About ant killer powders
What are ant killer powders?
Ant killer powders are among the fastest ways to deal with an ant infestation. They are a combination of bait in powder form and a slow-active poison that the ant workers willingly bring to their nests.
The reason ant killing powders are so effective is precisely that ant workers carry most of the food they gather back instead of consuming it themselves.
And with ant queens laying literally thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of eggs per day, killing the queen and her eggs, larvae, and pupae is really the only viable way of dealing with an ant infestation. That’s why ant killing powders work so well.
There are several reasons why the bait comes in powder form as well:
- Powder form makes it easy for us to cover large or intricate terrains so that the ants are incapable of missing it. With powders you can literally encircle the holes ants crawl out from, guaranteeing that they will have to go through the powder.
- Dry powder is more convenient to carry, store and use. Some need to be watered into a paste while others work just as well as dry powders.
Did you know?
Ants don’t really chew their food as their two mandibles are the only “teeth” they have. Instead, they try to break it with their mandibles as best they can but from then on they rely on their saliva and stomach acids to do work. In other word, ants don’t do too well with solid foods and prefer things in liquid, gel or powder form.
Where can ant killer powders be used?
Another great advantage of ant killer powders is that they can be used both indoors and outdoors. As most of the time (depending on their active ingredient which we’ll get into later) ant killer powders are not dangerous to humans via skin contact and don’t contaminate the air around them, they can safely be placed anywhere indoors and not affect our day-to-day life and activities.
Similarly, ant killer powders can be placed anywhere outside and as long as they don’t get blown or washed away by the elements, they will do their job. Keep in mind, however, that ant killer powders can be toxic to plants (again, depending on their active ingredient) and are also best kept away from pets as they can try to lick them.
Active ingredients in ant killer powders
This is what determines the effectiveness/safety or otherwise of any ant killer powder you opt for. So while you won’t likely find all the following ingredients in a single product, you’ll find one or more in a number of the products listed in our review section. So here are some of the usual ingredients used in most ant killer powders:
- Boric Acid and other Borates: Although mostly used against grease ants, boric acid, especially because it’s mostly mixed with sugars and syrups, is very attractive to all kinds of ants (especially Argentine ants) all through the year. Ants will usually pick up ant killer powders containing boric acid and take them to the mound to feed the queen which in turn kills her and the mound (You’ll find this ingredient in boric acid fire ant killers). As for toxicity, borates are naturally-occurring substances in food and are not very toxic. They cannot be absorbed by the skin. For plants though, borates are toxic.
- Insect Growth Regulators: These are used to inhibit the growth of insects and are particularly effective against fire ants. Methoprene and pyriproxyfen are prime examples. They have lower acute toxicity but longer-term toxicity to humans. To aquatic life though, they are downright toxic, so dispose of them carefully.
- Avermectin: Sometimes known as abamectin, this ingredient is highly toxic, however, in a concentration of about 0.01%, (which is the concentration found in ant powders), it has just low acute toxicity. At very low doses though, avermectin is still quite toxic to fetuses. Thankfully, it is not absorbable through the skin.
- Metaflumizone: Baits containing metaflumizone are targeted at fire ants in particular and can come as granules or pellet formulations. Its toxicity is really low but it can affect development and reproduction when absorbed at moderate to high doses.
- (S)-Indoxacarb: This is especially effective against fire ants and has a very low acute toxicity.
- Fenoxycarb: This particularly targets fire ants and has low acute toxicity. It isn’t absorbable through the skin but if exposure is long and continued, fenoxycarb can affect the liver.
- Hydramethylnon: Hydramethylnon is used in several kinds of baits including liquids, gels, and granules. It’s best and most effective against Argentine ants, carpenter ants, and fire ants. Its toxicity is really low and cannot be extensively absorbed through the skin. Hydramethylnon is toxic to developing fetuses and it can interfere with reproductive activities when consumed even at moderate doses.
Ant killer powder buying guide
- What type of ants you’re dealing with? The more stubborn species of ants such as fire ants and carpenter ants usually aren’t too affected by a general ant or insect killer powders. Instead, they have dedicated products with active ingredients that target them specifically. Metaflumizone, for example, targets fire ants, while Hydramethylnon is designed to be effective against carpenter ants as well as fire ants. Boric acid, on the other hand, is generally effective against all types of ants but might be slower to affect more pesky species such as fire or carpenter ants. Make sure to find out before you purchase, because, if, for instance, you have an onslaught of fire ants, buying a general ant killer might be an ineffective course of action for you.
