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Can Ant Bait Kill Termites?

June 10, 2021
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Termites and ants are both nuisance pests that trouble homeowners each year. Their infestation could mean significant property damage since they can both attack the wood structure that makes up the foundation of the home. Knowing how to control them can minimize the destruction they can bring upon your assets. 

So will ant bait kill termites the same way it exterminates ants? Termites feed on wood and other cellulose-rich materials while ants mostly get their nourishment from sweets and sugary liquids. While bait stations effectively lure out ants and termites from their nest, it’s important to consider their food sources, and food baits for ants will not be as attractive for termites. 

Pest Management for Ants and Termites: The Similarities and Differences 

Termites and ant species are both social insects. They build and live in colonies where there is a specific caste system consisting of reproductives (king and queen), workers, and soldiers. The termite worker and ant worker have similar functions where they gather food for the entire colony and build nests and galleries. 

Commercial ant and termite bait stations have the same mechanism where they lure out the workers. They need ingredients that are appealing to the pests and mix them with a poisonous substance. Ant traps are usually placed near their colony or along the path of their ant trail. Meanwhile, termite traps are positioned above or under the ground surrounding the home. Sometimes, homemade termite baits can also be placed

Bait treatments are slow-acting since ants and termites pick up the poisoned food from the station and bring it back to the colony to share with the rest of its members. But once they distribute the food in their nest, the poison can completely eradicate their entire population.  

How Do Baits Work?  

There are two types of bait that can be used for ant control: solid bait (powder or granule forms) and liquid bait. In most cases, a liquid ant bait is more preferred by ants since they only need to ingest it in order to transport and share with their ant nest. Solid ant baits require more work since they need to be digested so they can carry them to their colony. 

Sweet substances and protein-rich food baits are effective for most ant species like carpenter ant, fire ant, and Argentine ant. Black ants are also drawn to sugary liquids and snacks, as well as a small dead insect. Fire ant bait can also use greasy substances, oils, and fats from meat.  

On the other hand, most termite species (such as subterranean termite and drywood termites) get their nutrition from cellulose obtained in wood, leaves, and dead grass. For this reason, using baits that are high in cellulose such as timber, decaying wood, log stakes, paper, and cardboard, and lacing them with lethal toxins can be an effective termite killer. 

The common active ingredients used for pesticides and insecticides are borax and boric acid. They are both derived from the same compound (Boron) but they have different formulations. Borax is typically in powder form and it is widely used in cleaning and detergent products. Borax solutions are also used for pressure-treated wood to protect them from termite infestation. 

Boric acid is the more refined and processed form of the mineral. It is more effective in termite extermination compared to borax since it is easier to ingest. It can kill an insect by penetrating its exoskeletons and working its way into its nervous and digestive system. It can affect their metabolism and dry out their skin until they are dehydrated to their death. 

Strategies for Effective Ant and Termite Baiting 

Part of roof after attack of termite

Before deciding to use bait stations, a thorough inspection of the home must be done by pest control professionals. They can help in identifying the source of invasive ants or termites so that the bait will be placed in the right location. In some cases, the bait will need to be installed outdoors and this will require inserting the trap underground in the soil surrounding the property. 

To successfully eradicate the entire colony or carpenter ant nest, the bait system should be accessible to the foraging ants or termites and should contain suitable food for them. When managed and monitored regularly, bait stations can also be a viable long-term solution. Here are some tips for effective ant and termite baiting: 

1. Locate the source of their activity

Conducting a termite inspection to target specific areas where there are signs of their infestation. Indoor ants are likely to be found near food sources such as the kitchen, pantry, and cupboards. They can also crawl on floorings, inside wall surfaces, under appliances, and behind air conditioning and heating units. 

Meanwhile, termites can enter the homes through wood-to-ground contact. They can easily sneak in through holes and crevices in door frames, porch steps, and any wooden structures that are in contact with soil. Because of this, termite baits are usually stationed under the ground surrounding the property. 

