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Charles McClintock of Sumitomo Chemical Australia looks at various approaches to ant control depending on the type of account being serviced. 

Ants are difficult to control. Success depends on correctly identifying the species causing the problem and then using the optimal combination of baits and/or sprays to get the best result.

But it’s also important to consider the customer’s requirements and environmental considerations. Whilst the combination of bait and non-repellent sprays may be the “go-to combination” for residential ant treatments, treatments in commercial accounts may need to be varied to meet both the customer and situation.

Homeowners generally only call when they have a problem. Although they want the ants gone quickly, they can be a bit more accommodating and happier to wait for an ant bait to work. For a commercial account, especially a food business or where the public is involved, owners aren’t as tolerant. They want and need the ants gone immediately and some baits take just too long!

With colony control necessary to provide lasting protection, in commercial accounts, it’s worth spending the time locating the nest. The nest can be treated directly with a suitable bait (as shown in the main picture above) or almost any liquid insecticide (making sure the spray penetrates deep into the nest chamber to ‘flood’ the colony). Spending time on nest location ensures an immediate and lasting result, and indeed probably saves time compared to the alternative, as an indirect treatment through baiting may require a return visit.

For situations where ants are coming into the building from the outside, it’s important to find the entry points. Many commercial customers do not want baits inside, attracting more ants in, even for a short time. If baits are considered the best option, a better strategy is to place the bait outside at the entry point, using a bait station if necessary, and seal the entry point. The ants inside can be dealt with using a spot spray or vacuum, the ants outside will hopefully recruit to the bait.

While residential ant control involves mainly curative treatments, for commercial accounts, it’s about long-term management. Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies are the way to go. Sealing entry points is part of this strategy and it’s often better to provide it as part of the service, rather than relying on the owner or a third party to get the job done.

To determine a suitable management regime, it’s important to inspect the land surrounding buildings to determine the species present and population density; it’s all about population control, to stop the ants getting into the building in the first place.

Often the best way to control ants in outdoor areas is with granular baits. Carrying out a treatment in spring eliminates nests before they have the chance to build up numbers and become a problem. Regular baiting can keep the numbers in check.

In sensitive accounts, pest managers are often limited in the products they can use. Distance Plus from Sumitomo Chemicals is an unscheduled product and can be used in a wide range of situations – ideal for areas around schools and hospitals. Developed from the bait used in the Queensland fire ant program, Distance Plus only contains the insect growth regulator, pyriproxyfen. Although this provides benefits in terms of its safety profile, it does mean it can take several weeks to eliminate colonies. Best suited for targeting fat/oil feeders such as coastal brown ants (Pheidole megacephala), Distance Plus has a better fit in springtime applications and when there is no need for the rapid control of large population numbers.

Distance Plus is a good baiting option for oil feeders in sensitive accounts

For year-round control or when more rapid control is required, Synergy Pro granular bait is the ideal option. Containing two different food granules – one oil based, one protein-based – Synergy Pro appeals to a broad range of outdoor ants, even as their food preferences change throughout the year. With its dual active combination of hydramethylnon and pyriproxyfen (IGR), it targets all life stages in the colony, delivering control in one to two weeks.

In accounts with a pre-existing ant problem, especially if the target species is a multi-nesting, multi-queen species, a perimeter treatment using a non-repellent spray, in conjunction with an outdoor baiting program, is the quickest way to get on top of the problem and prevent future ant invasions.

Charles McClintock, Professional Products Business Manager, Sumitomo Chemical Australia