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How To Control Ants

Posted by Joe Jonovich on

Colony of Ants crawling on concrete floor

Ant Season is here and from now until about September you can expect ants to be the number one pest people need to deal with in their home or business.  Here is an overview of what you need to know to win the battle and what products work the best for ant control.

How big are ant colonies?

Ants live in colonies ranging in size from a few dozen individuals to millions of ants.  The larger the colony, the more ant bait and/or time it may take to get control.   The key is to treat the problem early.  Don’t wait until it gets out of hand to start.

If you are unlucky enough to be dealing with what professionals call “super-colony” ants such as Argentine Ants, Big-Headed Ants, White-Footed Ants, or Tawny Crazy Ants then be ready for a long fight.  A single ant colony can have millions of ants and can extend for miles.  You will probably never eliminate the entire super-colony, but you can focus on eliminating them from your yard.  The ant will constantly try to re-invade from next door, but it is much easier to fight the battle at your property line than it is to fight it in your kitchen.

Do bug sprays work on Ants?

Most bug sprays do not work on ants.  Ants have a great sense of smell.  They can detect most common insecticides and simply walk around them.  If you use a normal bug spray you may kill the few ants you spray directly, but you will not kill the rest of colony.  Less than 20% of ants in a colony are foragers.  Even if you managed to kill all the ant foragers, they would quickly be replaced by new ants that just walk around your treatments.

What does work for ant control?

Ants are social insects that share their food and interact closely with each other.  This means that products like baits or special “non-repellant sprays” that transfer from one ant to another are the best options.  I prefer to bait indoors and spray outdoors.  The baits spread as food to all other colony members and the non-repellent sprays spread to any other ants that the ants brush up against inside their colony.

So how do I know which bait to use?

The key to baiting is that ants have to eat it for it to work.  Ants can be picky eaters . . . if they don’t eat it, you won't see any results.  Usually, sweet liquidy baits get the best results for most ants.  Maxforce Quantum is a great option.  Maxforce Quantum kills ants in days where other sweet baits can take weeks to work. 

Especially in the spring and early summer ants also like baits with high levels of protein which they need for their increased egg-laying season.  Species such as Pharoah Ants and Carpenter Ants do tend to prefer protein baits year-round.  The best protein bait on the market right now is Maxforce Fleet Ant Gel

You may have to try a couple different baits to find one that works for your ants.  No one bait works 100% of the time.  Also, if you see them eating the bait, keep a constant supply and be patient.  If they eat it they will die.  If you see ants continue to come to the bait over several weeks, that means it is just a really large colony and those “new” ants are not the same as the first ants you saw.  To make bait selection easier we have ePestHero Ant Kits that include two of the most popular ant baits to attract both sweet and protein feeding ants.

How do I use “non-repellent sprays”?

Non-repellent sprays are sprays that the ants cannot smell or detect.   The best non-repellent sprays on the market right now are Alpine WSG and Arilon.  They each work similar, but Arilon comes in smaller more convenient packaging.  They intentionally take a couple days to work so the ants have time to transfer the spray from ant to ant as they touch each other.  These work similar to a bait, but are great for “picky-eater” ants because you don’t need them to eat it.  Be sure to always use a clean sprayer so it doesn’t mix with anything else that left over in the tank that could be repellent.

Alpine WSG and Arilon are both labeled for indoor and outdoor applications, but I prefer to use the sprays outdoors and only bait indoors.  Most ants are coming in from outdoors so this will be effective. 

How do I know which combination of products to buy?

This is where we can help.  We have created ePestHero.com Ant Kits with the best combination of products that professionals use for their toughest ant problems.  Each kit contains fast acting sweet and protein baits, a non-repellent spray, and a tip-sheet to get the job done right.  Everything you need is in one box.  Click here to view our ePestHero.com Ant Kits

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Joe Jonovich is the Lead Entomologist for ePestHero.com and has been in the Pest Management industry for over 20 years.   He has a Master’s Degree in Entomology from the University of Florida. He has owned his own pest management company, worked for manufacturers, and has been the technical director for a Top-20 pest management company.  He can be contacted at joe@ePestHero.c


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