Ant Control Problems
Pest Control Supplies,
It is not uncommon to hear
customers say that a certain pesticide spray did not kill ants that were
sprayed. We interpret this statement to mean that their pest management
program for ants is just not working. You would be hard pressed to find a
commercial strength insecticide ant spray that failed to kill ants that have
come into contact with the material used. Even over the counter aerosols
and bug sprays found in home improvement stores and grocery stores are capable
of killing ants - but they usually are not designed to give long term control
needed to eliminate problems and are not always labeled for and are not capable
of treating all necessary areas needed for sufficient control. As will be
discussed later in this article, treating for ant problems often involves indoor
and outdoor applications and can include plants, shrubs, lawns, landscaping as
well as the exterior surfaces of buildings.
In cases where ant sprays do not seem to do the job, it is a matter of the wrong
control method being used or the important areas to be treated have not been
addressed. Ant control problems usually begin because the ants involved in the
infestation have not been properly identified.
Preventing ants from becoming a problem is often a totally different pest
management program than a control program that targets an existing
infestation. Regularly treating suspect areas with either contact
insecticides or with professional ant baits usually keeps homes, lawns or
gardens free from invading ants. This article deals with choosing or
altering ant control products and methods for using pest control products.
An ant is not exactly a robust insect that easily resists or breaks down
properly mixed and applied insecticides. An ant colony, however, is a
totally different problem. You should think of a colony of ants as a
single living organism when trying to eliminate an infestation of the insect
pest. The "vital organs" of this organism include a queen (or
her workers and her nursery. In order to eliminate an infestation you need
to attack these vital parts of the colony if you are to be successful.
Killing only foraging worker ants may sometimes give you satisfactory
results but can also lead to control failure or (in the case of species such as
Pharaoh ants) aggravate the problem and increase the difficulty of ridding a
structure of ants.
When customers tell us that they have been spraying certain areas of their home
but do not seem to be killing ants, this tells us that a different approach is
needed - not necessarily that the insecticide is incapable of killing ants.
There are two basic ways to correct an ant control problem that is
failing. The first method would be to stop using sprays while switching to
a baiting program. A second possibility would be to expand the areas to be
treated with a contact insecticide. Use baits or use contact insecticides
- but do not combine the two types of products in the same area. Contact
insecticides are sprays, dusts, granules or aerosols designed to kill insects as
the targeted pest crawls over or touches treated surfaces. Baits are
designed so that foraging ants are enticed to take the bait back to their colony
where it is shared with immature ants and other workers.
When you confront ant control problems you should make some determinations
that will help you select which types of products are to be used and also the
best areas to use the products. There are two basic questions that need to
be answered: (1) What kind of ants (which ant species) are being a pest?
(2) Are the ants living in the house (in walls or voids, underneath the house)
or are they living outdoors and are merely foraging indoors?
Identifying the ants in your home is a major step in deciding whether you
should use an ant bait or a contact insecticide. Knowing that the ant
colony is inside the home or outside the home is more important than most people
realize. Ants that have decided to live in the walls of your home or even
the soil beneath and attack above should be handled with care.
Ant Spray or Ant Bait?
Spraying for Ants Baiting
for Ants Insecticide Sprays for Ant
Once you have identified your ant and decided
where they might be living, you can begin choosing the proper control products
and making a final home inspection. Most
people prefer to use a professional liquid spray for ants. A good spray
product will not only kill ants but will also protect your property from many
other household pests: roaches, spiders, silverfish and other unwanted
Since you will be spraying indoors and on the exterior surface and grounds
around the building it is best to choose a product that will work in both
areas. An odorless or low-odor product is recommended for treating indoors
for ants, roaches and other bugs.
To reduce the amount of pesticides used and to reduce the number of times the
home needs to be sprayed, choose a professional product in an advanced
formulation. Microencapsulated concentrates and wettable powder
concentrates are your best choices for long residual action. (The longer
your application lasts, the less often you have to spray!) Synthetic
pyrethrin formulations (also known as synthetic pyrethroids) are safer than
older Organophosphates (Dursban, Diazinon) and are usually very low in odor or
For long residual (2 to 6 months), low odor and safer class of insecticides you
can choose from the following concentrates: Suspend SC,
Demand CS, Tempo SC, Demon
WP, Cynoff WP or Tempo WP.
Suspend SC, Tempo SC and
Demand CS are low odor, liquid, microencapsulated
concentrates or suspension concentrates that will last 2 months or longer in most areas where you will
be spraying. These liquids dry clear and are not visible on most
surfaces. Demon WP, Tempo WP
and Cynoff WP are all odorless
wettable powder concentrates. When mixed with water and sprayed, these
wettable powders last much longer than other products. On average,
wettable powders last about 3 or 4 months. Many people report that they
only have to spray the inside of their homes a couple of times each year;
outdoors (exterior surfaces of the homes) usually need to be treated 3 or 4
times each year at most. The majority of pest control operators use wettable
powders. This enables them to treat quarterly or annual pest control
accounts with very few callbacks. The only disadvantage of wettable
powders (over microencapsulated
concentrates) is that they sometimes leave a visible residue on baseboards
or other woodwork that are dark in color. This residue is not always are
problem but if you see that certain surfaces look unsightly after the spray has
been allowed to dry, simply wipe off the residue with a damp cloth.
