An ant infestation is the one of the most underestimated pest problems. They don’t carry the disgust factor of a roach problem, the squealing terror of a rat invasion, the danger of a swarm of bees, or the phobic chill caused by spiders. But they can be serious business, nonetheless.
Once when I lived in a shabby little house in a desert town in Arizona, we were so overrun by huge fire ants that I called emergency pest control, prompting the dispatcher to ask, “Are they flying ants?” Well, no, they were just regular ants, but man were they bad! Way more than a bottle of windex could handle.
Still, emergency response wasn’t warranted, apparently. So we decided to set the anthill on fire, which did the trick, but was a bit extreme in retrospect.
Alas, I’m older and wiser now, and so are you. And we have far better and safer solutions at our disposal. Aside from lifestyle changes that go a long way, the professional solutions have become safer and more eco-friendly. One of the most common and effective brands out there for controlling an ant problem is Terro.
>p? With sprays, powders, liquids and baits on the market, there’s a wide range of tools for sale by this company that can be highly reliable at shaking an ant problem. We’ll take a look at some basic ant infestation facts, and the products available from Terro, with some emphasis on the much-lauded bait approach.
Not Just a Picnic Problem
Ants can range from being a minor bother to a serious problem. Most of us have awoken one spring morning to find a little trail of brown ants in the corner of the bathroom, or along the base of the cabinets, or even on the counter. Even worse, the larger carpenter or fire ants are big and their stings can really hurt. Not good, especially if you have little ones. And in some cases (as in my “kill it with fire” scenario mentioned above) you’re simply overrun by the little monsters.
It’s important to note how ants behave and the types of infestation to know how to treat your problem. Ants are social creatures, living in colonies based in nests. Like bees, they serve a queen, with large numbers of males and sterile females doing the grunt work. They leave invisible, odorless, chemical trails behind them, which is how they communicate to other ants where to follow and find food. That’s why they march in such neat and orderly lines. Seasonally, ants grow wings and venture out by air.
Ant infestations happen in two ways. First, they can actually nest inside your home, meaning the colony is based somewhere on your premises. Not all species of ants will nest indoors. Most of the time, however, the problem involves an outdoor colony, in which forager ants are venturing out in the world to find new food sources. This is good and bad news. The good news is, it means that you can try to cut them off by sealing off entry, cleaning floors and surfaces with bleach or vinegar, and leaving powders on the perimeter of your home. The bad news is, just killing the ones you see won’t really help in the long term, since the colony will continue to thrive and send more foragers in time.
Homespun or Can Dispensed?
One dilemma when treating an ant problem is that on either extreme of treatment, you’ve got problems of effectiveness or toxicity. By that I mean, there are some home remedies for ants, such as deep cleaning, paprika, cayenne pepper or even a sprinkling of corn grits, that simply do not work. So many homeowners, frustrated with their natural remedies falling flat, will reach for an aerosol can of nasty stuff. These certainly kill on sight, but in addition to having nasty chemicals that you don’t want to expose your pets and children to, killing the ants you see doesn’t solve the core problem.
The Solution: Terro Ant Killer
So what’s an ant-infested homeowner to do? Well, one brand of ant killer has won over the public, with many bloggers and online reviewers raving about their performance. That company is Terro, and their product line deals with ants, spiders, wasps, roaches, etc. Their products can be purchased directly from the Terro site, or at any hardware or home store, such as Home Depot, Target or even Amazon.
Even for dealing just with ants, Terro offers many options:
Ant Dust: This is an insecticide powder that you can sprinkle around the house, on the perimeter outside, and around cracks and corners inside where ants tend to gather. The product is waterproof and the company claims it will last 8 months. Word of warning, the key ingredient is Deltamethrin, a poison that, while on the safer side, can still be hazardous to humans and animals and should be treated with care. This is best for the really nasty guys like fire and carpenter ants, which can be especially resilient.
Ant Killer Plus: Similar uses as ant dust, the benefit to using this granulated substance on the perimeter of the home is that it’s multipurpose and will take out other baddies. It’s active ingredient is Lambda-cyhalothrin, another pesticide that can be harmful, particularly to aquatic animals.
Ant Killer Spray: Another multipurpose tool, this is the stuff you use to wipe out populations you see right in front of you, although it can be used preventatively. Killer Spray is a cocktail of insecticides mixed into a handy 16-ounce can. Gnarly stuff.
Baits – Our Favorite Solution
Finally, there’s the solution that so many people swear by for a number of reasons—Terro baits. These come in liquid bottle form or in little peel-away packets for strategic placement. There are a few reasons these are so successful and beloved.
First, the active ingredient in the Terro baits is milder and more natural a substance than many of these other pesticides. The key ingredient is N-Octyl bicycloheptene dicarboximide, which sounds nasty but it’s better known as common household cleaning substance Borax. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral often used as a laundry detergent or in any number of cleaning uses. And while you should not ingest it or let your pets get to it, it’s overall pretty safe stuff. If you have pets, just place the stuff in higher locations or hidden corners they can’t reach.
The reason corners and higher places is an acceptable placement, is the other great thing about ant baits. They don’t act by killing what you see in front of you or repelling ants. Rather, they attract ants. To be clear, the ants go bonkers for the stuff. There are a bunch of great YouTube videos demonstrating them flocking to the baits. (This one is the best, because the guy calls the ants “wee beasties.”)
Ok, great, but why do I want to attract ants, you ask? Well, the delicious stuff is eventually deadly to them, but not so immediately deadly that they can’t bring it back to their nests and spread the wealth. Yes it’s a bit sadistic, but they take the baits back to their comrades and dose the whole family, and can even kill the queen.
This is a great approach, whether the ants are coming from an outside colony or are nesting somewhere in the home. You don’t need to know where the nest is or try to spray them all. Just let the baits do their work. The sweetness will attract the ants and initially you’ll see a large influx. This is where you have to be patient and do the counterintuitive thing—don’t kill the ants that are flocking to the baits. Let them feast on it.
Soon after, the number of ants will quickly drop. The next day you’ll see only a few here and there. Even just a few days later, you’ll see no ants. Zero. The bait will have made its way back to the nest and taken out the colony. Again, people swear by the stuff.
The important thing to remember when using Terro ant baits is that, while we tend to just call them all ants, there are hundreds of different species of the insect. And they don’t all necessarily react in the same way to the same treatment. For example, some people have complained that Terro baits don’t work very well against the nastier species like fire ants or carpenter ants.
Terro baits are definitely worth a try, because it can be hard to establish exactly what kid of ant you’re dealing with. But if the baits are just not effective, that’s when it may be time to get into the harsher insecticides. For example, the dust, killer plus and spray all claim to be particularly deadly to carpenter and fire ants. And of course, before you give up and break out the lighter fluid, you can always call the pest control experts. Just don’t expect an emergency response.