About ant bait gels
Types of ant bait gels
Ant bait gels are designed differently according to how brands deem fit. The common ones come in tubes that are applied with plastic syringes. Others come with baits where you can put the ant gel or in some cases, the gel is already in the bait.
These designs are often based on convenience.
The syringe types give you the freedom to apply anywhere you want and in as many places. Those with baits will require that you place the baits near ant trails so they can find them.
They could come as liquids or in gel form. What is important is that they attract ants. Ant baits come in granules too, which are more suited for outdoor applications. And there are the powdery types that can be applied in cracks and along trails too.
What are the active ingredients?
Most ant bait gels follow the same approach and work basically the same way. What often makes one different from the other is the active ingredient they use. Some of the popular ones used include Indoxacarb, Borax, Thiamethoxam, Fipronil, etc. They are all potent against ants and have delayed effect which allows them to make it back to the nest before killing them.
Some of these chemicals are broad-spectrum and will act against different types of ants; often by inhibiting the function of ants’ central nervous system which eventually kills them. Since most ants have a fairly similar neural design, these particular chemicals will work against them. Thiamethoxam, Fipronil, and Imidacloprid are some of those broad-spectrum active ingredients.
Whether an active ingredient is more broad-spectrum oriented or is designed to target a specific type of ant (for example, carpenter ants or the pesky red imported fire ants), they all work on the same principle. They are slow-acting insecticides that poison the worker ant that consumes the gel but start killing it slowly. This gives the insect time to get back to the colony where it can contaminate a lot more ants either with the food (gel) it’s brought or with its soon-to-be-dead husk.
Did you know?
Instead of killing a couple of ants, every drop of the gel has the potential of killing dozens or hundreds of ants, including newly hatched ants and potentially even the queen herself.
Still, what are some of the differences between the more popular active ingredients in ant bait gels other than how many ant species they are targeting?
- Thiamethoxam – this is a synthetic and broad-spectrum neonicotinoids-class insecticide. This insecticide damages the nervous system of the insect and eventually paralyzes it.
- Fipronil – this insecticide is one of the broadest insecticides there is as it affects almost all insects on the planet. It targets the GABA-gated chloride channels of insects’ nervous systems and paralyzes them after a period of time.
- Imidacloprid – this exceptionally powerful neurotoxin is not only lethal for ants but is also known to be dangerous to birds, aquatic life, and plants. It has a broad range of applications but should be handled with care.
- Borax – Borax, sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate is a mineral the insecticidal properties of which have to do with its dehydrating function. Essentially, when it gets on the insect’s external shell, the Borax slowly dehydrates it to death and prevents it from absorbing the moisture from the air.
- Indoxacarb – this artificially developed oxadiazine pesticide blocks the nerve sodium channels of the insects’ nervous systems. Some insects such as the oriental tobacco budworm can grow resistant to it but most ant species can’t.
Advantages and disadvantages of ant bait gels
- If you need a long-term to a permanent solution to ant infestation, ant bait gels are your best bet. They don’t just kill the roving ants, they kill the entire colony. If they are breeding larvae in their nests at that time, those would be gone too.
- And baits are slow acting. This is because for it to be effective, the working ants need sufficient time depending on how far their nest is to get some back to the colony. After this is done, they would have been wiped out in 2 to 4 days. It is important to use generous amounts of gel so there would be enough for them to take back to feed the entire colony.
- Some of these gels remain active for up to 3 months after application. That way, one application might be enough as the ants will keep coming back for more until they are all gone for good.
- Most ant bait gels are odorless and transparent so they don’t create another problem while solving one. Chemicals are known to smell funny, but none of these ant baits will leave your home smelling like a chemistry lab.
- Talking about chemicals, the active ingredients in these gels are toxic to humans and animals. So, it is ideal to read precautions before use. Apply in places kids and pets will not reach or get attracted to.
- Ant bait gels are meant to attract ants, so if you have a problem seeing lots of ants at a time, you might have a problem with this process. But isn’t it better to endure the scene and not see them again after a few days?
What other, similar products can ant bait gels replace?
