Types of ant baits
- Ant gel baits. Gel baits are intended to be spread around the corners and edges of rooms or cabinets that are frequently traversed by ants. The benefit of the gel form is that it allows for an easy and precise application on specific locations. You can encircle some of the entry points of the worker ants into your home or you can place the gel around some of the previously raided food sources of the ants.
- Ant liquid baits. Similarly to gel baits, liquid ones are meant to be applied to wide and specific locations. You can spray a liquid ant bait anywhere, particularly in or around the ants’ holes and entry points into your home.
- Ant granular baits. Granular baits are typically best used outdoors. Their granular form is ideal for spreading in or on top of the soil in your garden or yard. Granular ant baits are typically made to be harmless to mammals and birds as you don’t want your pets, kids or non-pest wildlife to be damaged by them. They are also typically water-resistant or need water to be better distributed in the soil. These baits have little application indoors aside from putting them in plant pots.
- Ant powders. A lot of people think that ant bait powders are meant to be spread over wide areas indoors – that’s far from true. Ant powders are meant to be blown inside walls and other unreachable places using a powder blower device. Doing this ensures that you won’t just reach the unreachable spots but that the powder will actually cover a lot of surface area as it settles down. Keep in mind, however, that these powders are still insecticides so you shouldn’t blow them with your mouth – use a powder blower, as well as protective gear such as a face mask and goggles.
Active ingredients in ant baits
Of course, just as there are thousands of different types of ants there are also many different active ingredients you can use. Some are broad-spectrum insecticides that are meant to target as many ant species (and other insects as well) as possible, while other insecticides are designed to target specific types of ants that are known to be more resistant.
Species like carpenter ants, pharaoh ants, and the infamous red fire ants usually have special insecticides and products designed to target them in particular.
Here are some of the most popular active ingredients you might find in commercial ant baits:
- Bifenthrin – moderately toxic to humans and mammals when ingested but with no listed long-term exposure effects.
- Borate – an inorganic insecticide with a low level of toxicity and no long-term effects.
- Cypermethrin – moderately toxic to humans and mammals when ingested. It’s also listed by the EPA as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans”.
- Hydramethylnon – slightly toxic upon direct contact and listed in the California Proposition 65 as carcinogenic.
- Lambda-cyhalothrin – moderately toxic to humans and mammals, and very toxic to honey bees.
- Pyrethrin – slightly toxic upon contact and with no long-term exposure effects.
- Silica gel – very low toxicity levels, however, it is listed by the California Proposition 65 as carcinogenic when inhaled in large quantities and/or over a large period of time.
Of course, there are lots of other types of insecticides and pesticides that can be used in ant baits. Whichever you choose, it’s always strongly advisable to use protective gear such as gloves, goggles, and a face mask.
Additionally, keeping pets and kids away from the bait is always a must – even the least toxic ant bait can cause physical problems in a mammal when ingested or inhaled in large enough quantities or over prolonged periods of time.
Ant bait buying guide
So, to make the best choice you can, here are several steps and considerations to keep in mind before making a purchase:
- Consider the type of ant you’re trying to exterminate. For example, if you’re having problems with carpenter ants, granular ant baits containing abamectin as their active ingredient are a popular and effective choice. If you are battling red imported fire ants instead, baits using hydramethylnon and/or an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR-Methoprene) are usually the best way to go about it. More often than not you will probably want to choose a broad-spectrum insecticide, but if you can, researching the type of ant you’re having and what works best against it is advisable.
- Consider the situations you’re going to use the bait in. As we said – granular ant bait is usually best for outdoor purposes, while liquid, gel, and powder ant baits are preferable for most indoor situations. If you know or suspect that you have ants in your walls, a powder bait should be the way to go, while gel and liquid ant baits are perfect for targeted treatments of specific open areas.
- Consider the presence of kids or pets. If you have pets or small children, choosing the right bait is important. Properly applying the bait in locations where your kids or pets can’t reach is important as well, but if possible try to pick a bait that’s as harmless for mammals as possible. Pets, in particular, can easily smell and notice the bait, and then try to eat it. Also, keep in mind that faster acting baits will likely leave a lot of dead insects lying around your home. Consuming these insects can also lead to contamination and poisoning.
