By the time you’re on a furious search for the ant bait on the market, it’s clear: Your house is under attack by hordes of ants. Why else would you be reading this article?
And while the six-legged beasties trample over your hopes and dreams and kitchen surfaces, it’s safe to say that one of the last things you want to do is give them a sweet treat to enjoy.
But don’t be so hasty.
To get rid of these ants, often the best thing you can do is give them something good to eat. Something delicious. Something elegant. Something deadly. Poison.
If you want to be the Giulia Tofana of the ant world (look it up, kids!), you need the right bait for the job. A quick visit to the online retailer of your choice will show you what a huge range of ant baits are on the market.
But don’t worry, Giulia (can I call you Giulia? Well, I’m going to anyway). We’re here to help. It’s time to learn a little bit about ant bait, and what’s the best ant bait to use.
What is the Best Ant Bait to Use?
To bait ants into your evil trap, you first need to know what ants like to eat. And this is where it can be a little tricky.
You see, the task of luring and poisoning your resident ants is made more complicated by the fact that ants vary so much.
What type of ant do you have?
There are hundreds of types of ants in your neighborhood alone, no matter where you live. And each of these species lives slightly different lives and has slightly different food preferences.
To add to the complexity even more, the same colony of ants can have different food preferences at different times of the year. Understanding more about your local ants is going to help you in your battle against them.
Knowledge is power. If you can find out what species of ant you’re dealing with, it’s going to go a long way towards helping you pick your poison.
The differences between different ant species can get somewhat technical, but there are a few species that stand out. And it may be possible to get a local entomologist or pest control professional to help you determine what species it is that you’re facing.
What food do the ants eat?
Even without this expert help, there’s a lot you can do to figure out what it is that your ants like to eat.
Have you seen them going for particular foods in your kitchen? Is it sugary treats such as soda pop spills that they’re after? Or are they more interested in proteins?
Keep a close eye, and the ants may tell you themselves what it is that they’re looking for.
The truth is, most ants are sugar feeders, at least at certain points during the year. With that said, though, a lot of ants are also voracious predators of other insects, and so a protein bait might be more appropriate.
For example, the Argentine ant loves to feed on sugary liquids, as do Pharaoh ants. Carpenter ants also enjoy sweet liquids, but they are also happy to feed on protein sources too.
And Thief ants are interested almost exclusively in grease, fat, and oil.
What season is it?
The time of year also makes a difference. Take the case of the notorious fire ant. These stinging ants are as partial to sugary liquids as most of their cousins, but they also feed on protein and carbohydrates.
During summer, they focus mostly on the carbs, whereas spring and fall sees them strike more of a balance between protein and carbs. How else do you expect to get those epic gains, bro?
What this means from an oh-my-god-get-these-ants-out-of-my-house perspective is that it’s a good idea to keep an eye on how the ants react to any bait you put down.
Something that they love can quickly turn to something they have no interest in at all. Stay alert and be responsive to your ant’s preferences.
How Does Ant Bait Work?
The basic idea behind ant bait is quite simple. By mixing poison with an attractive substance, the ants will come and feed on the bait.
The poison is designed to be slow-acting so that the ants carry it back to the nest and share it with one another. Like the filthy communists they are, ants share everything they find.
In this way, the poison spreads through the colony, reaching the queen and the juvenile ants, or brood, without which the colony cannot survive.
So while it’s tempting to kill any ant on sight, you’re going to need to resist that urge. Let them carry it back to the nest. And try not to cackle like an evil genius as you contemplate the fact that they are doing your work for you.
Which Type of Ant Bait is Best?
But just because all ant baits work in a similar fashion doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to choose between them.
Ant baits come in a variety of different formulas, and each has its pros and cons. Let’s take a look at some of the most common formulas of ant bait.
Ant Traps/Bait Stations
The term ant trap is very misleading, because these devices aren’t designed to trap ants at all. Instead, they allow the ants to come and go, taking a piece of the poison bait with them.
Ant traps and bait stations are essentially the same thing: a plastic or metal sealed package that contains the bait for the ants to find. The advantage of this method is twofold.
One, it makes the actual task of baiting extremely easy. All you need to do is open the packages and set them down in areas where you’ve seen or suspect ant activity. Two, it keeps the bait out of reach of pets or kids or anyone else who’s not an ant.
However, due to the extra packaging required, ant traps and bait stations are often one of the most expensive ways to use ant bait.