Ant bait gels are not the only ant baits you can use. For example, if you want to bait and combat ants outdoors, granular ant baits are a much better solution most of the time. Alternatively, ant bait dusts allow you to puff them inside walls and in other locations that a gel can’t realistically be applied to.
There are also non-bait solutions such as residual sprays and on-contact kill sprays. Residual sprays, in particular, work in a very similar way to ant baits – they too contaminate the ants with a slow-acting insecticide that is meant to wipe out the entire colony at once. The difference is that residual sprays are not baited and are instead meant to stick on ants that accidentally walk over them.
How to determine which ant bait gel is best for you
In order to get the most suitable bait gel, you have to know which type of ants are invading your space. There are basically two types: the sugar ants and the protein ants.
- The sugar ants are those that rush up when you leave sweet things like ice cream, candy, white sugar, etc. lying around. Good examples of this type are Pharaoh ants, Carpenter ants, Pavement ants, etc.
- The protein types are the ones that like fatty foods and protein. If you have ever seen ants devouring a dead cockroach, there you have it. Those are protein ants. Fire ants are another great example.
Since you are not an entomologist, you might not be able to differentiate just by looking at them.
One way you can determine is by placing sugar and a fatty substance near their trail and see which they go for.
To summarize, here are the few main considerations you should keep in mind when purchasing an ant bait gel:
- Should the bait in the gel be better suited for sugar ants or for protein ants? Again, you can test that for yourself before purchasing a particular gel by baiting the ants with regular, non-toxic food. Generally, it’s smart to use two or three different types of baits and bait gels just to make sure you’ve got your bases covered. If you can accurately determine what you’re dealing with, however, this can save you some money from unnecessary purchased bait gels.
- Should the active ingredient in the gel be of a broad-spectrum or more targeted? If you are certain that you’re dealing with a specific type of ants such as carpenter ants or red imported fire ants, then choosing an insecticide that’s especially effective against them is a smart way to go about it. If you’re dealing with a couple of different ant types or if you just don’t know what you have up against you, a broad-spectrum insecticide might be a better bet.
- Do you want to use the gel outdoors as well? Bait gels are generally designed for indoor use as they can easily be washed away by the rain or dried off by the sun. If you want to use ant baits outdoors then it is better not to use bait gels or to look for bait gels that would be suitable for the exact location you have in mind.
- Do you mind if the bait gel smells? Most ant bait gels are odorless but there are some that have a distinctive smell, especially when applied in large enough quantities. This may not matter much if you’re going to use them in a garage or the attic but for the kitchen, it could be an annoyance.
- How long will the bait gel last? This is important as it pertains to how often you’ll have to reapply it and how many bottles of it you’ll need to buy.
- Is the gel bait safe for pets and kids? More often than not ant bait gels won’t be safe for your child or dog to accidentally consume. Still, some are more problematic than others so you might make your pick depending on that.
- Branding matters. If you are at a loss as to what to purchase, following the brand of the products might point you in the right direction. Here are some of the brands we’d recommend: Combat, Advion, InTice, Terro, Optigard, Hot Shot, Raid, and Maxforce.
How to use ant bait gels
If you are using the syringe types, you just need to apply a long strip along their trail. If using baits, with the gel in it, just place it where you often see them. It only takes a few minutes before you see them come to feast.
As with any other pest bait or trap, however, proper application is key for the overall success of the operation. As you can’t just cover your entire home with an ant bait gel it pays to first research which are the exact routes and trails of your ant invaders. Ants may wonder a bit off of their well-traversed routes but they will generally stick to their trails. Another good application for bait trails is to encircle different holes, nooks, and crevices that ants come out of. If you simply apply a relatively wide but complete circle around the whole they crawl out of you can guarantee that they will notice and consume the gel bait.
Safety is another important thing you should keep into consideration. Here are several tips:
- If you have pets or kids then you should only apply the gel in places they can’t reach.
- You should use protective rubber gloves when applying the gel to make sure that it doesn’t get on your skin.
- You should be careful not to touch or wash away the gel after its application.
- When applying the gel outdoors you should make sure that it can’t be washed away by rain or dried off too easily in the sun.