. The electricians have to open switchboxes and clean the sand with a brush. In most of the apartments built in sandy coastal area of Goa, this nuisance by ants is common.
A new science of entomomechanophily needs to be developed because the global warming and consequent climate change would alter insect behavior.
Humans have modified their environment. Now the insects are adapting to this modified environment. On their list would be our machines as new foraging, sheltering and nesting habitats. The age of Ecology of machines and electro-ecology has dawned. By dismissing the love of insects for our machines we would be putting our investment and productivity in danger.