Also, the size and shape of the bait stations themselves will affect where you can place the bait. Remember that ants move in three dimensions, equally comfortable walking up the wall as they are along the floor.
Gel baits generally come in a syringe type applicator. The consistency of the liquid inside varies from one manufacturer to another but is typically close to the viscosity of honey.
Which is good, because ants love honey. Much like bears. But if you have an infestation of bears in your house, it’s probably better just to move.
Gel baits allow you to place the bait in more areas than the bait station allows. You can squeeze little dabs of the gel into all kinds of cracks and crevices around your house to keep it out of the reach of pets and children.
This flexibility allows you to place the bait almost anywhere that you think the ants will find it.
However, it can get a little messy, especially with some of the runnier brands of bait. Also, if the bait isn’t eaten by the ants right away, it tends to harden, and its sticky surface attracts dust.
You may find yourself having to chip hardened lumps of bait from your surfaces once the problem is dealt with.
For this reason, a lot of people like to put the bait on a scrap of cardboard or paper or something similar, so they can simply throw it away when it dries up.
Granular Ant Bait
Some ant bait comes in the form of loose granules. This makes it easy for the ants to pick up a single granule and carry it back to the nest with them.
Granules are great for using outside the home, where gel baits would simply dry out, and bait stations could be easily carried off by animals or destroyed by weather. And applying a granular bait is as simple as shaking a bottle.
However, granular baits are very visible after application, and can only be applied on a flat surface.
For this reason, they are not as popular with those who have pets, since a dog could conceivably lick up the granules the minute your back is turned.
What About DIY Ant Bait?
By now, you’ve probably realized the concept behind ant bait is quite simple. And if you’ve done any shopping, you’ll have noticed that ant baits can get quite expensive.
So you may be wondering if it’s possible to make your own homemade ant traps. And the answer, as it so often is, is yes – kinda.
One method is to mix Borax, a readily available household cleaner, with baking sugar. The baking sugar attracts the ants, and the Borax acts as a stomach poison to kill them.
Since this creates a powdery mix, it’s best to put it into bottle caps or some other tiny container so that the ants can find it and consume it without you getting it all over the floor.
Many people have had success with this DIY approach. But given the changing nature of ant food preferences, both between species and at different times of the year, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Plus, it may not be the best idea if you have pets, since they will be as attracted to the sugar as the ants will.
Professional ant baits sometimes use Borax or a similar chemical, but they often use pesticides that are not readily available to a homeowner.
Some even contain an insect growth regulator that stops young ants from reaching maturity, effectively breaking the link between the brood and the adults that keeps an ant colony fed.
So while professional baits may cost more, they are often more effective at getting rid of stubborn ant problems. Plus, they are often easier to use than mixing up your own potions. But if you like that kind of thing, go ahead.
Indoor Vs. Outdoor Ant Traps
Some ants are imported tropical species and can’t exist outside. Others are native and prefer to live outside. Between those two extremes, there are hundreds of species that will do both.
Carpenter ants, for instance, tend to forage for food outside and may even have their primary nest outdoors. But they will happily move indoors and even set up a satellite nest inside the walls of your home.
In fact, the area in which you find the ants can be a big clue to the species of the invaders.
Because ants can live both in and outdoors, ant traps have been developed for both environments.
Outdoor ant traps generally have better weatherproofing. They are often bigger, with a higher capacity for bait inside. Many models come with stakes so that you can fasten them to the ground and prevent them from being blown away or moved by kids and pets.
For this reason, they tend to be more expensive than the indoor variety. But if you’re planning to save a little money by just using indoor bait stations outside, think again.
The first rainstorm or strong wind or marauding raccoon could destroy all your bait, rendering the whole endeavor a waste. Better to use bait stations as intended, whether it’s indoor or outdoor.
Are Ant Traps Safe?
The best ant traps designed for commercial use are very safe. They are designed to keep non-target animals and inquisitive kids out, and it can be very difficult to access the bait inside without completely destroying the bait station that conceals it.
Gel bait and granules carry a little more risk because they are not enclosed within a bait station. Because of this, they require more care in their placement if you have children or pets around.
Luckily, most ant baits are toxic only to ants.
A dog or child or inquisitive neighbor would need to consume a massive amount of ant bait before any ill effects were noticed.
So as long as you don’t slather a whole pallet of ant bait stations in bacon grease and leave it out in the middle of your yard overnight, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about accidentally poisoning anyone or anything.
