Ants are difficult pests to deal with for several reasons. First, these tiny insects need only the smallest gap to sneak into your house making it almost impossible to completely ant-proof your home.
These able scavengers also don’t need much food, meaning bread crumbs and smears on the kitchen counter will do just fine. The typical ant colony could potentially host hundreds to thousands of insects, some of which are capable of biting or stinging.
Bait traps are a great way of getting rid of ants and can definitely save you tons of money in professional exterminator services.
How Ant Bait Traps Work
Ant traps, contrary to what the name might have you believe, do not necessarily trap ants. The term ‘ant trap’ actually refers to the name of the container that holds the bait. A more apt name for these products would be ‘ant bait’ or ‘ant bait trap’.
The typical ant trap works in two ways; first by attracting the ants and then later poisoning them. The trap contains a bait to attract the ants, usually protein or carbohydrate, and a slow-acting poison.
Worker ants are attracted to the bait (food) which they carry back to the colony. The food is shared among other ants, and most importantly, the queen that is responsible for reproducing. This method effectively kills all the ants in the colony over time.
Why Insect Repellents and Sprays Don’t Work on Ants
The thing about ants that makes them such difficult pests to get rid of is their organization. The ants that you see form only a small proportion of the colony. A typical ant colony will have the queen, workers, larvae (ant babies), and eggs.
The worker ants also have different tasks. There are the worker ants that go out to forage for food and bring it back to the nest. These are the ants you will typically see on your countertops and other places inside and outside the house. Other worker ants inside the nests are responsible for distributing the food in the colony and taking care of the queen, larvae, and eggs.
Killing or repelling the ants that you can see doesn’t do much damage in the grand scheme of things. The queen will continue to reproduce and other worker ants will take the place of their slain comrades.
Even worse, distressed ants emit a pheromone to warn other ants of imminent danger. Killing or otherwise disrupting visible ants will cause them to send messages to other workers not to approach the dangerous area and they’ll move into other areas of your home.
The ‘new’ workers will simply look for alternative places to forage, and the cycle repeats itself endlessly or until you are convinced that the ant problem is impossible to solve.
The ants may even split off and form additional colonies which means you have more queen ants to kill before the problem goes away!
Types of Ant Baits
There are various types of ant baits and it helps a great deal if you can identify the type of ant you are fighting. This information will help you to choose the most effective bait. Common types of ant baits include:
Gel Ant Baits: Ant gels are great for treating holes, cracks, crevices and other hard to reach areas. These products typically come in a tube with a syringe for application. The gel contains a slow-acting pesticide and ants carry the bait to the colony to kill other ants. Ant gels are good for indoor and outdoor applications.
Granule Ant Baits: Granule baits are typically used for outdoor applications such as in garages and backyards but can also be used indoors. Granule baits are effective and hold their insecticidal properties for a long time after application. Also, granular ant baits typically have a broad pest range.
Liquid Ant Baits: Liquid ant baits are especially effective for sugar feeding ants. This type of bait is the oldest and is tried and tested by pest control professionals.
Borax: Borax is a naturally occurring alkaline mineral The mineral affects the digestive system of ants once ingested, and causes them to eventually die. Borax is a slow-acting agent which is why it is so effective for ant control when used appropriately. Check out our guide for killing ants with Borax.
Review of the 5 Best Ant Traps
So which ant trap is the best? We reviewed the 5 best ant traps on the market to save you the trouble of sifting through endless options only to be disappointed in the end.
1. TERRO Ant Killer II Liquid Ant Baits
- (4) TERRO 6 Count Ant Bait Station (6-Pack)
TERRO Ant Killer II Liquid Ant Bait is made from boric acid which is an EPA approved substance that is moderately toxic but effective for getting rid of most common household ants.
The package comes with 6 pre-filled bait stations that you set up around problem areas to give you maximum coverage. The liquid ant bait is very easy to use. Simply take the bait stations out of the packaging, place them where you have seen ant activity (indoors and/or outdoors) and wait.
This liquid ant bait doesn’t leak or spill and takes up to two weeks to eliminate entire ant colonies. You should begin to see a drastic reduction in ant activity about a week after application.
2. Advance 375a Granules with Bait Station
- Uses food attractant ants love
- Works on wide range of ant species
- Easy to apply
Advance 375a Granules with Bait Station is granulated ant bait that uses Abamectin as an active ingredient. This product works effectively on a broad range of ants including black ants, crazy ants, pharaoh ants, and field ants among others.
The Advance 375a is inexpensive and comes in a multiple-use bottle so you can maximize your savings when trying to control ants. Although you can use this product indoors, granulated ant baits are typically used outdoors.
Keep in mind that Abamectin is a toxic substance and is best used outside, particularly where there is no chance of children and pets accessing it. Abamectin attacks the insect’s central nervous system making it a very effective product for disabling and eventually exterminating ants.
3. Maxforce FC Ant Killer Bait Gel
- Active Ingredient:Fipronil
- Target pests:This product controls a broad spectrum of ants: Argentine, Ghost, little black, Odorous House, and...
- Bait will remain effective for up to two weeks.
Maxforce FC Ant Killer Bait Gel uses a sweet attractant to invite ants. This is a great product to use indoors and works best inside cracks and crevices where you have seen ants coming in and out of the house.
The bait gel works quickly and you should see a drastic reduction in ant population within three to five days. The gel hardens once applied, essentially sealing the hole or gap where the ants have been passing through in addition to poisoning the pest.
Maxforce ant gel remains active for up two weeks after application making it great value for money. This gel covers a broad spectrum of indoor ants including odorous house ants, ghost ants, argentine ants, and pavement ants.
