10 Replies Latest reply: Nov 20, 2008 8:22 PM by K Shaffer
Jacqui Marlin1 Level 1 (5 points)
I have had a problem with my iBook G4 and it is under applecare warranty. They just sent back the computer saying they can't work on it because it has ants inside it. How do I get rid of ants inside the case? I may occasionally see an ant but apparently when they opened it up there were lots of the critters. I wondered if there is a way I can open the case and use air to blow them out? Other suggestions? There are no Mac repair places close to me.

iBook G4, Mac OS X (10.5.2), 1.25g RAM 60G hard drive
  • S.U. Level 6 (8,360 points)
    The problem with you opening up the iBook is that it would likely void your warranty. I find it surprising that Apple couldn't deal with this--I don't know how far they opened it up before discovering the ants. If it was very far apart, it's hard to picture them putting back all of the screws with ants running around. There are a lot of screws.

    There are a couple of non-toxic ways to kill the ants if that would do any good. One way would be to put the iBook in an airtight enclosure of some kind and purge the air out, replacing it with pure nitrogen and leave the iBook in the nitrogen for a few days. The ants would die from lack of oxygen. But unless you have access to the airtight enclosure and some pure nitrogen, this is not likely to be a practical solution.

    It's best to avoid insecticides because you don't want any toxic residue and you don't want to risk any adverse effects on the iBook itself.

    It's possible that either heat or cold could be used to kill the ants, BUT you need to talk to Apple first to find out what temperatures--hot or cold--are safe. And an exact procedure to follow.

    It's probably best to call Apple and get a recommendation from them as to what to do. Be persistent. Take note of the time and person you talk to. You might even need to speak to a product specialist or to Apple Customer Relations. If they want you to kill the ants, then they need to authorize the method. That way, if there is any collateral damage to the iBook, then they will bear a certain amount of responsibility if they authorized the method.

    In reality, it seems like Apple would be better set up to deal with the ants than you are. It may yet be that after thinking it over and knowing about the ants in advance, Apple will reconsider. Finding live ants no doubt was a surprise to the tech who took it apart, and he was likely justified in refusing to work on it with live ants running around. But with advance notice and dead ants, it may be different.

    Again, you will likely void your warranty if you open it up, and you need to stress this to Apple and just appeal to them to help you find a solution to the problem.

    Good luck!
  • K_Sexton Level 1 (0 points)
    Did you submit a bug report?

    I'm sorry, that wasn't helpful.
  • Jacqui Marlin1 Level 1 (5 points)
    I placed the laptop into a black plastic bag and put an ant trap in with it for a few days. Haven't seen a single ant since then and computer seems to be working okay. It is possible the ants died in transit during the flight from Hawaii. Those cargo holds are c o l d!
  • K Shaffer Level 6 (12,552 points)
    If someone gets ants inside of a computer and can't get them out alive
    and a repair shop is insufficiently capable of handling these, you can
    ask if they will fix the computer IF they find dead ants inside it.

    If that is not a problem, and only live ants are, then you can easily
    snuff out those ants by putting the portable computer inside of an
    air-tight plastic container (those storage ones could do OK) and
    put it on something inert - or perhaps an ant attractant bait - outside
    of the computer, yet inside of the plastic storage container. Choose
    a transparent container, too; btw. There are synthetic derivatives of
    natural insecticides available; see 'synthetic pyrethrin insecticides'...

    After doing a bit of reading to see which product brand is best for ants,
    follow instructions carefully & spray some of this product (comes in
    spray cans) on a piece of paper towel, folded up, so it is near but not
    touching the portable computer which is inside the plastic storage box.
    Then close the lid. This may take some time. (CO2 cartridges could
    be used to purge air, but eggs may survive and hatch later.)

    A gardener could set his or her computer inside a similar box, and get
    that container of powered diazinon granules used for some flower pests
    or a variety of insect lawn and garden invaders, and put this powdered
    toxic product around the computer, inside the enclosed box. You could
    also put some ant attractant inside the box, also; set so ants have to
    track through the diazinon and then go back into the computer. This will
    kill any insects inside the container, the computer, et all. But, a service
    tech would probably not want to work on a computer whose pet ants
    had packed this kind of insecticide into the computer. (I wouldn't do this.)

    So, the idea with spray, on a paper towel next to the computer, inside
    a clear plastic storage box, as earlier described, could be an OK idea.
    An entomologist or botanist may find a simpler means to rid a computer
    of insects, so long as the machine can be isolated from the environment
    where the insects have been getting food and their original habitat zone.
    To deprive insects breathable air long enough could also get rid if them;
    but if eggs are inside, some bugs emerge very able to continue their line.

