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For Pesky Ants, Baits are the Better Choice

By Chris Williams on May 1, 2014.

Question

For the last two weeks, we’ve had ants on again/off again in our house. I spray the areas where I see them and they’re gone for a couple of days, but then they pop up in a new place and I spray again, and so on. How can I stop this cycle? N.N., Georgetown, MA

Answer

First, stop spraying every time you see an ant. We don’t know what kind of ants you are dealing with, but many ants react to pesticides by either quickly moving their colonies or breaking them up into even more colonies. Spraying the ants can make a bad situation worse.

Ants are easily repelled by pesticide sprays which is one reason why ant baits have become so popular as a control method. Baits don’t repel the ants. We place ant baits inside cracks and crevices or inside small tamper-resistant bait stations. Ant baits are a better choice for people, too. With baits, there is no odor and no insecticide in the air or on surfaces for your family to come in contact with.

The ants find the toxic food bait, feed on it, and carry it back to the colony where they feed it to other members, including the queen. That’s another advantage that baits have over spraying. Pesticide sprays can kill the foraging ants and repel them from an area but they do not affect the rest of the colony, which is why you see ants again a couple of days later.

Ant baits work slowly though, which is what we want. If the toxic bait killed the ants as soon as they ate it, they would not be able to share it with the colony. So, if you still see foraging ants soon after baits are placed, don’t worry. It usually takes several days to start seeing results from most ant baits.

We Place the Bait, You Help it Work

You can help assure the effectiveness of professional ant baits by doing the following:

  • Allow the ants access to the bait. Don’t block their path.
  • Don’t squash any of the ants.
  • Don’t use pesticides or household chemicals or sprays near the baits.
  • Clean up food crumbs that might attract the ants. You want the bait to be their only food source.
  • Don’t move or remove any of the bait placements.

 

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