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Voracious Insects Munch Wire Insulation, Causing Power, Signal Outages

May 4, 1989

TEMPLE CITY, Calif. (AP) _ Ants, enjoying their own kind of power lunches, short-circuited street lights and traffic signals by munching on wire insulation.

″People think it’s sort of a joke. It’s really not,″ said Chris Peterson, public works director.

The insects’ appetite for destruction has forced the city to spend $22,000 rewiring three traffic lights.

Roy Snelling, an entomologist, said the plastic insulation apparently emits a smell that makes ants think it’s food. ″Ants aren’t terribly smart,″ he said.

Walter Cuk of Anaheim-based Signal Maintenance Inc., which services traffic lights for about 70 cities, including Temple City, said almost every city has had the ant problem at one time or another.

He particularly remembers the gluttonous ants of Long Beach in the 1950s. After a three-month project installing traffic signals at 10 intersections, Cuk flipped the master switch and nothing happened.

Curbside cabinets containing the signal controllers were infested with dark-brown ants, said Cuk. Underground wires were found stripped of insulation.

″Those ... things ate 4 1/2 miles of cable,″ he said.

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