    (My dad is a naturalist botanist and so I have ideas, including safer ones.)

    I thought someone should at least add some direction to the question;
    other than hoping bugs will die. {They will, eventually!} Even tower Macs
    and other brands of computers, other kinds of electronics and also power
    cables buried underground, can and have attracted insects, who nest there.

    So, maybe those PC owners, who have the clear window on their towers,
    and neon lights inside, have a good view of 'a bugs life' of their own?

    Some upper-end outdoor gear shops sell 'bug net suits'... Do they also have ties?

    Good luck & happy computing!

    PS: electronics lose their allure to insects when the power is removed;
    and while they're invested in living inside a computer, it may be too late
    to see if removing the battery and AC power helps make them move out.

  • Jacqui Marlin1 Level 1 (5 points)
    The problem isn't totally solved but the issue caused by the ants seems to be lessened. Computer doesn't freeze up very often any more. I put the laptop into a black plastic bag with ant traps and left it for 72 hours and it seemed to work okay for some time. When I saw more ants and the computer froze I turned it off, put it into a large ziplock bag and put it in the refrigerator overnight. It has worked okay so far! LOL
  • spudnuty Level 5 (7,050 points)
    Wow this is a really weird problem and I can't help but add my $.02. I'd be tempted to put your laptop into a deep container, say a regular size cooler.
    Then I'd introduce some gas that is heavier than air. CO2 comes to mind. This could come from a fire extinguisher, dry ice or mixing baking soda with vinegar. Just make sure that only the gas flows over and into the cooler and no water, liquid or the like gets on your laptop. If you're careful CO2 can be poured from container to container. I'd then close the container and leave it overnight. Ants are pretty tough. A flame of any kind would verify the level of the CO2.

    I know that CO2 was used in movie special effects like in the Andromeda Strain when you want to knock out small rodents ( When the Strain kills the white mice.)

    Other more heavy gases could be used, saw Myth Busters float an aluminum foil boat on "invisible water" in an aquarium. That's here and the gas was Sulfur Hexafluoride:

    Uhh well my mind is running wild but something like that would avoid using toxins on your iBook. Then the iBook should be opened and cleaned out.

    Message was edited by: spudnuty

  • K Shaffer Level 6 (12,552 points)
    Whether or not all the potential air spaces could be purged
    and carbon dioxide fully introduced into the case's spaces
    long enough to completely resolve this issue, is a question.

    Carbon dioxide, as in fire extinguishers, is said to be not
    ideal for that purpose since it can't completely remove
    all the oxygen (and in that instance, the combustible item
    may smolder) and later fully re-ignite as the CO2 moves on.
    So, it can't be counted on to fully remove oxygen; but in a
    container, it could probably saturate the enclosure better.

    A small vacuum pump, such as those vacuum food sealers,
    could possibly work; if the item were put into a large enough
    plastic bag, and a sufficient vacuum put on the package to
    remove most the air. Since the case of the computer would
    not collapse, some could still remain. Insects are resilient to
    many things and adapt; survivors could hatch and maybe
    even be viable after several days in a partial vacuum.
    ...If the vacuum were removed, with that space where air had
    been allowed to fill with CO2, and then left for several days...

    In any event, there are some pages on DIY take-aparts of
    iBook G4s. At a point, someone would have to open it up.

    Or maybe, just sell the iBook on craigslist or ebay as a novelty.
    If the latter it to take place, stop all processes of elimination!

    Good luck & happy computing!
  • keithsumner Level 1 (0 points)
    I read that you are supposed to put some cinnamon out by the laptop, they will attract to it.
  • dblenkinsopp Level 1 (0 points)
    Hi Jacqui,

    Just wondering if the refrigerator finally solved your issue and killed the ants without any further issues - I have the same thing.


  • K Shaffer Level 6 (12,552 points)
    Another idea, possibly best as a last effort to show the ants
    who is boss, would be to hoist the laptop up a flagpole in
    an electrical storm.

    We had a large tree in the yard, on a high hill out here in
    the Kenai Mountains some years ago, full of large ants.
    Freezing (sub-zero for weeks) does not kill them all; but
    a combination of severe wind, an extreme change from
    -25°F to +40°F and a tropical thunder storm, toppled the
    tree and instantly killed all the inhabitant ant populations.

    So, if nothing suggested works or appears to do so, there
    always is something else. Some of the less invasive and
    non-lingering low-hazard human-safe anti-ant compounds
    should work; keeping in mind the life cycle of ants and at
    what stage unattended eggs can emerge as independent
    & healthy adults. Even after exposures to extreme elements.
    And they will forage; so any eggs inside the computer can
    bring forth a few stragglers from each culling of their clan.

    Good luck & happy hunting!