2. Put a sufficient amount of bait

Whether you’re using solid or liquid bait, make sure that there is enough food on the trap so that it will not be quickly emptied. Keep on checking and restocking the bait for at least a week until there are no more signs of active infestation within the area. 

3. Let them consume the bait peacefully 

Once you’ve set up the bait system, you mustn’t disturb the ants while they are feeding on it. Do not attempt to kill them with an insecticide spray as it will only contaminate the bait or repel them away from the baited area. 

Likewise, be sure to remove other competitive food sources so that they will not be distracted from finding the bait. As much as possible, apply the bait in areas where there is no food so that there will not be any risks of food contamination in the household.  

4. Be patient  

Most baits take time to completely put a stop to infestations. It may take several days up to a week to attain complete elimination, but each ant that digests the bait may die within 24 to 48 hours. Meanwhile, termite bait stations need to be monitored and maintained periodically to ensure continuous protection from infestation. They may take a few months until they discover the stations and begin feeding on them.  

Read more: How to Exterminate Indoor and Outdoor Ant Infestation With Ant Baits

Understanding the Comparison Between Ants and Termites 

Ants and termites are the main sources of pest control problems in many households. While they are both wood-destroying insects, it takes a trained eye to recognize their differences and tell them apart from one another. It helps to know their unique characteristics so you can identify what kind of infestation you have at home and implement the right solution.

1. Physical features

Generally, ants have a head, thorax, and abdomen while termites only have a head and thorax. When comparing their reproductive swarmers, flying ants have pinched waists, crooked antennae, and a pair of wings of uneven size. The bodies of ant swarmers can be black, dark brown, or reddish. On the other hand, a worker ant can measure from 1/8 inch to 5/8 in length and appear red, yellow, brown, or black.  

For termite swarmers, they have a straight antenna and their set of wings are usually of equal length with distinct vein patterns on the front wings. Unlike ants, the winged termites have wider bodies and straight waists and can appear light brown or black. Worker termites can be creamy white or pale with round heads, and strong mandibles and teeth which they use to chew on wood.

2. Behavior

Ants do not necessarily eat wood, but they can dig and create tunnels and nests inside them. They prefer human food such as sweets, sugars, carbohydrates, and fats. When worker ants find a food source, they send out signals (pheromone) along their trail so other ants can follow and line up to get their share of food. This makes ant infestation easier to detect, especially if their trail is in an exposed area.

Termites, on the other hand, depend on wood for their nutrition especially since they need cellulose to survive. Drywood termites, in particular, can live without soil and thrive inside wooden structures and fixtures for years without being detected; whereas subterranean termites and dampwood termites both prefer living in moist areas and need water for their sustenance.

If there’s one thing ants and termites have in common, it is their reproduction cycle. During their swarming season, the winged males and females leave their nests to pair off. Once they’ve found their partners, they will shed their wings on the ground and look for a new place to build a nest where the queen will lay her eggs and grow a new termite colony.

3. Places of interest

Except for drywood termites, ants and termites can attack decaying and wet wood outdoors. This can include building their colonies in tree stumps, old logs, firewood stakes, and mulch. They can also be found in damaged windows and door frames, under leakages in water pipes and sinks, and crawl spaces near plumbing areas indoors. However, wooden furniture, antique fixtures, cabinets, and baseboards are more livable for the drywood species.  

4. Signs of infestation

The first sign of possible ant problems is ant frass or droppings. Carpenter ants like to keep their habitats clean, and they will usually push out wood-like shavings as soon as they finish excavating on the wood. These droppings will typically accumulate outside the ant colony along with other piles of dirt and any dead insect that they have kicked out from the wood.

Another sign of carpenter ant infestation is when you see ant pathways that lead to their food source. Follow these trails and you might see that they have begun infiltrating open jars of snacks or leftover food. A nest site that looks like a pile of soil or dirt can also mean that ants have invaded your home.

Meanwhile, discarded wings on window sills, floorings, and crevices are often a sign of termite infestation. They can also leave behind termite droppings or fecal pellets outside their nests. Evidence of termite damage can also include hollow sounds on wood, noises inside walls, and the presence of mud tubes.

