Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips


Published   6/23

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Argentine ant

Argentine ant.

Various types of bait stations are available

Various types of bait stations are available.

Fill ant entryways with caulk.

Fill ant entryways with caulk.

Although ants are annoying when they come indoors, they can be beneficial by feeding on fleas, termites, and other pests in the garden. Spraying them with pesticides will not prevent more ants from entering. Most ants live outdoors, so focus on keeping ants from entering buildings. Combine several methods such as caulking entryways, cleaning up food sources, and baiting with pesticides when necessary. Avoid spraying pyrethroids (like bifenthrin and cypermethrin), especially on hard surfaces such as driveways or sidewalks or around the foundation of buildings. These products pollute waterways.

Make your home less attractive to ants.

  • Caulk cracks and openings that provide entry into buildings.
  • Store food in clean, sealed containers.
  • Clean up crumbs, grease, and spills.
  • Fix leaky faucets since they can attract thirsty ants.
  • Take out the garbage and clean trash cans regularly.
  • Remove or manage sweet food sources next to your house such as aphid-infested bushes and ripened fruit on trees.
  • Keep plants, grass, and mulch at least a foot away from the foundation of buildings to reduce ant foraging and nesting.

When ants invade your home.

  • Sponge up invading ants with soapy water as soon as they enter to remove the scent trail.
  • Identify where they are coming in from and plug up with caulk.
  • Take infested potted plants outdoors and submerge pots in a solution of insecticidal soap and water.
  • Outdoors, use baits to control the ant colony. Pesticide sprays only provide temporary control and may not be safe to use indoors.
  • If you hire a pest control company, ask them to use baits and spot treatments rather than perimeter treatments or monthly sprays.

How ant baits work:

Pesticide baits work by attracting worker ants who then take the product back to the nest where the entire colony, including queens, can be killed. The pesticide must be slow acting so workers won’t be killed before they get back to the nest.

How to use baits:

  • Place baits near ant trails and nest openings outdoors.
  • Prepackaged or refillable bait stations or stakes are the safest and easiest to use. Active ingredients in baits may include boric acid/borate, fipronil, avermectin, or hydramethylnon.
  • Liquid borate (0.5-1% borate in sugar water solution) baits in refillable bait stations are best for severe Argentine ant infestations.
  • Replace baits when empty. If ants aren’t taking the bait, reposition the bait stations, or try a different bait product. It can take 5 to 10 days to see fewer ants.

Read more about Ants. See also Ants Resources.

Minimize the use of pesticides that pollute our waterways. Use nonchemical alternatives or less toxic pesticide products whenever possible. Read product labels carefully and follow instructions on proper use, storage, and disposal.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

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