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Some Ants Prefer Savory; Others Like Sweet

By Chris Williams on April 28, 2015.

ants-eating-honeyThe main way to control household ants is to use toxic baits. Most baits are in gel form and contain a food plus a toxin. Baits are placed in small amounts along ant trails and feeding sites. Ants find the baits, feed, and also carry bait back to the colony. However, baiting ants is not as easy as it sounds.

Peanut Butter or Jelly?

One of the main difficulties is the ants’ fickle diets. Different species of ants prefer different types of foods. Some are mainly protein feeders and like grease, oils, and meats, while other ant species prefer sugary foods like cookies, jelly, or honey. You really have to know your ants or you risk having them turn up their noses at your offerings.

Sometimes when we’re doing pre-baiting monitoring for ants, we offer both types of foods until we figure out what they prefer. Peanut butter is a good protein bait and mint apple jelly works well for ants with a sweet tooth. Or, we can mix the two… peanut butter and jelly! Sometimes, the food that the ants are feeding on in your home will give you a clue as to their taste preference. If you’re buying commercial bait stations, many of them contain both kinds of food bait.

Then, just when the ants are finally taking your bait, suddenly they change their minds. They’re no longer interested. What happened? Ants are notorious for changing their food preferences without warning. The food preferences of a particular ant species can change depending on the time of year, colony stress, and colony age. To work, an ant baiting program has to be flexible.

Ants in the Big Apple Prefer People Junk Food

North Carolina State University researchers investigated the role of human foods in different ant diets in Manhattan. Ants, especially the pavement ant, that live around sidewalks in the Big Apple have carbon isotope levels similar to humans since it appears they largely share the same diet of junk food. In contrast, New York ants that live in parks had lower levels of this isotope. Some city ants choose people fast food over other food options. As a result, they are performing a service of urban waste removal. The researchers feel that further study might actually find urban ant species that could be used to help clean up city garbage.

If ants are finding their way into your home and you can’t seem to get rid of them, give Colonial Pest a call. Our technicians know their ants. We’ll find a bait strategy that works. And, our work is guaranteed. See For Pesky Ants, Baits are the Better Choice.

Photo credit: Fractality / Foter / CC BY

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