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A Guide on How to Bait Ants Successfully at Home

May 30, 2021
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Ants are a common household nuisance. They can be found in almost every nook and cranny inside the house and are mostly the top concern for homeowners. According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), ant infestation is the number one problem in American households.

So how do you successfully bait ants at home? Ant baits are popular insecticides mixed with substances that can attract worker ants searching for food. It can lure out ants from their nests and eventually eliminate their entire colony for good. It comes in different forms and anyone can easily make their own ant traps with store-bought ingredients.

Identifying Types of Ants Found at Home 

Identifying ant species is the primary step to managing infestation at home. Different ants require different methods and baits for management. By knowing their classification, you will find it easier to know what bait product will be used for effective ant elimination. Here are some of the common household ants:

1. Odorous house ant

These ants are dark brown to black in color and range from 1/16 inch (2 mm) to 1/8 inch (3 mm) in size. During the rainy season, they tend to forage inside homes for shelter and build their nests in wall cracks or under the flooring. These house ants are also characterized for the rotten coconut smell of butyric acid they emit when crushed, earning them the name “odorous.” They’re always on the search for sweets to eat.

Learn more: What Is the Best Bait for Odorous Ants?

2. Carpenter ant 

Carpenter ants are reddish-black in appearance and can be quite large, measuring 1/2 inch (13 mm) to 5/8 inch (16 mm) in length. They may cause structural damage as they prefer to build their nests in wood. They also forage into most structural lumber and crawl inside door cracks, holes, and damaged woods. They’re known as omnivores and can feed into almost everything from plant fluids and food crumbs on the floor to decaying insects.

3. Argentine ant

Argentine ants are dark brown in color and are usually small in length, ranging from 1/16 inch (2 mm) to 1/4 inch (6 mm). However, their colony is large, consisting of numerous nests built around an existing nest and containing hundreds of queens (mother of all ants in a colony). These ants usually thrive in a wet environment near a food source. While they don’t pose a health risk, they can be a source of food contamination and also excrete a foul-smelling odor when crushed.

4. Fire ant 

Fire ants typically appear dark reddish-brown and are usually 1/8 inch (3 mm) to 3/8 inch (10 mm) long. They build their nest, known as fire ant mound, in outdoor landscape areas and may invade structural properties through crawling in holes or cracks in the foundation.

Getting complete fire ant control may also be difficult since they are an aggressive species and may attack with painful stings and bites when their homes are destroyed. Those with allergies to bees or wasps may also have a reaction to fire ant stings. Springtime is the best season to lay down fire ant bait since it’s the time where they are most active in looking for food.

5. Pavement ant 

Pavement ants may vary in appearance from darkish brown to black color, and they’re commonly 1/8 inch (3 mm) long. As implied by their name, these types of ants may form their nests in or under cracks in pavements. Likewise, they’re discovered in sands and soils under patios, sidewalks, and driveways. Pavement ants are also attracted to food items, particularly those that are sweet or greasy.

6. Thief ant 

Thief ants have a yellow to light or dark brown appearance and are considered the smallest type of pests with their size measuring only up to 1/16 inch. Worker thief ants have an oblong abdomen and smooth body, while the queen has a thicker body and larger abdomen. 

They’re also commonly known as grease ant because they mostly feed on high-protein foods such as meats, fats, and greasy foods. They’re outdoor dwellers but may sneak inside homes to search for food sources. Their colonies can be found almost anywhere indoors in cracks, holes, cabinets, cupboards, and under kitchen sinks.

7. Pharaoh ant

Pharaoh ants are yellow or orange in color with a dark abdomen and measure about 1/16 inch in length. Like grease ants, they’re very tiny and difficult to control as they can breed and multiply quickly. They like to hide their colonies in humid areas such as corners in bathrooms and kitchens, around sinks and toilets, under door frames, or behind baseboards and appliances. 

They were believed to be one of the plagues in ancient Egypt which earned them the name Pharaoh ant. Moreover, they’re also known as sugar ants as they like to feed on sweets as well as other insects and fatty foods. They may become a serious concern as they carry infectious pathogens like salmonella and streptococcus.

How Ant Baits Work 

ants stealing poisoned food and escaping inside the holes

Baits are easy and inexpensive ant killers at home. An effective ant trap will lure out the worker ant, have them bring back small quantities of the bait to their nest, feed it to the queen, and recruit other workers to the trap until they’re eliminated. They can come in solid (powder or granular bait) or liquid forms.

Solid ant baits and liquid ant baits are usually applied along ant trails or directly in their nests. While solid baits are typically carried back to the nests, liquid baits are ingested by foraging ants and distributed quickly to the rest of the ant colony.

