Crazy Ant Crusher Kills Crazy Ants. No chemicals. project video thumbnail
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By Timothy R. Stout
$115 pledged of $4,000 goal
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About

The picture above shows history being made. Tawny Crazy Ants, also known as Rasberry Crazy Ants, are being crushed by an ExtermGreen™ crazy ant crusher. The video shows the crusher in action. This crusher is based on new concepts in ant treatment. They are being used here for the first time anywhere. If you are concerned about the crazy ant problem, this project will excite you.

A Trap With an Ant Crusher With a Guide Strip
A Trap With an Ant Crusher With a Guide Strip

This shows a complete system. The crusher we were just looking at is mounted in the ceiling of a plexiglass ant trap. Plexiglass was only used for initial tests, the rewards will be made with opaque buckets. The long, white strip is what I call an Ant Freeway™ guide strip. The guide strip leads ants to the trap. The roof has been removed so that you can see the crusher better.

Ants Walking on Guide Strip

The video shows ants crawling on an Ant Freeway™ guide strip. Although crazy ants are named after their erratic, crazy walking pattern, the truth is that they prefer to walk in a relatively straight line on a smooth surface along a sharp edge. When an Ant Freeway™ guide strip is placed on the ground in the path of an ant looking for food, once the ant climbs onto the strip it will tend to follow it a ways before it gets off. This characteristic is used to encourage ants to come to the trap, where the odors from the trap and the trails going to and from it will then lead the ants to it.. Notice,all of the ants in the video are walking along the length of the trap. None of them are crossing over it sideways. This is not an absolute behavior, but it is a strong tendency. The guide strip greatly increases the effectiveness of a trap.

Personal Introduction

My name is Tim Stout. I have several decades of experience as a professional design engineer in industry and have spent the last several years studying tawny crazy ant behavior. This study has led to some unique, new insights on how to treat these ants. No chemicals are used; everything about this project is friendly to the environment. ExtermGreen ™ is the trademark I am using for the products coming out of this research. Green extermination is important to all of us, which is what this project is all about.

Until this project, the only available treatments have been expensive, provide only partial and temporary relief, and are so toxic that it takes a special EPA waiver to use them. The EPA only grants the waiver for a short period at a time, hoping that a better solution will come along. This project could well be the solution the EPA and everyone who has the problem has been waiting for.

The Problem

Tawny Crazy Ants present a severe ecological problem. They form Supercolonies. Adjacent nests do not compete for territory, the ants view each other as members of the same family. The result is that they can easily travel over a quarter of a mile for food without getting into a turf fight. There are simply too many ants; they overwhelm efforts to eradicate them with chemicals. It is obvious that a new treatment approach and method is critically needed for dealing with these ants.

Diversion

Since there are too many ants in a neighborhood to kill all of them, the goal becomes to divert them from your house and yard into traps.

Basic Treatment Approach This drawing illustrates the basic treatment approach.

Crazy Ant Treatment System for a Home
Crazy Ant Treatment System for a Home

Your house is in a yard surrounded by a fence and it needs to be protected. You are doing everything right to reduce the problem: your lawn is kept well trimmed. No debris is on your property. There is no standing water to attract ants. There is a readily available list of things to do to reduce the number of ant nests on your property and you are doing them. However, crazy ants easily forage a quarter of a mile and ants from your neighbors keep coming to your place. They are persistent and you can’t do anything about them. You kill one batch, only to have it replaced with a new one.

So, Ant Freeway ™ guide strips run along the inside fence edges of your property. Ants coming to the guide strips will tend to travel along them instead of crossing them. A trap is placed at each corner of the property next to the guide strips. As an ant walks down the guide strips, it approaches other ants heading to one of the traps and decides to follow them. They lead it into a trap. The atmosphere is full of alarm pheromones which further draw them into the trap.

The ants are lured to the trap and away from your house and yard by the Ant Freeway ™ guide strips.

Luring Ants to a trap

For diversion to work, ants must be effectively drawn to a trap. We use three ways to lure ants to a trap and thus divert them away from the site you need to protect. 1. Guide strips. We have already talked about how ants prefer to walk on a smooth surface along a sharp edge.

2. Recruiting, and 3. Attraction to alarm pheromones.

Recruiting

Have you ever dropped a piece of food on the ground and couldn’t see an ant in sight? After a few minutes maybe a single ant finds it. Soon, the food is covered with ants.

This process is called “recruiting.” An ant first makes what it considers a major food find and then it recruits a horde of ants to return to the site.

Typically, we want our trap to release at least half of the ants that enter it. That is why the video shows the rotating crusher pausing regularly—the pause is for about half of the ants to leave without being injured so that they can recruit other ants to come back to the trap. This is the best way to attract a large number of ants.

