Bait And Switch Those Ants

Long before non repellants came along the pest control industry futilely tried to bait our ant problems into submission. A box of cut up drinking straws was standard issue on any bug truck. We charged hundreds of dollars to put drippy (sometimes home made) sweet baits in them but we’d watch as the pharaoh ants simply got fat and split off in different directions. Baiting carpenter ants was and still is almost impossible and even with the advent of pharoid, an IGR for ants, we really were left with only a few options. Dusting voids and treating trails was the mainstay but to be successful, I mean really triumphant, you had to be great at finding nests.

Well needless to say, you could be the greatest inspector in the world (2nd to me of course) but sometimes it is literally impossible to find or access the colony. Either it’s deep in the bowels of the earth, in a tall tree top or tucked away in an adjacent property you can’t get permission to inspect. I have found whole colonies in some of the strangest places -a box of envelopes-in refrigerator door moulding-under insulation in the middle of an attic-under carpets-mailboxes-tree branches-on a boat-etc.etc.etc. But I know I’ve missed way more than I’ve ever found. In any case, the odds were stacked against positive ant control for years but in recent times, we’ve have tilted the game to our favor.

The Holy Grail Of Ant Control?

Non repellant insecticides have revolutionized social insect control and especially ants. Using the insects own habits and biology a simple swath of the sprayer in the right place, can and will wipe out whole nests. Even if only a fraction of a colony comes in contact with the treatment, the product is carried back to the heart of the ants hideaway regardless of where it is and shared among the unsuspecting family until all are dead. The only down side- are you spraying the right areas if no ants are present?

My View On Baits- What’s Yours?

Now baits haven’t sat idly on the shelf either as they have improved a hundred fold over recent history. Today’s formulas stand up better, come in more varieties and are more attractive to foraging ants. But I have yet to find a bait that’s even more than 50% effective for protein eating or carpenter ants. On that day, we can truly say we’ve hit a milestone. The other problem or “challenge”, with baits is that they don’t always give us 100% elimination of a nest. Don’t get me wrong, I see plenty of fast knockdowns using baits but complete knockouts don’t happen as much as I’d (or the customer) would like.

Enter The Bait And Switch

Now before I go to much further let me say this: Nothing has or in my opinion will ever replace the inspection. Finding a nest is still the ultimate skill every tech needs for ant elimination. I fear that as our products become better and better, our perceived need for knowledge and thorough inspections wane. Having said that, here is a way to speed up your ant control procedure and get you on to your next account with the confidence that your client will be ant free the next time you stop by.

Using a ant gel bait I simply bait visible trails both inside and out and go about my service. (today’s baits can draw them out even if none are visible-just place it where you suspect them) I usually make two or three trips around a building anyway so each time I pass by I can notice that more and more ants are coming to their free snack. I like to use Advion ant gel (for now) because it seems to attract them very fast indeed. There are many on the market and you (or the ants in your area) may have
another preference. With sufficient amounts of foragers sucking up the gel I head to the truck and pull out my B&G that’s dedicated to non repellant solutions only. Nine times out of ten I run Arilon in it but I use Premise, Termidor or other products too. I don’t get heartburn switching between these worrying about rinsing it out each time- just as long as a traditional insecticide is never used in the same sprayer you should have no problems. I find that a “LIGHT” fan spray around the area hardly disturbs the ants at all. I don’t treat on top of the bait site but above, below and to the sides. Plus any heavy trails where new ‘recruits’ to the bounty are coming from. What I notice most is that the ants hit by the spray, seem to freeze and stand still for a few moments but then begin walking around like normal. Those that come across the barrier (even wet) either walk over it or if it’s a drip they just walk around. No alarms go off, no vacating the area, just a free smorgasbord and a little light shower that doesn’t bother them at all. Now I also will use just the non repellants in some areas of trails so if by chance an alarm warning goes out about my baits- They still get a dose of spray even if they’ve abandoned the area of my baits.

So that’s just technique of mine that I’ve found works wonders while conserving time which is something we all could use on a busy day. What techniques or methods do you use? I’d love to hear about em. In the meantime, I did a video on my bait and switch technique and I hope it is helpful.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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  • Pest Kil

    Darn it! As I was reading through the article I was saying to myself, I’m gonna teach him a trick he does not know, when what appears before my eyes is the trick with the non- repellent that I was gonna tell you about!  I guess I will have to wait for another day to teach you a trick or two! LOL

    Thanks for another great article,

    Eric Kroon
    PestKil Inc.

  • Believe me- I don’t have the market cornered on good pest control tricks- I could use all the help I can get 😉

  • Redwhiteblue

    Sometimes I use a spray bottle from one of the hardware stores and use that to spray the NR. The mist works better on some surfaces and doesn’t drown the ants. Great article as always Jerry. Keep up the good work!

  • Thank you for the kind words and the good tip. That’s an even lighter spray than a fan spray of the B&G. Looks like I’ll have to make room on my belt for one more thing. 😉

  • Mary Anne Clark

    I use baking soda when I see ants appear. Just a small pile of it where they enter (either near a window or on the floor). They usually disappear within 24 hours and never return.

  • Daniel D. Dye

    I like your approach to controlling ants, Jerry. I can see this method working very well on Acrobat, Rover and even Pharaoh ants. Now if we could only come up with something that works equally as well for large colony ants.

    Thanks for sharing,


  • I don’t find this approach good for fire ants (for what reason I don’t know) nor for carpenter ants. But if you can get them eating your baits, you can be pretty confident the non repellant is gonna do some good.