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ANT CONTROL – THE BIGGEST HEADACHE

Bayer’s Jim Westhead shares his thoughts on the best approach to tackling ant jobs.

When it comes to nuisance pests, ants are definitely high on the frustration list. Ant infestations are hard to control and it’s this difficulty that can sometimes lead to dissatisfied customers who just want them gone.

“Ants present pest managers with some of the greatest challenges in achieving customer satisfaction, whether a domestic or commercial job,” Bayer’s territory sales manager, Jim Westhead, explains. “Callbacks and repeated ant control treatments can also drain any profit a pest manager might have made from the original job, so it is imperative you discuss your customer’s expectations of the success when controlling an infestation, prior to starting the job.”

Mr Westhead suggests pest managers thoroughly inspect the site to determine the level of infestation and attempt to identify the ant species – particularly whether it’s a species with one queen or multiple queens, as this will determine the treatment plan.

“Ants are social insects with all members committed to the success of the colony. We cannot view them as individuals because the colony is one living organism – whether 1000, 10,000 or 100,000 members. It is important pest managers understand this, as well as other ant behaviours, if they want to succeed in eradicating an infestation,” Mr Westhead said.

Ants have a number of attributes that give them flexibility in exploiting resources and adapting to the environment: they utilise chemical communication within the colony that allows for a rapid adaptation of behaviour, a broad diet which allows them to diversify their foraging activity, and a tough exoskeleton that allows them to survive in the open environment.

“These complex ant behaviours and how the ants may respond to a potential treatment must be understood and considered when determining the approach,” said Mr Westhead, who believes that moving away from a broad- spectrum pest treatment to a targeted approach is best.

“For example, various species can create new colonies through budding, where a reproductive or reproductives leave the main colonies with some workers to set up a new nest. Argentine ants (Linepithema humilis) and coastal brown ants (Pheidole megacephala) form super colonies in this manner. This budding can also occur when a colony is under threat or disturbed by predators or during a treatment. Pharaoh ants are a species that can readily fragment this way during an insecticide treatment.

“Ants also employ some of the most complex forms of chemical communication in the insect world,” Mr Westhead explained. “They establish connections between their nest and food sources by depositing chemical pheromone trails along surfaces, which are short-lived and need to be replaced. As long as the food stays available, ants will continue to lay pheromones making the trails stronger.”

According to Mr Westhead, there are three key strategies when it comes to controlling ants: placing a treatment/ barrier between the colony and the structure; direct treatment of the infesting colony; and indirect treatment of the colony by the use of bait toxicants. “The use of baits has become one of the major tools in a pest manager’s arsenal for ant control – in fact, it is rare that a full ant treatment does not involve baiting as part of the treatment.”

Doug McCartin, owner of Pest Brigade, based on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, has been a professional pest manager for over 15 years, and has used Bayer’s Maxforce Quantum since it was launched.

“On domestic jobs, I prefer to spray externally, dust the roof void, then use Maxforce Quantum Ant Bait internally to treat any ants that may have been flushed. It ensures any marauding ants or scouts will pick up the bait and take it to the nursery and feed the larvae in the nest,” Mr McCartin said.

“It’s important to use the bait in the laundry, bathroom and kitchen because the ants are continually seeking water – there are plenty of ant stations, such as Ant Cafés, that the distributors sell, that are a great, safe way to set up the bait and keep doing the job after I’ve gone.

“On some jobs I will apply the bait first, particularly if there are heavy trails of ants. I treat the trailing, foraging ants, because they invariably feed on the drops like horses at a trough – they will ll their reserve stomachs and take a good amount back to the nest. The bait is a great way to get at the nests in cavity walls, voids, etc, that I couldn’t get to with a spray. Depending on the size of the infestation, I can decide whether it’s necessary to apply sprays after the ants have taken up all the bait – this can mean a return visit because it’s always best to give the ants time to get the bait back to the nest.

“Bayer’s Maxforce Quantum is a great product to use, particularly internally and on sensitive jobs. Imidacloprid is a low toxic active that ants aren’t repelled by, so they will readily take it back to the nest, which helps me do my job in eliminating colonies,” said Mr McCartin.

Pest managers should note that Maxforce Quantum is now sold in new packaging (pictured above), which includes three 30g syringes plus plunger.