Alarm pheromones

The above video shows alarm pheromones in action. At one point I counted about 15 ants on a board. They were calm and had been feasting all night on some apple jelly that they were only slightly interested in—otherwise there would have been more than 15 of them. Then, I crushed one of them. Almost immediately, chaos broke loose. Ants started high speed darts back and forth. I crushed a few more. After 10 minutes, I counted 45 ants. Perhaps 5 or 6 of these were dead, so the actual number was about 40 living ants. Still, in 10 minutes, the population almost tripled, going from 15 ants to 40 ants. This increase was in response to the half a dozen ants or so that had been crushed. When an ant crusher crushes ants, the ants will release pheromones which help draw ants to the trap. This is another key component of my approach.

So, this is the new technology. This is what the project is about: guide strips, crushing, recruiting, and diversion. It is the four of these working together that are the heart of this new approach to crazy ant treatment.

History of Project Development

About 2 ½ years ago I first read about the Tawny Crazy Ants (Rasberry Crazy Ants as they were called at that time and still are by many). When I heard about their massive numbers as well as the situation where chemicals were the only treatment options, it seemed that there should be a way to kill the ants using physical, non-chemicals means. When I heard about the power of alarm pheromones to draw ants to the ants that had been killed, it seemed that that would be the key to making a trap which exterminates physically.

My biggest problem in development is that I live near Dallas, Texas and the ants in Texas are primarily found in the Houston area. The most intense infestations are south of Houston, a six-hour one-way drive from my home. I have made perhaps a dozen trips to the area to test the ideas outlined here.

Initially, the goal was to attract the ants into a trap and kill them by periodically heating the trap. The big problem with this approach was that the timing cycles were too long; the more ants in the trap the longer it takes to cool them. The trap was effective atkilling the ants that came to it, but it became obvious a more efficient mechanism was needed.

Next, I tried electrocuting them. As an electronics engineer, a circuit to do this would be a trivial design. A printed circuit board would make a simple electrifier to kill the ants that walked over them. By pulsing the voltage, ants would get onto the electrifier and then “Wham” they are suddenly dead or injured severely. However, the ants sprayed formic acid on the electrodes, shorting them out in only a few minutes. Formic acid is not only effective against Fire Ant venom, it is also effective against electrifiers.

So, I designed an electrifier with an intricate shape to prevent forming acid from building up between the different electrodes. This appeared to solve the formic acid problem, but then a new one showed up. The ants have sticky feet. This allows them to walk on walls and ceilings. It also allows them to freeze on the electrifier if they are in exactly the right location when the voltage hits. Only a small portion of the ants froze to the electrodes. However, with the huge numbers of ants involved in crazy ant infestations, it didn’t seem that it would take long for enough ants to stick to the electrodes to eventually short them out.

Then I designed an electrode that would also wipe the ants off the electrodes. This quickly turned into a crushing electrifier. In testing the crushing electrifier, it turned out that crushing alone was adequate. I had been nervous about the potential shock hazard to humans and animals from voltages high enough to treat the ants, so a treatment using crushing without high voltage electricity was a much preferred approach.

As you can see from the video, crushing works.

There is a very important feature documented in the video. Crazy ants are cannibalistic and their favorite bait seems to be dead crazy ants. My treatment scheme depends on this characteristic as the primary bait source once a trap’s operation is fully underway. I used some live crickets bought from a pet store as initial bait. Hot dogs seem to be recommended in the literature, but I found that animals, domestic (cats and dogs) or wild (raccoons, etc.) would try to rip a trap apart to get at the hot dogs. In general, crickets are less appealing to them. Using the crickets, the crusher killed a critical mass of ants. The crickets were then removed and the killed ants alone were used as continuation bait. After a few hours, there were many more ants coming to the trap than when operation started. This confirmed the validity of a key component of the approach: dead ants are sufficient in themselves to draw an increasingly large flow of ants into the trap.

Money Matters

The goal is to raise $4,000 to build and test a number of prototypes to crush crazy ants in a number of different settings. The funds will go towards travel expenses for the next stage of testing/development, for the cost of fabricating the rewards and the cost of shipping them, certain patent costs, and fees by Kickstarter and Amazon, with a small reserve for rework in case it is needed.

I have spent four decades as a design engineer in research and development and have successfully developed many products for the commercial marketplace. I will simply state that this is a very small funding goal for any research project, let alone one with the potential significance of this one. I am striving to keep costs as low as possible for the benefit of everyone who gets involved.

It is expected that the electronics will last many years. A crusher motor is expected to last about two years, although this cannot be guaranteed.

Assuming that the equipment meets its target two-year lifetime, then the monthly cost becomes the cost of a reward divided by 24. This comes to about four dollars a month for one crusher or about thirty dollars a month for a complete crushing system. This is a small price for the expected benefit of the equipment. Beyond this, when a crushing assembly needs to be replaced, it can be done so for a small fraction of the cost of a complete unit. If the Ant Freeway ™ guide strips are protected from physical damage, they should last many, many years.

At this stage the equipment is not mass produced. I can get components at wholesale costs, but not at the price available when large production quantities are purchased directly from a manufacturer. Automated production equipment is not available at this stage of development and for the quantities we are making, so the products are much more labor intensive than they will be in the future. There needs to be a margin so that if changes need to be made, there are funds available to make them. As a result, the cost of the equipment is will be higher than what it is eventually expected to become for a fully-developed production unit. However, this project is a necessary step in eventually getting to full-production status.