Simply put: wettable powders last for a very long time but leave a visible
residue on dark surfaces; liquids listed last twice as long as old fashioned
concentrates (but not as long as wettable powders) and usually dry to a clear
When large numbers of ants are noted in or on vegetation such as shrubs, trees
or other ornamental plants a properly labeled product must be used to protect
the plants from being damaged by the spray. Suspend SC is an excellent
choice for spraying ornamental plants as well as treating most surfaces inside
of a home. If there is no need for indoor spraying or only spot treatment
indoors is called for, Talstar One is preferred for indoor pest control and
treatment of ornamentals. Talstar One is also another odorless product
that can be applied to exterior surfaces of buildings and will not leave a
visible residue on dark surfaces.
Insecticide Sprays for Ant Control
Choosing the correct product for the job at hand is not as difficult as it
may seem. The following list breaks down the most important
characteristics of the different products mentioned in this article. All
of the products listed will kill ants that have become a problem in your home or
Concentrates are listed alphabetically:
- Cynoff WP - Wettable powder concentrate that is odorless. Will
leave a visible residue on some dark surfaces. Can last for three to
six months per application. Used primarily for spraying indoors, on
exterior surfaces of buildings and ant mounds. Active Ingredient:
- Demand CS - Liquid concentrate that is odorless. Does not leave a
visible residue. Can last for two to three months or longer per
application. Used primarily for treating indoors and on exterior
surfaces of buildings. Active Ingredient: 9.7% Lambda-cyhalothrin.
- Demon WP - Wettable powder concentrate that is odorless. Will
leave a visible residue on dark surfaces. Can last three to six months
per application. Active Ingredient: 40.0% Cypermethrin.
- Suspend SC - Odorless liquid concentrate. Leaves no visible
residue on surfaces. Can last two to three months per
application. Used to spray all water-safe surfaces inside homes,
exterior surfaces of buildings and labeled for spraying most shrubs, trees
Active Ingredient: 4.75% Deltamethrin.
- Talstar One - Odorless liquid concentrate. No visible residue on
surfaces. Usually lasts two to four months per application; has been
reported to last three months or longer for killing ants in lawns when
applied with hose-end sprayer. Used to spot-treat areas indoors,
treating exterior surfaces of buildings and can be sprayed on trees, shrubs
and ornamentals. Very little concentrate is needed; can be mixed at
rates as low as 1/4 ounce per gallon of water. Active Ingredient: 7.9%
- Tempo SC - Odorless liquid concentrate that leaves little or no residue
on dark surfaces. Usually lasts two to three months per
application. Used for treating indoors, exterior surfaces of buildings
and many ornamental plants.
Active Ingredient: 11.8% Cyfluthrin.
- Tempo WP - Odorless wettable powder concentrate which can leave a
visible residue on dark surfaces. Can last three to six months per
application. Used to treat indoors, exterior surfaces of buildings and
many ornamental plants.
Active Ingredient: 10.0% Cyfluthrin.
- There are two additional products that are good for ant control:
Demon EC and Cynoff EC.
These two products were omitted from the preferred list because of their
type of formulation: emulsifiable concentrate. The residual of
emulsifiable concentrates lasts about 28 to 31 days - not the long lasting
type of products that most people prefer. Most people will only choose
Demon EC or Cynoff EC in cases where large volumes of spray are needed at a
lower cost per gallon rate. These two products do not leave a visible
residue on dark surfaces but, due to their short residual, must be applied
Before spraying your home it is best to make an
inspection of the area. An inspection often reveals food sources that can
be removed. Your inspection will also give you a chance to pick up toys,
pet dishes and other items that you do not want to spray. Picking up dirty
and clean laundry and putting them in their proper place will help control ants
and prevent them from being sprayed. Ants are often found in clothes
baskets; the ants will invade clothes that are clean or dirty.
If you feel as if your insecticide is not killing ants, pay close
attention to all of the areas where the majority of the foraging ants can come
into contact with the insecticide. For severe infestations, more than one
type of contact insecticide might be needed. The proper use of a good insecticide
dust is a great method of enhancing your liquid spray. Insecticide
dusts for ants will be discussed later in this article.
Spraying visible ant trails is only the beginning of the job if you intend to
eliminate the problem and keep the pests from re-infesting the structure.
Begin indoors, treating all possible foraging areas, hiding places and entry
points. Once you have finished your indoor ant treatment you can then
finish the job by spraying outdoors. Follow label
instructions and remember to avoid spraying areas where children and pets
constantly come into contact with treated areas. Do not allow spray to
contact toys (those that belong to children or pets), pet food and water dishes
and other sensitive items. Reading and following label instructions as
well as using a little common sense both go a long way to safely treating your
home for ants or other pests.