What is the Best Ant Bait to Buy in 2022?
Now that you’re an expert on ant baiting and trapping, you’re most likely wondering: So…what’s the best ant bait to buy?
Trying to keep all of the above factors in mind as you make your purchasing decision may be making your head spin. So in the interests of assisting the wannabe poisoners of the world, here are some of the best ant baits on the market.
Terro Liquid Ant Bait Stations
Ant baiting doesn’t get any easier than this. Just remove these bait stations from the packaging, twist off the tab and set them down in areas where you have seen ants foraging. The ants will do the rest.
The sugary liquid inside these bait stations is attractive to a wide range of different ant species. And the liquid formulation makes it easy for the ants to consume it and take back to the colony.
The active ingredient in these bait stations is designed to work slowly, but you should start to see diminishing numbers of ants within a few days once they’ve found the bait stations.
And once a trail to the bait stations is established, don’t disrupt it. Don’t spray the ants with anything, and don’t wipe down the area with any cleaning products. You don’t want to spook the ants once they’ve started coming to the bait stations for food.
The downside to these bait stations is the same as any bait station; you can’t simply put these anywhere you want, the way you could with a gel bait.
Also, you’ll want to make sure that no kids or pets get into them. One way to do this is to put the bait stations under a disposable plastic bowl or cup and poke holes in the container big enough for ants to get inside and outside.
However you choose to use them, these are very effective ant bait stations that can deal with a broad range of ant species.
Advion Ant Gel Bait
If you’re looking for gel bait you can apply in cracks and crevices throughout your home, look no further.
Advion is a popular and highly regarded ant bait that attracts a broad range of ant species. It will work on stubborn species like Pharaoh, Argentine, and Fire ants as well as more common native species such as Carpenter Ants.
The gel comes in a handy syringe applicator which makes it easy to get into cracks and crevices behind kitchen cabinets, baseboards, and other tight areas.
Be aware while applying that the gel can be a little runny, especially during high temperatures. It’s a good idea to keep some paper towels with you to wipe up any spillage.
Also, be mindful of where you place the gel. If a pet or child does consume some of this gel, it won’t do them any harm unless they get hold of a massive quantity. But still, it’s a good idea to prevent it from happening if you can.
The active ingredient in Advion is a chemical called indoxacarb. This chemical has low toxicity, but when consumed by an ant it bio-synthesizes into a much more potent form.
This makes Advion a safe but effective choice ant bait. Be careful where you place it, though; if the gel isn’t consumed reasonably quickly, it can harden and be difficult to remove.
Advance 375A Granular Ant Bait
This granular ant bait works just as well outside as it does inside. The active ingredient, abamectin, is a commonly used stomach poison that works on a broad range of insects besides ants.
But the way this bait is formulated ensures that only ants will eat it. It works best on protein feeding species, but sugar ants have also been found to respond quite well to this bait.
The granular formulation is easy to use. Just shake it out in areas where you have seen ant activity and let them find it. If used outdoors, try to plan your baitings around periods of dry weather.
If the bait gets wet, it will lose efficacy, and you may need to clean up the old stuff and replace it with new. But as long as it stays dry, this is an effective and easy to use granular bait for outdoor and problems.
Terro Outdoor Ant Bait Stations
Maybe granules aren’t your thing. Maybe you prefer the idea of bait stations that will protect your outdoor bait from the weather. If so, these Terro outdoor bait stations could be just what you need.
Almost as simple to set up as the indoor variety, all you need to do with the stations is place them where you want them to go and twist the top to activate.
If you’re setting them up on grass, these stations come with stakes that you can use to anchor them in the ground. This is a great way to make sure that the stations stay put.
But in case you want to set them up on concrete or a wooden deck, the stakes are also removable.
The bait inside is the same formula as that used in the indoor Terro bait stations. And it works.
Furthermore, the sweet liquid recipe is attractive to most species of ants, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting them to eat the stuff. It’s a lot easier than getting your kids to eat vegetables, anyway.
The stations even attract carpenter ants, which are some of the pickiest ants out there. The weatherproof stations prevent the bait from drying out and also stop it from being diluted by rain.
As with all ant bait stations, though, be careful where you choose to put them. If you stake one of these into your lawn, it’s going to interfere with you mowing the grass.
Also, you don’t want to trip over them and rip them out of the ground. But barring accidents like that, these are a very effective choice for outdoor ant baiting.