Pest manager Jay Turner shares his top tips for dealing with ants. 

Killing ants you can see is easy; killing ants you can’t see is the tricky part. And as we know, for every ant we can see there are potentially thousands that we can’t see! Below are my top ten tips for treating ants so you can get the most out of your ant treatments.

1. Get to know your local species

You will typically only have a handful of pest ant species in your area. Make the effort to spend time learning about them and find out their food preferences. Do they have favourite food trees, their preferred nesting sites? Are they single nesters or multi nesters? Do they have single queens or multiple queens? Ant behaviour can also be very localised as well – the same species of ant will behave very differently in the southern parts of Australia compared to how it would behave in the northern parts of Australia. Get to know their behaviour. (Remember that the most successful anglers are locals that have taken the time to learn about the behaviour of each individual fish species in their area!)

white footed ant
White-footed house ant, Technomyrmex sp. (photo credit: Tony Eales)

2. ID your ant

Before any sort of treatment plan is put together, ID your ant accurately first. For example, there is no such thing as just a ‘common black house ant’! Common black house ant is a catch-all term to describe several different black ant species. Identify exactly which black ant species you are dealing with.

3. Don’t rely on just one product

Avoid using just a single product in your treatment plan in the hope that it will work. Use a combination of products and formulations. And by that, I mean use a combination of dust, bait, and liquid to achieve a more thorough treatment.

4. Focus on straight lines

Ants are short-legged little creatures that will utilise paths of least resistance. Concentrate your residual surface spray treatments on fence railings, the edges of footpaths, garden edging, building corners and even garden irrigation piping.

5. Look for the food trees

Some ant species will have preferred trees or plants where they will ‘farm’ those honeydew-producing, sap-sucking plant pests such as mealybug, scale and aphids. These include citrus trees, palms, and camellias just to name a few.

6. Lure them out

Clients will often report sporadic ant activity in certain areas such as around kitchen benches, but they are nowhere to be found whenever you are there. Try deliberately luring them out with one of their favourite foodstuffs. For example, place several dots of honey or jam on and around the bench to create an ant trail. Remember, baiting is a numbers game – the more ants you have to work with, the greater the chance of success. You can even engage the client and ask them to do it before you arrive. A bonus of deliberately luring them out is that you can often lure them into a more suitable spot to bait. Luring them out with the actual active bait tends to have limited success. It’s important to place the bait near sites of maximum activity – you need that trail of ants for the transfer effect.

Tyrant ants feeding on bait
Iridomyrmex sp. feeding on Vanquish Pro Ant Bait

7. Match your ant bait to your target ant

Ant baits come in all different types of formulations with different actives. No bait will perform equally well on all ants and some baits just perform better on certain ant species. For example, very runny liquid baits tend to work better than viscous gel baits on smaller ant species such as ghost ants. Ants will sometimes also change bait preferences at certain times of the year. It pays to have an arsenal of bait types on hand. If you are unsure of which bait they prefer, place dots of several bait types along an active trail – you will soon see which they prefer.

8. Don’t skimp, be thorough

Basically, ants are very tenacious and will exploit any weakness in your treatment. Put together a well thought-out management plan.

9. Follow it up

I like to revisit my larger ant treatments a month later, to give it a touch up where required and to measure the overall success of the treatment. It’s easier and cheaper to knock ’em off completely when their numbers are at their lowest rather than letting them build back up again. We are dealing with many variables so not all treatments will perform equally every time.

10. Price it right

Finally, don’t cut your throat to get the job – price it to allow for any extra servicing that may be required.

Jay Turner, Owner, Laguna Pest Control

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