- Do you want the powder to work against other types of insects? Many ant killer powders are actually all-purpose insect killer powders. If you encounter other insect types around your home such as cockroaches, choosing a powder insecticide with a wider range of action can be a smart way to go about it.
- Do you want the powder to require water or do you need it to work in regular powder form? Some powders need water to turn them into a paste-like substance to be effective. One benefit of this is that the paste will be less susceptible to wind. On the other hand, if you’re going to use the solution indoors you might not want to have to pour water on a pesticide on your kitchen counter.
- How long-lasting do you want the powder to be? Some powders are meant to have a lasting effect on the target area of up to a month or even more. And while this sounds like a benefit, sometimes it isn’t because you might not need them to last that long. Especially with ant killer powders such as those using Insect Growth Regulators, exposing yourself to them in the long-term can be a dumb idea since they have a long-term effect on humans even though they are safe in the short term. Check out the NPIC (the US National Pesticide Information Center) for more info on Insect Growth Regulators.
- Do you want the ant killer powder to be odorless or to have an odor? Powders such as those made from Boric acid, for example, typically don’t have an odor because the acid itself is odorless as PubChem points out. Other ant killer powders, on the other hand, can have an odor designed to attract both ants and other insects. Choosing between these two options depends mostly on whether you’re about to use the powder indoors and whether you have pets.
If you want to apply it indoor than you might want to choose an odorless powder, otherwise your hole kitchen or home can start smelling like the powder. And if you have pets, odorless powders are the safer bet both for indoors and for outdoors as they’ll be less likely to attract your pet’s attention.
- Is the powder meant for indoor or outdoor use? Most ant killer powders can work in both environments but that doesn’t mean that some aren’t better for outdoor use. Some powders have properties such as an anti-moisture, anti-UV light, and anti-heat formulas that make them more durable when exposed to the elements. On the other hand, some ant killer powders – like those using Boric acid – are toxic to plant live, so using them in a garden can be a No-No.
- Pay attention to the applicator of the powder. Ant killer powders aren’t the most complicated products to use or set up but it helps when the tube they come in has an adequate applicator cap. Most of the active ingredients in ant killer powders aren’t toxic through direct skin contact to humans, but a nice and well-working delivery mechanism can still make your life easier.
- Consider the price. When comparing ant killer powders don’t just look at the flat price of each product but consider how much powder there is in each tube, how much of it needs to be applied, how long-lasting their effect is, and take all these factors in relation to the price. Buying a cheaper product can often turn out to be more expensive in the long run because you might have to buy more of it later on.
If all this feel convoluted and complicated then don’t worry, it’s actually simpler than it sounds. And while it’s normal for there to be a certain period of trial and error with such products, it’s best if you find the right product immediately. To that end, considering the powder’s brand is also smart. Yes, branding isn’t everything – there are popular brands with awful products and unknown brands with high-quality items – but when you are new to all that, paying attention to brands is a good starting point. Here are some of the brands we’d recommend: Enoz, Bengal, Ortho, Safer Brand, Bonide, Surrender, BorActin, Schultz, Terro, and Zap-A-Roach.
Keep in mind that even though ants are omnivores they can actually be picky eaters too and may very well circle around a pile of ant killer powder if it doesn’t strike their fancy. Ideally, that won’t happen or you’ll use a more attractive powder next time, but to maximize the effectiveness of whichever product you’ve chosen it’s smart to pour it near the ant’s pathways, around their nest, around the holes and openings they tend to crawl out of, etc.
When you use an ant killer powder, keep in mind that it is different from a spray or a trap. It will definitely cause more ants to gather at the point of application. You might be tempted to use a spray on them but that defeats the purpose. What you want is for the ants to be attracted to the bait, pick them up and take them to their queen. Using an insecticide on them will scare them away.
As for your well-being, basic protective gear is always advisable when dealing with pesticides. Yes, the vast majority of ant killer powders are harmless to direct human skin contact but they can still enter your eyes, nose or mouth should even a light breeze blow in your face for a second. And if you have to apply a lot of ant killer powder there is always the risk of some of it sticking under your nails or on a small open scratch wound you’ve forgotten about. Basically, a simple face mask and rubber gloves are always a good idea.
Pets will definitely be attracted to anything that smells and looks like food. So, if you’re going for a food-based ant killer powder or something with a strong sweet smell, then you might have a problem. Instead, go for something that’s more innocuous so it doesn’t catch their attention. As for the locations you choose for the powder, while it’s smart to pour it where it’s going to be most effective, if you have small kids or pets in your home you should also consider pouring the powder on places that they can’t reach.
With this understanding now, let’s get down to the reviews of our top ten picks!