Ants often follow water lines in a home. Not only does the condensation on
pipes provide a source of moisture but the pipes provide a convenient ant
highway throughout the structure. Where possible, treat areas where
plumbing lines go through walls under sinks, bathtubs and showers and also in
Other indoor areas that might need to be treated can include corners, wood trim
around windows and doors, beneath heavy appliances. If you need to spray
baseboards in a home or business, try to do so without over-spraying or
saturating the area. Adjusting your spray tip from a large stream to a
fine mist will do a great job for most baseboards. The fine mist will give
you even coverage without wasting product, creating unsafe puddles of
insecticide or generally making a mess.
Spraying outdoors or on the exterior surfaces of ant
infested buildings is often more important than indoor spraying but is usually
the most overlooked aspect of ant control. Most ant infestations originate
from outdoor colonies. A good exterior treatment will put a stop to the
majority of invading ant trails. Ants trailing into your home leave behind
powerful pheromones that tell their colony members where to find shelter and
food. This pheromone trail is a series of road signs, inviting all
foraging ants to crawl into your home and (in the case of several ant species)
even start up satellite ant nests inside your walls, attic and crawl spaces.
Insecticide Dusts for Ants
When invading pests decide to live in areas where sprays cannot be used a
good professional insecticide dust can often be used to treat areas where
liquids and aerosols are not acceptable. Sprays and aerosols cannot cover
attics, crawl spaces and wall voids in the same manner as dusts. When
applied with the proper equipment, dusts travel through areas farther than
liquids. Properly applied dusts also tend to stick to surfaces. This
means that you can cover all possible areas where ants or other household pests
crawl. Dusts also give a very long residual in areas where household pests
are more likely to be found but where people and pets cannot come into contact
with the material. Depending on the areas to be treated you may use either
a hand bellows duster or an electric
power duster to cover ant hiding places effectively. There are several
good dusts to choose from but the best to use for treating cracks, crevices and
voids are Drione Dust and Delta
Dust. Drione Dust provides a faster
knock-down power than most dusting materials with a long lasting residual.
Delta Dust is preferred when a dust is needed in
areas where moisture might be present. Both Delta and Drione are excellent
dusts; choose the one that you feel best suits the needs of your home. For
more information about this type of insecticide, read the insecticide
dust information article.
Baiting for Ants
If the ant infestation in question can be eliminated with the use of
baits, by all means use baits! Let the bugs do the work for you.
When successful, ant baits are noted for killing entire colonies instead of only
the tiny percentage of visible foraging workers. The ant
bait information article describes the different types and forms of baiting
materials available and also provides tips for when baits can be used and when
they are not a good idea.
Make sure that the ant species in question is one that will accept baits.
If you cannot make a positive identification after using the information found
in our ant identification index, you can try to get
the pests in your home to accept one or two different types of ant baits.
These baits are not expensive and the experiment will take very little
time. Colonies of ants have certain food requirements to maintain the
health of its population and reproduction. At any given moment the signal
can be sent throughout the colony that sugars or proteins are needed. The
workers will then locate the suitable food source and signal the location of
their find. This means that you might need to try both types of baits -
sugar and protein - to see if your particular ant species will even accept
baits. It is also important to remember that most ants are more likely to
accept an ant bait, or fireant bait, during cooler seasons and will often ignore
baits placed outdoors in the heat of the summer. Winter
ant problems should be taken care of with a good ant bait. Once you see that the bugs prefer your bait, keep feeding them
until they are no longer a problem. Do not assume that just because all of
the bait is eaten that all of the ants in the affected area have been
exterminated. You might be dealing with more than one colony or a very
Ant and insect baits are desirable for several reasons:
- Baits tend to be less invasive in sensitive areas than sprays, dusts,
granules or aerosols.
- Contact by each individual ant is not necessary when using a good
bait. Ants must touch contact insecticides in some manner or they will
not be affected by the material. Properly chosen and placed ant baits
will, in most cases) affect the entire ant colony. The bait is picked
up a small portion of the colony but shared with the majority of the
- Ant baits contain minute amounts of insecticide or killing agent.
This poses far less possible hazards to children, pets and the environment
than contact insecticides. Many people are tentative about placing
insect baits in or around their home. It should be noted that when
baits are used according to directions, they are safe to use in homes and
sensitive areas designated by the label instructions. Ant baits
contain such small amounts of insecticides that they do not immediately kill
the foraging ants that gather the bait material!
If the ants that have invaded your home or business can be controlled with a
bait, it is very important to do so. When used properly, ant baits put the
work load on the foraging worker ants instead of on you! Professional ant
baits are designed to be attractive to the foraging workers. These workers
carry the material back to the colony where it is first fed to larvae in the
colony nursery. If the bait is acceptable to the workers and does not
alarm the colony by killing larvae too quickly, the bait is passed along to
other workers throughout the colony. In this manner the colony is slowly
exterminated from the inside out.
We have seen ant baits fail in cases where there are just too many ants in the
vicinity around the infested home. Argentine Ants are an example of ant
species that can pose this type of problem. The ants readily accept the
bait - but there is just not enough bait to kill all of the ants that
continuously invade the property from other areas. If you bait constantly
for long periods yet you cannot get the control you desire, there is a good
chance that you will need to at least spray the lawn around the home and the
exterior surfaces of the building to solve the ant control problem.
Ant Baits Ant
Index Ant Control