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Does Ant Bait Work?

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Ant bait may be the single best way to target an ant colony and is what professional exterminators choose for effective, long term ant control. All ant species that infest homes live in large groups called colonies and are governed by a queen. Each ant has it own specific job--nurse, worker, scout, clean-up crew. Only the scouts and workers regularly leave the nest, however, while all of the other ants--thousands and thousands of them--remain in the nest at almost all times. The best way to reach these nest-bound ants is through a potent and toxic ant bait.

All types of ant bait work by the same premise--they combine an attractive food source with a slow-acting poison. Worker ants eat the bait and then take a bit back into the nest. Because the poison is slow-acting, it doesn't kill the ants right away but gives them a chance to share the bait with other ants in the nest. Over time, every ant in the colony will feed on some of the bait and die.

Both indoor and outdoor ant baits are available, and using both types will be necessary to fully eradicate the entire ant infestation. In-home ant baits are often designed with enclosed cases to hold the bait, which makes them relatively safe around children and pets. Professional exterminators will place the baits in areas where children and pets are unlikely to be, however.

  • inside cabinets
  • under sinks
  • behind appliances

Before placing the baits, an exterminator will inspect your entire home to observe where the ant infestation is heaviest. The baits will be placed in specific "target" locations to attract as many ants as possible. Professional bait stations often utilize a clear lid to allow the homeowner or exterminator to observe the ants as they feed and to note when the bait is nearly gone. Baits should be replaced as soon as the ants empty them.

In cracks or crevices where ants are entering a home or traveling between rooms, a pest control professional can inject gel ant bait. Using a tool similar to a caulking gun, the gel bait can be placed in controlled locations where other baits are impossible to use.

To target ants outdoors, an exterminator will place baits around the home's foundation as well as near any ant hills that have been observed. The most commonly used outdoor baits are usually either granular or liquids enclosed in bait stations. Granular ant bait is distributed freely in any outdoor location where the ants may seek food. These small pellets will be picked up by the ants and carried into the nest as a food source.

If children and pets use the yard, however, the exterminator will likely use enclosed bait stations outside instead. Like the indoor stations, these provide an easy way to bait the ants while keeping the poison inaccessible to others. Most outdoor ant bait stations are situated on a spiked plastic board that can be pierced into the ground around the home.

Professional exterminators often use ant bait in combination with other ant treatments, but baiting provides the most long-term control. If the bait is kept available, most ant species will continue eating it indefinitely. Total extermination of a small colony can happen as quickly as two or three weeks, but completely destroying a very large colony may take several months of consistent baiting.

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