Guarantees:

I will guarantee the electronics and mechanical operation for 90 days against manufacturing defects. This should be adequate to expose any manufacturing defects. The equipment kills ants as you have seen. I cannot guarantee the effectiveness for any particular situation; getting that experience is the purpose of the project. I cannot guarantee operation of equipment which has been abused or damaged by anything outside of normal operation in a protected environment.

This treatment approach is critical to the environment for two reasons: 1. to reduce the intensity of crazy ant infestations and 2. to reduce amount of chemicals being poured onto the ground to treat them. Kickstarter is for those concerned enough about the crazy ant problem to help see this project succeed. The rewards are nice, but another major concern is also to help the environment.

Patents.

Provisional and formal patents applications are on file for the ideas behind this project. A lot of new concepts are being used here for the first time. In this video, you have seen history being made. It is anticipated that the patents will be issued because they represent brand new concepts and products. If the patents are issued, I will be given an exclusive legal right to use these ideas for the next two decades or so. Because of this exclusivity it is important that I get the help to make this approach succeed.

Closing Plea

This is a small project. The minimum funding amount is $4,000. This is trivial compared to the damage these ants are causing on a regular basis. If you personally have a tawny crazy ant infestation, the drop in property value on your home alone could well be larger than our minimum funding goal, if you can even sell it. Your help in making this project successful would be greatly appreciated. This includes not only financial help but also testing the equipment in your particular situation and communicating your results on the blog.

Please help me in this effort.

Risks and challenges

Risk Analysis

There are two primary risks I am concerned about:

1). Unknown surprises that show up. Since they are unknown, it is difficult to quantify what they will be. I have multiple decades of experience as a design engineer in both electronics engineering and mechanical engineering, developing new products for the market. I have never had a new product without unexpected problems appearing. However, over the years I have seldom been unable to work my way through the problems that did come up. I anticipate being able to deal with anything unexpected that may show up with this project.

2). Crazy ants come in massive numbers. The concept here is to divert them from a site such as a house to a trap which is close to but not at the house. This trap kills ants. It is capable of killing many, many ants. But, testing needs to be made for different situations, at different installations, with different levels of infestation, and under different climatic conditions to determine its true effectiveness. The only way to find out the effectiveness of this approach is to test it under different conditions. That is the primary purpose of this project. I need help in doing this. There is a risk that the problem could be too massive for this approach to effective by itself, at least in certain situations. As a minimum, though, it is expected that anything that reduces the number of ants is worthwhile. If you have a tawny crazy ant infestation and if taking part in ground-breaking work to treat this environmental horror right out of a 1950s science fiction film appeals to you, then this project is for you.

The purpose of the blog is that everyone taking part in this can work together, talking about their results, successes, difficulties, and solutions with everyone else. I am confident enough about the results to do everything openly. The goal is that together we can accomplish much far faster than I could alone.

The tawny crazy ant represents a huge potential ecological disaster to all of the Southern states in our country. The funds I need are minimal compared to the potential benefit this project offers. I am looking for people who can get excited about working with an established scientist/design engineer in providing an ecologically sound solution to the problem.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $3 or more About $3

    An e-mail thanking you for your help. This reward is for those who are concerned about the environmental damage done byTawny (Rasberry) Crazy Ants and want to contribute a little to help this project succeed.

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    An e-mail thanking you for your help plus a detailed project report at the project conclusion, sent by e-mail. The project will summarize project statistics, such as delivery dates of the rewards, a summary of blog postings, including interesting comments from the first backers to receive and use the crushers, and anything else that seems like it might be interesting. This reward is for backers who are concerned about environmental damage and would like a project summary at the end.

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    Read-only Blog access. A password-protected blog will be set up intended primarily for feedback, questions, and discussion by those using the crushers. It provides status reports as the equipment rewards are produced. The intent of this project is to get widespread user experience for help in improving future projects. This blog will be the primary method of communication between myself and users. Notice: The project ends when all of the rewards have been shipped. Technically, no promises concerning blog activity can be made past this date. However, the intent is for this project to be a learning experience for the benefit of future projects, which would make it an advantage for those using the equipment to continue posting results past the end of the project.

    This reward is useful for those desiring to follow this discussion but are not participating in the equipment rewards. Blog access is included free as part of the equipment rewards.

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Help test the three improvements discussed in the update. This reward is primarily for those who are in an infested area and have a personal interest in this project succeeding. Recent tests revealed an unanticipated problem in my equipment, although I believe I have a potential solution. This is normal in R&D projects. I have three potential ways to improve performance in this area. Funds will be used to implement these improvements and test them. A detailed report concerning what the test covered and the effectiveness of the trap using them will be provided to backers. It will probably take about 2-3 weeks to start the tests after funds are received. This would be followed with about six weeks of testing. Progress reports, including video of the results will be given throughout testing and at the end.

    Notice, I have been generous with video documentation of the project and expect to continue doing this with these tests.

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Funding period

- (23 days)