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Bugs in Your Electrical Outlet: It Really Can Happen

Suspect There Are Ants or Other Bugs in Your Electrical Outlets?

It may seem like a scene out of a horror movie, but it’s not uncommon: bugs crawling out of an electrical outlet. Finding bugs in outlets can happen even in homes that are generally clean and sealed off from the outdoors. Many bugs need only the tiniest of cracks to get in your home. If they establish a nest or find a hidden source of food and water, they can multiply just about anywhere—including in your outlets and around your wiring.

Here’s why certain bugs are attracted to your electrical outlets and what you can do to get the bugs out of your home’s electrical system.

What Attracts Bugs to My Electrical Outlet?

There are a variety of insects that have an affinity for electrical hardware, though some of those relationships between bugs and electricity are still somewhat mysterious. Fire ants, for example, are notorious for gathering in electrical boxes and traffic signal switches, prompting Texas to establish “Fire Ant Awareness Week” to educate the public about this widespread scourge. The Texas Department of Transportation funded research to help find solutions to the problem, but it’s still unknown exactly why these ant species are so attracted to electricity.

What electricians do understand, however, is the destructive power of these insects in electrical outlets and other fixtures. Not only can ants chew through wiring sheaths, they instinctively release alarm pheromones when they’re electrocuted. The pheromones summon additional ants who may also become electrocuted, and the area can quickly become so overwhelmed with dead ants that they cause a short circuit.

Other bugs, like cockroaches and bedbugs, are drawn to outlets and electronics because they like spaces that are tight, dark and warm. However, in addition to being disgusting, they also leave behind waste, tracked-in residue, and carcasses—all of which can contribute to corrosion of electrical contacts and circuit boards.

Removing Insect Invaders from Your Outlets

If you discover an insect infestation in one or more of your outlets, you may want to call an electrician, but not until you’ve called a pest control specialist. It’s important to deal with the bugs first under the expertise of a professional, especially if there’s an infestation in your walls. Using chemicals, such as bug spray, to kill unseen insects could pose an even bigger problem down the line if their carcasses start attracting a new type of pest.

With the insect situation under control, you should call an electrician for service if you’re having any problems with the outlets or switches in the affected area, or if you notice strange burning odors. It’s possible that the bugs have caused hidden damage to your electrical outlets that could pose a risk of short-circuiting or fire.

If you don’t need emergency service, you can take some additional steps to seal up the gaps that let the ants, cockroaches, and other bugs into your home. Draft-eliminating switch plate gaskets are a simple stick-on solution that you can pick up at most hardware stores, but spray foam insulation offers a longer-lasting fix.

Before using spray foam to seal an outlet or switch, start by shutting off power to the receptacle at the circuit box. Remove the switch plate, then carefully spray foam insulation into the cracks between the junction box and the wall. The foam will expand, so you should start slow and use the smallest amount possible.

Your licensed, local electrician can propose other solutions to seal off your electrical outlets from bugs, so if you find that you need an expert opinion, contact us online or call Mister Sparky at (800) 906-4577 today!

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