Baits are insecticides mixed with materials that attract worker ants looking for food. They are a key tool for managing ants and the only type of insecticide recommended in most situations. |
Ants are attracted to the bait and recruit other workers to it. Workers carry small portions of the bait back to the nest where it is transferred mouth-to-mouth to other workers, larvae, and queens and other reproductive forms to kill the entire colony. Bait products must be slow-acting so that the foraging ants have time to make their way back to the nest and feed other members of the colony before they are killed. When properly used, baits are more effective and safer than sprays.
Baits are available in several different forms. For residential users, the most readily available forms are solids or liquids that are prepackaged into ant stakes or small plastic bait station containers. These products are easy to use and are quite safe if kept away from children or pets. Some products dry up rapidly and must be frequently replaced to control a large population. A few boric acid products are liquids that are poured into containers or applied as drops on cards.
Ant baits contain either carbohydrates (e.g., sugars), proteins, or oils, or some combination of these as attractants along with an active ingredient (toxicant). Different attractants are more effective against different species of ants and at different times of the year. In the case of Argentine ants, sweet baits are attractive year-round. Protein baits are attractive primarily in the spring because they are brought back to the colony to feed the developing brood. In the case of fire ants, they prefer baits containing oils. Offering a small quantity of each kind of bait and observing which one the ants prefer is a good way to determine what to use.
To improve bait effectiveness, be sure to remove any particles of food or other attractive material from cracks around sinks, pantries, and other ant-infested areas. For the most effective and economical control, use baits only when there is an ant problem. Treatments made in late winter and early spring when ant populations are just beginning to grow will be most effective. Ant preferences can change throughout the year; to increase your success rate, set out different formulations of various bait products in a single baiting station, giving ants a choice. Do not use any insecticide sprays while you are using baits. Check and refresh bait stations regularly. Baits can dry up or become rancid and unattractive over time.
Use baits primarily outdoors. Use indoors only if there is a serious infestation and you can't find the spot where they are entering the building, otherwise you could actually attract ants indoors. Outdoor baits draw ants out of buildings. Place bait stations where ants can easily find them, but avoid placing them in areas that are accessible to small children and pets. Place baits near nests, on ant trails beneath plants, or along edges where ants travel. Space them every 10 to 20 feet outside around the foundation and at nest openings if they can be found. Effectiveness of baits will vary with ant species, bait material, and availability of alternative food. To achieve wide distribution of the bait so the entire colony will be killed, the bait toxicant must be slow acting. Control with baits is not immediate and may take several weeks or more to be complete.
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