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Advanced concepts in ant baiting strategies

By Eric Paysen Ph.D., Technical Services Manager, Professional Pest Management, Syngenta

The advancement of ant baits has revolutionized ant management. Pest management professionals can now attain high levels of control by taking advantage of the biology of these social pests. Ants share resources through a “social stomach” as they pass nutrients through the colony via trophallaxis. This, combined with the delayed mortality of modern active ingredients (AIs), allows penetration deep within the colony, even reaching the queen and brood.

Ant baits aren’t a silver bullet on their own, especially for many super-colony species, and require a thorough understanding of ant biology. When using ant baits, remember to:

Select a bait ants are currently accepting. The dietary needs of an ant colony vary with seasons and available resources. A bait that’s highly palatable today might have no appeal to an ant colony a few weeks later. Two colonies within close proximity might have different tastes as well.

Apply a test spot. Different ant species specialize in and react differently to food sources. The best way to ensure you’re using the right bait is to apply a test spot. Place a small amount of product in the immediate vicinity of trailing ants to see if they take it immediately. If they investigate the bait but don’t feed or pick it up, revert to plan B.

Stock multiple products. It’s a good practice to have multiple baits available, as each is formulated with different food components and can have varying palatability. It’s also important to know your local ants, their preferences and control with certain products. For example, various fire ant species will show moderate interest in sweet gel baits, but are seldom controlled effectively with them. Fire ant-specific baits like Advion® fire ant bait are formulated for these species, quickly accepted and highly effective.

Bait to scale for the population size and ant species. The primary reason for failing to manage ants with bait is an inadequate amount of product, which is why knowing your species is important. In species with single-queen colonies and only a few thousand workers, small placements (5-10 g) of gel baits can be highly effective, as is the case with rover ant species. With super-colony species like Argentine or crazy ants, more bait is often required. Product labels for gel baits describe small placement sizes (dime-sized or 2-in. lines), but you’re not limited in the amount you can place along active trails when managing large colonies. Remember: only 10% of an ant colony is outside the nest foraging at any given time. A large visible trail is just the tip of the iceberg.

Combine baits with compatible liquid applications. A multifaceted approach can be highly effective when dealing with large ant populations. In addition to baiting, liquid applications can deliver a lethal one-two punch to stubborn species, but it’s important to ensure the applications are compatible. Use products with the same AI, such as combining Optigard® Ant gel bait with a liquid application of Optigard® Flex liquid insecticide, which contain thiamethoxam. In this strategy, ants are eating the AI and crawling through it. The effect is cumulative, allowing lethal AI quantities to quickly penetrate deep within the colony. When you’re making non-repellent liquid applications, ensure ants trail through the application. Ants follow leading edges such as irrigation pipes, mowing curbs and the edges of sidewalks.

Combined with proper expertise, ant baits are essential components of modern management protocols that can help keep ants out of your customers’ lives. For more information about ant control solutions, contact your local Syngenta territory manager.

©2019 Syngenta. Important: Always read and follow label instructions. Some products may not be registered for sale or use in all states or counties and/or may have state-specific use requirements. Please check with your local extension service to ensure registration and proper use. Advion®, For Life Uninterrupted™, Optigard® and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. Syngenta Customer Center: 1-866-SYNGENT(A) (796-4368).

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