Ants, like all other creatures, require three things to survive – food, harborage and water. An effective integrated pest management (IPM) program seeks to control at least one of these three things.
It is very challenging to remove water and areas for harborage in urban settings, particularly in irrigated landscapes. However, it is possible to limit the amount of food available for ants from areas around your accounts. A primary food source for ants is honeydew, the sugary residue produced by the feeding of homopterous insects, such as aphids, mealy bugs, scale and white flies, on landscape plants.
Many ant species actually ‘farm’ insects like aphids and mealy bugs to collect the honeydew they produce. The ants will ward off predators, move the aphids to new growth on plants to stimulate production of honeydew and, when needed, consume them as a source of protein.
There are a number of proven strategies to reduce the amount of food that is available to ants.
1) Increase sanitation: Clean up around dumpsters, garbage cans and storage areas to remove sweet, oily or protein sources that ants feed on.
2) Use barrier sprays: Application of a fast-acting insecticide, such as Demand® CS insecticide, around the base of trees and shrubs will help prevent ants from trailing into the plants, cutting them off from the food source.
3) Target the food producers: Apply a systemic insecticide, such as Optigard® Flex insecticide, to the foliage of landscape plants or as a drench to the soil around the infested plants. This will kill the honeydew producers and deprive the ants of their food source. The procedure is particularly effective in the spring as it prevents the honeydew producers from developing and enticing ants to your home.
4) Bait with something sweet: To compete with honeydew, choose a bait that is highly attractive to ants. Sweet gel baits, such as Optigard® Ant Gel Bait, may be used both indoors and outdoors. The consistency of Optigard Ant Gel Bait makes it easy for ants to carry back to the colony and share with nest mates, providing full colony control.
When developing your ant control strategy, remember that a useful part of an IPM program is the removal of food sources. Ants that cannot find food in the property you service will move to other locations to look for food and will no longer be a problem for your customer.
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