Other Termite Treatment Options 

Termite under magnifying glass.

It’s important to immediately manage termites at the first sign of infestation before it’s too late. And if you’re unsure on where to begin looking for termites, a team of pest control experts can help in inspecting the home and determining the source of your termite problem. Depending on the recommendation of the professionals, these pests can be managed and exterminated by:

1. Soil treatment

Soil treatment is a preferred solution for subterranean termites who live in underground colonies. This works by filling the soil surrounding the home’s foundation with liquid termiticide. This treatment only acts as a barrier that prevents termite workers from making their way indoors.

Fipronil is the most common chemical substance used for liquid termiticides. As a chemical solution, it can poison the termites and drive away any foragers who will attempt to cross the barrier and enter through gaps and cracks in the structure under the ground. When used in high concentrations, fipronil can be considered an instant termite killer.

2. Wood treatment

Wood treatment describes the process of protecting wood from being a target of infestation and preventing them from decaying. Chemical-based termite sprays can be used on wooden fixtures to repel any kinds of pests from damaging them. Adding new coats of varnish can also help to treat and enhance the look of the furniture.   

Another method is using pressure-treated wood. This method usually involves using high pressure to inject chemical preservatives into the wood to protect it from decaying, mold, water damage, and termite infestation. Borate is among the widely used wood treatment sprays for surfaces and structures during construction.

3. Tent fumigation

Fumigation or tenting is the recommended technique for drywood termite control. The process involves putting a tarp or tent over the house before releasing the fumigant or chemical gas onto the property. 

The fumigant will penetrate through the cracks hard-to-reach places deep inside the wood where termites are residing. The toxic gas will affect the nervous system of the termites and exhaust their oxygen until they die.

Since it’s a complex treatment method, fumigation is usually performed by licensed pest control professionals. Residents also need to be out of the vicinity of their house when the gas is released since it can be harmful.

4. Diatomaceous earth (DE)

Diatomaceous earth is a powder solution made from silica. It is made up of different diatoms which are a fossilized type of algae. It has sharp edges which can instantly cut and penetrate the exoskeletons of the termites.

It requires to be sprinkled around areas where there is high termite activity. When they crawl over the DE powder, their skin will be cut open and their bodies will start draining fluids until they die of dehydration.

5. Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes are natural parasites that can feed on any kinds of insects including termites. These microscopic roundworms contain symbiotic gut bacteria which are poisonous to the blood of the termites.

When these parasites enter into their host termite, they will release the toxic bacterium which can mix with their blood and kill them within a few days. Once their host is dead, they will move on to another body, continuing the process of infesting them until the whole termite nest is exterminated. Nematodes are recommended for controlling advanced termite infestation for a long time.

Advantages of Baits for Termite Control 

Choosing the suitable termite treatment can be determined by a variety of factors including the type of termite infestation and home environment. Bait systems are a tried-and-tested method for controlling termites. They are also advantageous for different reasons which include:

  • Minimal property damage: Bait systems are installed in the soil around the perimeter outside of the home. They do not require any drilling on the floorings and walls inside the house.
  • Safe: Unlike liquid termiticides that inject chemicals into the soil within the property, the chemicals in bait systems are minimal and they are mixed with the food placed in the trap. There’s little risk for exposure to insecticide poisoning since the toxin-laced bait is buried in the ground.   
  • Long-lasting: When the bait trap is installed properly, it can be effective in providing long-term protection from future termite infestations. It’ll need regular maintenance from a pest control professional to re-bait the stations and ensure they are still properly placed in the ground to prevent termites from returning.  

Get Rid of Termites with Positive Pest Management 

A termite bait station generally works the same with ant baits where it draws termites to food laced with poisonous substances. Its success depends on finding the right locations where the baits will be stationed and our experts at Positive Pest Management can do that for you.

Here at Positive Pest Management, we have dedicated and trained staff who are highly capable of detecting the source of termite infestation. We offer quality insecticide products and use the latest technology in extermination to eliminate all kinds of pests for good. Contact us now for a free estimate and learn about our services.  

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