4. Hot Shot MaxAttrax Ant Bait
- STARTS KILLING ANTS IN HOURS: Hot Shot MaxAttrax Ant Bait provides relief from even tough ant problems – it kills the...
- KILLS THE QUEEN AND COLONY: Works up to 6 months indoors
- INDOOR AND OUTDOOR USE: Use near walls, in closets and cabinets, under sinks and refrigerators; place one bait station...
If you are concerned about using ant traps in a house with kids, the Hot Shot MaxAttrax Ant Bait is child-proof and a good alternative for the baits mentioned here.
It is worth noting that you shouldn’t use ant traps where children can reach them, including child-proof products. With that said, the MaxAttrax is good to use if your ant problem is out of the way such as behind the fridge or inside cabinets and is an extra precaution in a house with kids.
The packaging comes with 4 pre-filled bait stations that you place along the ant’s path. The bait attracts the ants which carry the poisonous food back to the nest, killing the entire colony.
This is a fast-acting product and begins to work within hours of installation. The poison remains active for up to 6 months so you get the best value for your money. This option works especially well for sugar and grease feeding ants. You can use these ant baits both indoors and outdoors although their lifespan is cut in half when used outdoors.
You may, however, need to use a different product for fire ants as the Hot Shot MaxAttrax Ant Bait does not work for this species of ant.
5. Advion Fire Ant Bait
- Advion fire ant bait effective and fast acting. Combined with an alluring formulation, Advion ensures control of...
- Broadcast or mound treatment
- Recreation areas as well as institutional or private service areas
While the Advion Fire Ant Bait isn’t an ant trap in the strict sense of the word, it is still worth including in this review. Most broad-spectrum ant traps don’t work on fire ants so if you are dealing with this species, you need a product that is specifically designed to target them.
Indoxacarb is the active ingredient in this Advion product and has proven to be very effective for exterminating fire ants and cockroaches. The bait works in as little as 24 to 48 hours and is quite simple to use. Simply apply the bait at the base of any fire ant mounds that you see or use it on your lawn.
One container can treat up to one acre of land and exterminates fire ants in all life stages. You may need to use a hand spreader if you are applying it to your whole yard and if you have a major fire ant problem.
Tips for Using Ant Traps and Ant Baits
There are a few factors that go into successfully using ant traps to exterminate ants. Even the best ant trap on the market won’t be very useful or effective if you do not use it properly. Follow the guidelines below when using ant taps for the best results.
Pick Prime Bait Placement Locations
Gather all the intelligence you can get before picking the best spots to install your ant traps. Some of the crucial information you need before buying your ant trap include the species of ant you are dealing with, the approximate size of the colony, where the ants are coming from and where they are going, and where they like to forage for food.
Place the ant bait along the route that the insects use to forage for food. Follow the directions on the bait’s packaging for the best results.
Do not disturb the Bait Station
You need to leave the bait station intact as much as possible especially if you have seen ants actively picking up the bait and carrying it back to the nest. Ants leave a scent along their trail to direct other ants where to go.
Cleaning the area around the trail when the ants are not present will get rid of the scent and may cause the ants to change course. Leave the bait stations undisturbed for as long as the problem persists and monitor the station regularly to ensure that the ants are in fact feeding on the poison.
Leave the Ants Alone!
It may be tempting to stomp on any ants you see or to use an insecticide spray directly on the ants. As previously mentioned, disturbing the ants could cause them to release a warning scent to other ants to avoid the area. The more the ants change their routine, the harder it will be to target them.
Let the ants be and trust that your bait will do its job. You want the worker ants to take the poisonous bait back to their colony for other insects to ingest the poison.
Keep the Ant Traps Away from Children and Pets
Remember that ant bait is toxic and you need to be careful when using it in a house with children and pets. Place the bait stations where children and pets cannot get to them or make alternative arrangements to monitor or move your children and pets for the duration of the treatment.
The same goes for any ant traps that claim to be child or pet-friendly.
Try Different Types of Baits
The reason why you need to identify the ant species you are dealing with is so that you can use the correct bait for the type of insect. Buy baits that specifically target the ant you are trying to eliminate.
It is also worth noting that ants may change their food preferences as the seasons change. Think about using different bait if you notice that the ants are not attracted to the type you are using.
If, for example, the pests are not responding to sweet-based bait, consider switching to grease or protein-based bait and vice-versa.
Bait All Ant Trails
The reason why many of these baits come with multiple traps is so that you can cover a wide area and hopefully eliminate all the colonies in and around your house.
Inspect your property and place these traps on every single trail that you can see. This is the only way to make sure that you eliminate all the ants.
Remove All Competing Food Sources
Most ant species show some preference for certain types of food but will eat almost anything if they cannot find their preferred food source. Competing food sources may cause the ants to overlook your baits and go directly to the tastier meal.
Keep your house and kitchen clean and remove all potential food that the insects may enjoy. Alternative food sources may include trash cans, pet food, dirty dishes, and spilled foods.
Successful ant extermination can take weeks so be patient. Keep re-baiting the ant trails for as long as you see ant activity and only stop when you stop seeing the ants.
Final Thoughts on Ant Traps
Ant traps are among the most successful form of DIY pest control but only if you do it right. Choose known ant trap brands that have been tried and tested such as the options we have reviewed here. Do not use your traps with any kind of repellent or you might discourage the ants from picking up the bait.
The main trick to successful ant extermination is to target the queen so that she cannot continue to reproduce and add to the colony. Attempting to treat the nest directly with insecticide will only cause the ants to disperse and make it even harder to eliminate them.
Some ant species such as carpenter ants have multiple queens. Once the nest is disturbed, the queens may separate and go on to form individual satellite colonies, causing your ant problem to increase exponentially. Such instances are why baiting is the most viable way to get rid of ants in your home permanently.