Homemade Ant Killer Bait and Traps

- Effective baits made of sugar and boric acid -

Summary: Many household ant infestations can be safely managed with inexpensive baits that contain boric acid, or borate, insecticide plus a sugar base. New, more expensive gel and granular baits may be needed for large, stubborn infestations however.

Baits to control ants

There are a number of small ants that invade kitchens and homes that can be managed safely with inexpensive baits made from boric acid (borate), if the infestation is not too large. Baits are made from some type of sugar and a slow-acting insecticide like borate. The idea is that ants find the sugary bait and carry some back to the nest where insecticide goes to work. Ant killer baits can be purchased ready-made, such as Terro, or can be homemade from a sugary base plus borate insecticide (see Using Boric Acid As An Insecticide)

Ants that can be managed with these simple baits are odorous house ant, Argentine ant, pharaoh ant, pavement ant and a few others so long as the infestation is not too large. Some species, however, such as carpenter ants, fire ants and harvester ants must be managed in other ways, see the Index for control of these other ants.

ants attracted to liquid ant bait

Worker ants feeding on liquid ant bait. Ants consume bait and take it back to their nest where it disrupts the colony. Photo by E.A. DeAngelis.

Homemade bait stations

Since liquid borate baits are relatively inexpensive many people opt to just purchase the ready-made bait rather than making their own. However, even if you use a ready-made bait you may want to start with one that has no insecticide. Why? Because you want to train your ants to feed at a certain location. After a few days you can replace this "training bait" with one that has insecticide in it.

Bait can be made from jelly, honey or even a sugary corn syrup like Karo Syrup (tm). A small amount of vegetable oil can be added to the syrup for times when ants seems to be more interested in fats than sugars. You'll need to adjust the fat/sugar ratio depending on your own observations. Most of the time 100% sugar baits work fine. If ants seem to be ignoring the bait try adding a little vegetable oil.

Put a small amount of bait on a piece of waxed paper and place it where you have seen ant activity (see photo above). Ants will feed and become trained to this location so after a few days replace these with bait containing insecticide. Ready-made ant baits contain up to 5% borate and there's evidence that too much borate can actually discourage ants from feeding so if you are making your own don't over do it. See How To Control Nuisance Ants for more suggestions regarding using baits to control ants.

Commercial (ready-made) ant baits for large, stubborn colonies

Large ant colonies that can't be controlled with liquid borate baits alone may require the newer, and more expensive, gel or granular baits. While these new baits are relatively expensive they are vastly superior to simple borate baits for tough infestations. Gel baits come in tubes that are squeezed out with a plunger into individual bait placements. Since the gel can be a bit messy gel baits are also packaged in individual bait stations at a somewhat higher cost. As always read and follow package instructions carefully.

Control of Common Nuisance House Ants With Baits

(1) Place baits near ant activity, do not contaminate area with insecticide. You can initially place a plain, sugary bait (no insecticide) to train workers to the placement. If ants appear to be feeding on bait, as in photo above, replace plain bait with one laced with insecticide. For small infestations use ready-made, or home-made, liquid boric acid baits. But, for large, stubborn infestations use commercial gel or granular baits, both are available here (DoMyOwn.com).

(2) Replace individual stations when they are exhausted or completely consumed.

(3) Within a week the number of ants should be significantly less.

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