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When it comes to dealing with ants in outdoor areas and lawns, pest managers have a number of options on the table. Do you spray, do you use insecticide granules or do you apply bait?

Before deciding on an appropriate treatment it is important to identify the species of ants present and carry out an appropriate risk assessment. Being outdoors, typically there is less control of the treatment area, so considering access by children and pets, as well as the environmental impact becomes an important part of the decision in choosing an appropriate treatment. But from performance and convenience points of view, what should you consider?

Spraying outdoor areas and turf for ant activity can be convenient ­– if the product label allows it ­– as it can be a continuation of a general pest spray. However, from a performance point of view, most spray products will only kill the ants they contact; they are unlikely to provide any colony control (unless the nest is injected directly) or provide lasting protection. Fipronil-based sprays can be a good option for targeted control, but as they are only labelled for spot treatments, they aren’t an option for large infestations or broad area treatments.

Insecticide granules (bifenthrin or fipronil) are available for outdoor ant control. Bifenthrin does provide some residual protection but colony control is limited and being repellent, it requires complete coverage to ensure the whole area or lawn remains ant free. The non-repellent nature of fipronil is more forgiving and unlike fipronil sprays, fipronil granules are labelled for broadcast treatment across larger areas. The issue with all of these insecticide granule treatments is that they need to be watered in with 4-5mm of water after use, which can sometimes be a challenge and certainly adds to the time taken to complete a treatment.

In contrast, granular baits allow for a quick and easy application. Although they cannot be applied to wet ground, simple spot treatments can take seconds and a broadcast treatment can be carried out to an average lawn in a matter of minutes. With older style granular baits, the number of species that could be treated was limited. With Synergy Pro and its two different food granules, its broad spectrum appeal means it can be used against a wide range of outdoor ants. The dual active combination (hydramethylnon and pyriproxyfen) delivers complete colony control, which can be difficult to achieve with non-bait treatments.

Perhaps a common misconception regarding ant bait treatments is that they are expensive. When you do the sums, it simply isn’t the case. Synergy Pro, which is the latest innovation in granular ant baits, costs as little as $0.034 per square metre – a 400m2 lawn for $13.60. This is significantly cheaper than a number of the leading fipronil sprays, granules and other granular baits on offer. Coupled with the time saving during application, Synergy Pro can be the smart solution.

Duncan Priest from Pest Rid in Cairns has been using Synergy Pro for a while now, and has incorporated Synergy Pro into many ant treatment programs, especially with coastal brown ants (Pheidole megacephala).

Big-headed ants
Synergy Pro is very effective on big-headed ants (coastal brown ants)

Although a big believer in non-repellent sprays for perimeter ant control, Mr Priest was finding that treating larger areas with non-repellents became expensive and tended to only to suppress the population.

“By sprinkling Synergy Pro over the active area, we get control, not just suppression. The beauty is that we can combine it with a non-repellent spray, to get a superior, more cost-effective treatment.”

Although Synergy Pro is cost effective, it’s important to follow the label rate.

“When you do the calculations and carry out the application, it doesn’t look like you apply much product; and when it’s all gone in a couple of minutes, it’s very tempting to apply some more. Don’t! The label application rate delivers excellent, cost-effective performance, applying extra product is a good way to waste product and money,” he said.

Not only has the use of Synergy Pro reduced the treatment costs (product and time), it has helped with overall profitability.

“Synergy Pro has given us the confidence to drop the follow-up treatment on difficult ant jobs, significantly improving profitability,” concluded Mr Priest.

Charles McClintock, Professional Products Business Manager, Sumitomo Chemical Australia