- Consider where in your home you’ll need to use the bait. Baits with strong insecticides as their active ingredients are best not used near food produce. Unfortunately, the kitchen is often a place where you need to use ant bait. So, while there are a lot of safety guidelines that need to be followed when using ant baits near food, it’s also smart to pick an insecticide that’s as safe as possible anyway.
- Consider how much of the insecticide you’re going to need. Quantity matters. And while the main benefit of slow-acting ant baits is that even a bit of them can wipe out huge chunks of a colony, the fact remains that ants reproduce with astonishing speeds so you’ll often need a fair bit of insecticide to get the job done.
- Consider using several types of ant bait. As we mentioned above, ants have varying tastes, as well as different resistances to some active ingredients. So, using at least several baits and insecticides simultaneously can drastically increase the speed of the whole process.
- Consider the overall price. While we certainly wouldn’t recommend putting price over effectiveness because an ant infestation that’s left unchecked for long enough can be quite costly, the overall price is still to be considered. When comparing the prices of different products don’t just look at the flat number but instead consider how many treatments each bait will be good for, how long they are going to last, how effective they’ll be, and how all this correlates to their price.
- Consider the brand of the ant baits. Branding isn’t everything but if you don’t have much else to go on it can still point you in a relatively smart direction. Some of the brands we’d recommend you steer towards include: Combat, Terro, HomePlus, Maxforce, Hot Shot, Victor, and Spectracide.
Ant killer bait usage tips
- Locate the most common ant trails. Sure, ant scouts will often traverse unknown grounds in search for new food sources but it’s still much more efficient to place the bait on known ant trails. This will ensure that lots of ant workers will find it and bring it back home to their queen and her offspring.
- Plant the ant bait on any hole, crack or crevice you can find in your home, even if you’re not sure whether ants go through it.
- Keep an eye on the bait and once it’s been consumed replace it immediately. Not only will this increase the speed with which you’ll be able to deal with the colony but leaving a trail “un-baited” for long can cause the ants to abandon it entirely and form a new trail.
- If the bait is left intact, move it to another location and try using a new bait together with it. Either the ants haven’t found it or they are just not interested in that particular bait.
- When baiting outdoors, you should use water-resistant ant bait granules or bait stations to keep the bait safe from the rain and the elements.
- Do not use ant repellents or fast-killing insecticides near the bait as this will ruin their effectiveness. You can use repellents in places that are further away from the baits to try and force the ants to switch trails but that’s usually pointless – you use baits there as well.
Don’t place ant baits directly on top of an ant hill. Instead, bait near the ant hill as this way it will be much more likely that the ants will find the bait.
- Clean your home and property of all other possible food sources. The fewer other food alternatives there are, the more likely the ants will be to go to the ant baits.
- Use protective gear when applying ant baits, particularly when using ant bait powders. Things such as gloves, a face mask, and goggles may seem unnecessary at times but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- When choosing the locations for ant baits don’t just think about their effectiveness but keep safety in mind as well. If you have kids or pets, it’s best to bait locations that are unreachable for them.
- Be careful not to wash the bait away while cleaning.
Other ant-killing products to consider
- Residual sprays are not baited, so the ants won’t be drawn to them. Instead, you’ll have to use the spray in such places where the ants will have to pass through – nooks, holes, crevices, and other entry points into your home where you know ants go through.
- Residual sprays are not consumed directly by the ants. Instead, the ants get them on their legs and body as they walk over them. This means that the insecticide will either have to pass through the external shell of the ant (which usually involves compromising the shell itself and hampering the ant’s ability to absorb moisture from the air) or the ant will consume the insecticide as it cleans itself. Either way, once the ant is contaminated and it returns to the colony, it will usually contaminate the other ants through direct contact, with its feces, as well as with its corpse. This is usually less effective than ant baits as with them the ants will often bring the bait itself to the colony as well, thus allowing much more ants to get contaminated at once.
All in all, ant baits seem like the more effective products in the majority of situations. Residual ant-killing sprays are not without their uses, however, as they can usually last for weeks without any need for reapplication. This means that you can spray a large quantity of such a spray in your home and leave it like this for a couple of weeks. This is a good option if you are planning on traveling anyway or if you don’t leave the house at the moment.