What’s crucial for the bait to work is to determine what substance or ingredient will be used. There are different approaches to creating homemade ant bait trap to help control ant infestations such as:

1. Baking soda 

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is known as a natural insecticide. Its composition contains an acid mineral that proves fatal to many insects like roaches, bugs, and ants. They also consist of granules that can penetrate through the body of pests and cause internal bleeding in their stomachs.

To create bait using baking soda, combine and mix equal parts of baking soda and powdered sugar in a small lid or shallow container. Place it in the area where ants usually pass through. There’s an option to add sweets like jam, peanut butter, or honey in the mixture to attract ants. 

Read more: Natural Ant Bait Recipes That Actually Work

2. Boric acid

Boric acid is a substance processed from borax (sodium tetraborate), which is a mineral used in most cosmetics, household cleaners, and detergent products. It’s considered a strong pesticide that can directly impact the stomachs, nervous systems, and exoskeletons of ants. It’s easily found in most grocery stores and pharmacies. 

It’s important to balance boric acid with the food that will be used as bait. There’s a chance that too much boric acid can subdue the aroma and taste of the bait, and ants may not consume it. Depending on how much ant food will be used, the bait would consist of about 3/4 of a teaspoon of boric acid.

3. Diatomaceous earth (DE) 

This is a type of solid ant killer that’s sprinkled along their usual ant trail. Diatomaceous earth is a powder made up of diatoms which are a fossilized type of algae. Its microscopic pieces can be likened to shards of broken glass that can cut through the ants’ skin. When the outer layer of their body is scratched or pierced, their fluids will dry up and they’ll die of dehydration.

4. Commercial bait 

An ant bait station or dispenser is an example of commercial bait. They can be filled with either liquid or solid ant bait and installed into the ground or areas where ants frequently leave their trail. Among the popular commercial bait traps are Terro Liquid Ant Bait and Raid Ant Bait.

Since sugar ants are also drawn to sweet food, a gel bait can also be used. Most gel ant baits have a sweet formulation that can attract ants. It can be either squeezed directly into the cracks and crevices or used in a small amount and placed onto a piece of masking tape before attaching to surfaces.

5. Castile soap

For homemade repellent insecticide sprays, castile soap is an essential ingredient that can kill ants indoors almost instantly. It’s made from petroleum or essential oils which can dissolve the bodies of the insects and eventually kill them from suffocation. To make a Castile soap spray, mix 1/4 cup of the liquid with 1 quart of water. Pour the liquid ant bait on a spray bottle and shake before using.

After you determine the type of bait that will be used, the next step is to know how to manage and strategically place the trap for it to be effective. Here are some tips to help with ant control:

  • Inspect the area — Proper bait placement is the key to effectively mitigate their movements. It’s important to find the places where ants come and go. The kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room are common indoor locations of ant activity. Baits should be placed out of reach of children and pets, but near where the ant bases are so it will effectively lure them.
  • Have enough bait — Make sure to provide enough bait and replenish it daily. Ants may immediately empty the bait and leave the area before it spreads within the colony if the bait is not refilled. Large ant colonies may also require more baits. Keep on checking and restocking the bait for 3 to 4 days until there are no more signs of ant activity in the area.
  • Remove food sources — There should be no other food items accessible to the ants so they won’t be distracted from finding the bait. If possible, apply the bait in areas where there’s no food so that there won’t be risks of food contamination in the household.
  • Have patience — Ant baits are slow-acting and take time to completely eradicate infestations. Smaller ant infestations may be controlled within 24 to 48 hours, while larger colonies may take up to a week to attain complete elimination.

Learn more: Ways to Deal With Ants Covering Bait With Dirt

Are Ant Baits Safe for Kids?

selective focus of multicultural boys lying on grass and looking through magnifier

As a general rule of thumb, ant baits should be kept away from children. Most store-bought insecticides contain harmful substances that can irritate upon direct contact with the skin or eyes. Even homemade baits, especially those that use a boric acid mixture, may be damaging when exposed to the kids. Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of exposure of toddlers to ant bait products. However, washing off the bait by rinsing the mouth, skin, or eyes may provide relief and prevent further complications.

Read more: What Are Child Safe Ways to Bait and Kill Ants?

Eliminate Ant Colonies at Home With Positive Pest Management 

Ant infestations at home can be frustrating and worrying. Fortunately, anyone can buy or create their own ant baits to easily solve their ant problem indoors. Available in solid or liquid bait, they’re generally safe and work efficiently in baiting ants to eliminate the entire colony for good.

Pest management services are also widely available today. We, at Positive Pest Management, strive to provide convenient, hassle-free, and efficient solutions for ant control. We have dedicated and capable staff who specialize in providing high-quality extermination work that can get rid of pests for good. Contact us now for a free estimate and learn more about our pest control services.