Discovering ants in your home can be frustrating and disheartening. Even the cleanest kitchens can sometimes attract these determined invaders. When deciding how to eradicate these pests, ant traps that contain a bait substance are a commonly advised solution. But are they the best way to handle an infestation in your home?
What are ant traps?
Ant traps are devices that contain a blend of food that ants find appetizing (consisting of proteins, carbohydrates, fats) combined with an insecticide. However, the term "ant traps" can be misleading because many people expect ants to enter the traps and never exit. The goal, however, is for the ants to consume the bait inside the trap and return to their nests.
How do ant traps work?
The bait in ant traps is a combination of food that ants are attracted to plus insecticide, or "ant poison." Ants are attracted to the bait and recruit other workers to it. Workers carry small portions of the bait back to the nest, where it is transferred mouth-to-mouth to other workers, larvae and queens to kill the entire colony. Bait products must be slow-acting so the foraging ants have time to make their way back to the nest and feed other members of the colony before they are killed.
How to use an ant trap
Ant traps can be an easy and effective long-term solution to an ant infestation. However, because ants are so finicky when it comes to fulfilling the nutritional needs of the colony, getting them to accept the bait requires skill, knowledge and persistence. Experts from the North Carolina School of Entomology and Plant Pathology suggest the following for successful ant baiting:
- Testing – Small amounts of the bait should be placed where you see ants foraging. Then watch for a few minutes to see how they react. If the ants show no interest in the bait, a different bait may be required.
- Placement – The bait should be placed in known or suspected ant activity areas, such as under kitchen cabinets, behind furniture, in the basement or attic or other possible points of entry from the outside. Sunlight and moisture can cause baits to age. For maximum effectiveness, place baits in cool, dry, dark areas. Note: You can expect to see more ant activity in and around the ant traps themselves.
- Safety – The bait should be kept out of the reach of children and pets, and it should never be used on countertops where food is prepared. Also, bait should be kept away from areas where it can contaminate drinking water, such as a sink, a pet's water bowl or near a drain.
- Quantity – The ant bait should be checked regularly to make sure it isn't depleted. Also, placing bait in multiple locations may help ensure effectiveness. After ant feeding stops, wait three to four days before removing.
- Sanitation – Keep areas near ant baits free of food items. Otherwise, ants may be less tempted by your bait. Check baited areas for feeding signs and replace baits that are no longer acceptable to the ants.
- Patience – As previously mentioned, most ant baits are slow-acting. Don't get discouraged if you see ants for a week or more after baiting.
It's recommended to have an ant control professional handle the use and placement of ant baits. One of the challenges with ant traps is that they don't always meet the needs of the ant colony. The foods that some ants are attracted to can change at different times of the year, so different types of ant traps may be needed at different types of the year. A trained pest control professional can help here.
Do ant bait traps work for all types of ants?
Ant baits can be an effective way to rid your home of ants. But, unfortunately, this type of ant trap does not work on all ants — especially those that are attracted to a wide variety of food.
Additionally, some ants, like little black ants, may be more attracted to fat-based baits, while carpenter ants may be drawn to sugar-based baits. A pest control professional can help identify the type of ants in your home and provide a comprehensive plan for ant control, and determine if there are additional concerns that may be associated with the ant species.
Are ant traps the best solution for removing ants?
While they take more time to work, bait traps can be more effective in eliminating a small ant problem compared to solutions like ant repellent or ant spray. Ant repellents will discourage ants from entering your home for some time. However, the ants are also likely to come back after the repellent has lost its effectiveness. Ant sprays can kill ants on contact and will continue to kill ants in the treated area, but they won't keep more ants from returning. And unlike ant traps, sprays won't transfer back to the colony, which is usually the infestation's source.
Related > Don't DIY That: Ant Control
When an ant problem is larger than seeing a few ants near food or along a baseboard, consulting a pest control professional is warranted. Different species of ants require different types of treatment for effective control. Plus, some ant colonies are impossible to reach without specialized equipment.
Ant Bait Trap Pros and Cons
So, no, ant baits aren't perfect. Let's recap the pros and cons.
- Can help control or deter some species of ants
- Easy to use and place
- Commonly available
- May not kill ants immediately
- Do not work on all species of ants
- May be harmful if consumed by pets or children
- Requires knowledge and skill to use effectively
- Large amount of bait may be required depending on ant species
Ant Traps vs. Other Ant Removal Options
Because identifying the species of ants you are dealing with can be a challenge, and different methods are required to manage different ant species, it is recommended that you contact a pest management professional. Carpenter ant bait, for example, may be more or less effective than fire ant bait. It is likely that the ingredients within the bait will also be different. Contact Terminix® for your free pest control quote, and don't just bait the ants, get rid of them.
Get started today and save $50¹ on a pest control plan².