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Protect your gadgets from crazy ants

They're back. Crazy ants, an invasive species with a voracious appetite for electronics, have returned to wreak havoc on gadget owners in Gulf Coast states, where they're busily infesting -- and destroying -- everything from cellphones to air conditioners. What can you do to make sure your gear survives the onslaught?

Crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva), a species native to Argentina and Brazil, started arriving in the U.S. about 10 years ago, and their numbers have been increasing ever since. Unlike most other ants, they don't dig their own holes, so they're constantly on the lookout for someplace to call home. The inside of your phone, laptop, or tablet is a cozy retreat for these freeloaders. When they squeeze in, they can create connections between contacts, getting fried and shorting out circuits in the process. When that happens, they can release a pheremone warning the other ants in your device that they're in danger, causing mass panic among the residents of your cellphone condo, who all basically up and die, taking your gadget with them.

If you live in an area with a known crazy ant infestation, the best way to protect your gadgets is to avoid leaving them outdoors; don't leave your cellphone on the picnic table, or your tablet by the pool. If you're going to be using electronics outside, consider picking up a good, airtight case; Otterbox, Seidio, and other companies all have solid, fairly impermeable models. If you don't want to spend the money on one of those, you can always wrap your phone in a couple of layers of shrink wrap from the supermarket.

If the ants have invaded your property, you may need to get an exterminator in. But you can also follow some common-sense tips. Clean Air Gardening recommends eliminating their food sources, which include sugar, honeydew and dead insects that may be lingering in traps you've set. Make sure ants can't get into that cute hummingbird feeder. Keep flour, sugar, and other tasty treats under tight seal. And be prepared to weather-seal your home to limit the points of entry.

If your gear has already been destroyed, you may be out of luck. If debugging your gadget isn't covered under your warranty, or if your warranty has expired, you'll be stuck with an ant graveyard, and there's no app to help you with that.

Sources: LiveScience, Clean Air Gardening
Photo: Antkey