Ask the Expert - How to control ants

Question: I’m really struggling to control ants in domestic accounts. Customers don’t want smelly, strong chemicals used around their house but when I use ant baits, heaps of ants attack the baits but customers are not happy because the ant problem is not sorted. I get lots of service calls which make ant treatments too expensive. Please help.

Print page How to control ants; how to kill ants

Ant management is by far the most complicated pest control activity you will ever face.


Thanks Terry – great question. 

Ant management is by far the most complicated pest control activity you will ever face.  In part, this is due to the sheer numbers in colonies but also the vast complexities of where the nest’s set up.  Australia has over 1600 described species of ants - no single application controls all ants.  

Get to know the enemy…

Baits kill massive numbers of ants but they leave no residual.  Clear an area of activity and it is re-infested by ant colonies from the surrounding environment.  Often described as a ‘vacuum effect’, you literally suck new colonies into the void.  For consistent results, improve your ant knowledge and in most cases, use a combination of approaches to target their vulnerable stages.

Why improve your knowledge of ants? 

Well, the greatest developments in ant management are target-specific baits which are excellent at controlling very large numbers of nuisance ants. 

The difficulty is, not all ants feed on all baits, knowing their preference is the key to effective control.  To complicate matters, certain baits are more attractive at different times of the year.  It depends on the developmental stage of the colony and what foods they need. 

When all goes well, ants do the hard work, delivering the killing agent directly to the colony.

Colony elimination takes time – help customers understand

Ants are liquid feeders and cannot consume solids.  Feed them solid granule bait and they’ll carry it back to the colony for developing larvae.  Larvae have enzymes to dissolve solids into liquid which is fed through oral secretions to the rest of the colony. 

This process takes time but the transfer of the active ingredient decimates the colony and can completely destroy the colony’s ability to grow and survive. 

Unfortunately, customers still see ant activity for a considerable period which is when the phone rings for a service call. Help them understand the process or take action to deliver instant results. 

Speed up the process…

To overcome the delay, use a good residual barrier product for ant management.  This achieves very fast control of the visible ant infestation.  Customers are satisfied - no visible ants– it’s a good result! 

Alongside a barrier treatment, employ baits to control ants that are in the building’s cavities, where sprays can’t reach.  Set baits where ants can get easy access but your customer doesn’t disturb them.  Show customers the bait and explain what it’s doing.  This gets customer engagement and they’re more likely to work with you on the problem.  The other important area to employ baits is the ground area outside your residual barrier. 

Broadcast granular baits are foraged by worker ants and carried back to the colony.  The activity of your broadcast baiting significantly enhances protection of the perimeter of your account.  By reducing ants present in the immediate environment, you vastly improve the performance of the critical external ant barrier.

Can baits be used by themselves without residual treatments? 

Well yes, they can.  Sometimes, it’s the only advisable option for ant management.  For example, by its very nature, a Hospital ant or Pharaoh ant needs a bait-only approach.  Colonies of Pharaoh ants contain multiple queens, if they are disturbed, the queens split from one distinct colony into many scattered colonies.  Your ant problem has just multiplied exponentially.  Due to the extremely sensitive nature of a hospital, a bait-only approach is often the only valid option.

Green Headed Ants are controlled quickly and easily with a broadcast application of bait. Baiting overcomes the cryptic nature of this ant’s nest, as toxic food is taken directly to the heart of the nest.  You can’t achieve this colony penetration with a spray. 

Tackling Supercolonies…

Originally an African native, the Coastal Brown Ant is very difficult to control.  Multiple queens create enormous, interconnected supercolonies which can extend over many hectares. 

Baiting the entire infestation is very unlikely but you can significantly impact ant numbers.  The area cleared becomes re-infested by the surrounding supercolony but in the time taken, customers have some respite.

Bayer Recommends…

In most of Southern Australia, cold temperatures significantly limit ant activity and a single application may be enough for season-long control.  In Northern areas, implement a regular perimeter barrier service for 100% effective control.  My recommendation is 3-monthly perimeter services which allow you to re-connect with your customer and make sure they are satisfied.  You’ll find it easy to grow your customer base by providing them with highly effective ant control where the opposition is failing to deliver.