Ant Control in Santa Barbara
I have been seeing such a need for information on non-toxic control of Argentine ants that I decided to post this on my web site. A common product used by local pest control companies is “Termidor”. This product’s main ingredient is Fipronil, which has been banned in Europe, but is still allowed in the US. It is toxic to bees, which can be transmitted to bees through the pollen of plants that are contaminated by it. It also lasts for ten years or more. There is another product called “Timbor” that uses borax to deter ants. If you hire commercial pest control, ask what product they use.
The product I have successfully used is “Terro” and its application (and another called “DomInAnt”) is what is described here.
My wife and I have been pretty successful controlling our massive ant invasion this year. The last few years we have used a local pest control company, but when we Googled the ingredient the company was using, we decided to try to control them with deterrrents that are not toxic for our veggies and other critters. My wife took on this job and has been very successful. Our ant problem wasn’t trivial. In the past, prior to the pest company, we used Terro and it just seemed to attract streams of ants into our kitchen and we threw up our hands. We have an acre with fruit trees and some nice outside seating areas. In the summer, the ants are everywhere and I read that the the ant homes are huge, connected, and there is really no effective way of eliminating them.
I did a lot of Google searching and found a very interesting paper written by a research group at UC Riverside entitled: “Low-Toxic Control of Argentine Ants Using Pheromone-Enhanced Liquid Baits“. The main take-away from this paper is that ants do love the bait and they will take it back to their anthill and feed it to the colony. But if you make it too strong, the ants die before they get home and all you are doing is killing a few of the worker ants.
How to be effective
We use Terro in a bottle like that shown in the picture. Amazon sent us a product named “DominAnt” when we ordered the Terro, but it’s the same ingredients and the shape of the bottle is the same. It is tempting to just squirt the liquid out for the ants, but the concentration is too high and will kill the ants before they reach home. The UC Riverside recommended concentration requires you dilute it with water: 5 parts water to 1 part of this stuff.
Ways of putting it out for the ants
This is a link to a bait station that we found pretty convenient for outdoor placement. It’s about $5.00 per station and the ants love it. It’s also easy to fill and clean. The bait stations should be positioned around your house or area you want to protect. We put it next to fruit tree trunks too. You should check it daily for awhile, and figure out how often you need to clean out all the dead ants that gorge themselves before they can make it home. Also, the research suggests that if you wait too late in the summer to put these out, it will be hopeless.
Fruit trees pose a particular problem because ants climb into them and farm aphids. If you have aphid problems, you should put tanglefoot around the trunk after hosing off the aphids, so the ants can’t return. We also put a bait station at the base.
This summer (2020) is the first summer in a few years where we haven’t hired a pest control company. My wife has been in charge of ant control and it has worked very well. There are still some ants occasionally (we have to take out the kitchen trash every evening) and sometimes we have a pretty small number of them in our kitchen, but the situation is remarkably better than past years with no pest control. It is also very satisfying to be refraining from poisoning the earth around our house.