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Fire Ant Baits

How Ant Baits Work                Ant Baits Used by Professionals

How to Properly Use Baits for Fireants, Ants

Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to develop the perfect fireant bait and every year the industry gets closer to its goal.  Any bait designed to kill fireants (or other ant pests) must contain the perfect mixture of a carrier, attractants and a killing agent or insecticide.  This killing agent cannot be too strong.  If the worker ants detect an insecticide in their food (bait) the food will be rejected by the entire colony.  This detection could happen at different "check points" in the processing of an ant colony's food.  Worker ants cannot eat solid foods (debunking the myth of Kill Ants with Grits) but they can drink liquids and carry solids back to the ant colony nursery.  Ant larvae can digest solids.  These solids are given back to workers (by regurgitating liquids) who (in turn) feed 10 or more other workers, who feed other workers -- eventually reaching the queen (or queens) and their workers.  If a dangerous material (poisons, pesticides, etc.) are detected early enough in this chain of colony digestion of food, the contaminated food is earmarked by the entire colony.  If "food source A" is found to be dangerous, the alarm goes out through the entire colony: "Do not eat food source A!"  In this manner, the colony is protected.
As you can see, there is a delicate balance of insecticide and proper attractants in an ant bait.  Too much insecticide will be rejected; too little insecticide will not be strong enough to penetrate to the inner workings of the ant colony.
There are several professional ant baits being used by pest control operators, golf courses and homeowners to combat fire ants.  There are other baits which target carpenter ants which are not listed or discussed in this article.
The most popular (click on links for detailed information on each product):
Ascend Fire Ant Bait    Extinguish Fire Ant Bait   
Maxforce Fireant Bait    Maxforce Granular Bait    Niban Granular Bait

Each fireant bait has its advantages, whether it be its mode of action, areas where it may be used or simply affordability for each situation.  This section summarizes each ant bait listed:
Ascend Fire Ant Bait is a bait preferred by those who need to broadcast bait over a large area but are on a more limited budget.  When properly broadcasting a large area for control or prevention of ants, following label instructions might be quite expensive when covering several acres.
Extinguish Fire Ant Bait is a bait that may be used in graze lands and pastures.  Its active ingredient (Methoprene) is not actually an insecticide, but an IGR which inhibits the reproduction of the queen and growth of immature ants, thus breaking the life cycle of the ant colony.  This is a very slow acting product that can take 6 weeks to effectively destroy a colony.

Maxforce Fireant Bait is one of the newest from the Maxforce Baits product line, targeting fire ants.  This product contains the same active ingredient as similar Maxforce products but at a much higher dosage.
Maxforce Granular Bait has been a strong performer for several areas.  It targets ants, fire ants, crickets and roaches.  Maxforce FG is a variant (containing smaller granular size) that is easily injected into wall voids for house cricket and pharaoh ant elimination.
Niban Granular Bait is a honey and boric acid bait that is labeled for killing ants, crickets, roaches and silverfish.  Although it is not used extensively for outdoor fire ant elimination, Niban and Niban FG are both used indoors by many people for controlling targeted pests.

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Proper Use of Fire Ant Bait
Spot Treating Mounds        Broadcasting Infested Areas with Bait

Baiting for ants of any kind (at least for those ants that will readily accept your bait) has distinct advantages: the ants do all the work and very little active ingredient is introduced into the environment.  There are also disadvantages: cost of covering large areas, stability of material (rain can be an enemy) and timing of application.
The first mistake most people make (when using a fire ant bait, or other ant bait) is directly treating the mounds with the material.  Although some bait labels will encourage you to apply their bait directly to the mound, we have found many ant control programs (large and small) that fail because of this method.  If the size of your infested property prohibits proper broadcasting, you can achieve control by spot treating in the proper manner: apply bait around each individual mound where the material is easily found by the worker ants.  It also helps to sprinkle ant bait in areas where fire ants are seen foraging for food.
Never "water in" ant baits.  Many people confuse insecticide granules (used for broadcasting) and granular baits.  Insecticide granules need water to release the active ingredient into the soil.  Granular ant baits work best when applied at least 2 days before anticipated rainfall or irrigation.  Many labels state that certain baits will hold up to normal rainfall but this is not always accurate.  For best results, keep your granular bait dry for at least a couple of days to insure the ants will accept your bait readily.
Most outdoor ant baits should be broadcast over entire area (in the case of numerous mounds, severe imported fire ant infestations) in the spring and fall of the first two years.  In summer months, spot treat individual mounds that might have survived the initial application or are the result of new colonies moving into the territory.  When this method is employed, fewer mounds will be found on the property from year to year.  The most popular baits used by professionals (when broadcasting an acre or more) are  Ascend Fire Ant Bait, Maxforce Fire Ant Killer Granular Bait and Extinguish Fire Ant Bait.  Fireant infestations located in pastures or graze lands should be treated with Extinguish.  This product works very slow but is safe for cattle, horses, goats or other grazing animals.
Many baits require one pound of bait per acre.  Read the label of your bait and follow the application rates when broadcasting large areas.
Much fire ant bait research is done in the above mentioned manner.  In certain South American countries, fire ants are found in extremely large populations and are a constant danger to the people of small villages and farms.  Researchers have found that by broadcasting baits over large areas they are able to greatly reduce the ant population and help create a safer environment for the people of the area.

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