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September 2, 2008

Group advises how to control ants without harming the environment

When insecticides are sprayed around the outside of homes to kill ants, they are often washed away by rainfall and irrigation, ending up in our rivers, lakes, and streams. Baits in dispensers, spot treatments, and several habitat management practices provide safer alternatives to insecticides; however, consumers and professional applicators often don’t know how to use these methods effectively.

   ant bookmark.
  

The ant bookmark

The Urban Pest Ant  Management Alliance (PMA) has stepped up to the challenge of teaching professional applicators how to control ants while being gentle to the planet. Funded by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, University of California (UC) scientists will work with local pest control companies to educate professionals and their clients about ant pest control.

The scientists are laying the groundwork with three pest control companies in Orange and San Diego counties. For each company, one service route consisting of customers with ant problems will continue with traditional service while another route will incorporate the PMA pest ant Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program using least-toxic methods. A typical service route has 120 to 140 customers. Customers will be surveyed before and after the ant season to see how effective each management approach has been in solving their ant problems.

The group's next step will be to enlist other commercial applicators to see if the IPM strategies will provide good ant control throughout California. To determine each program's cost effectiveness, the team will compare standard and IPM routes for the amount of insecticide applied, time to service accounts, and the cost of the service, along with customer satisfaction.

On the consumer education side, the focus will be on Argentine ants since they are the most common ants entering homes in California. A major goal of the consumer education project, which is being coordinated by the UC IPM Urban and Community IPM program, is to point “do-it-yourselfers” to products that are likely to work in their situation and show them how to use them effectively. "We'll focus on borate-based baits, but preventive measures such as sealing up entryways and removing food sources will also be emphasized," says UC Statewide IPM advisor Cheryl Wilen. "Of course, the management approach and baiting requirements depend on the severity of the problem. We'll give details on how to do a house inspection and how to use bait stations."

Currently the UC Statewide IPM Program provides substantial information for consumers on ant management alternatives at its Web site (www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7411.html) including a Pest Note, quick tips in English and Spanish, a key to identifying household ants, and many color photographs and line drawings. Project members will create additional materials. A bookmark explaining what consumers should ask for when they hire a pest control company to manage ants has just been released.

In a later stage, an Urban-Ant IPM web site about the PMA will be created for pest control applicators about ants and their control in urban environments. As part of the project, the Alliance will also produce a brief video, a slide presentation, and a concise publication on managing Argentine ants.

Ant PMA team members, led by UC Riverside entomologist Michael Rust, are: Darren Haver, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisor, Orange County; Les Greenberg, John Klotz, and Donald Reierson, entomologists from UC Riverside;  John Kabashima, UCCE farm advisor and county director, Orange County, and Cheryl Wilen, Area IPM advisor, South Coast. UC IPM Associate Director for Urban and Community IPM Mary Louise Flint is spearheading the consumer education program with the cooperators.

Resources

High-resolution image (532 KB) "The ant bookmark." Photos are for use with this release only. All other uses see Legal Notices.

Contacts

Stephanie Klunk, Communications Specialist
UC Statewide IPM Program
(530) 754-6724

Michael Rust
Entomology Department
UC Riverside
(951) 827-5327

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