HYDROGEN | The rapacious
Argentine ant is one of the most widely
spread invasive species on the planet,
taking over cities, orchards and nature
parks and building “supercolonies” that
link hundreds of nests and millions of
workers. The pests can cause serious
ecological and economic damage and
outcompete native ants. But controlling
Argentine ants has proven tricky for
growers and natural resource managers
because of a lack of effective baits.
Now, associate professor of entomology
Grzegorz Buczkowski has helped develop
an inexpensive, easy-to-apply solution:
spiking water-storing polymers known
as hydrogels with a tiny amount of the
pesticide thiamethoxam. Often used in
Fatal Bait for Invasive Ants
gardens to trap soil moisture, hydrogels
can absorb 300 times their dry weight
in water, expanding into large blobs
with a juicy consistency that has proven
irresistible to Argentine ants.
“When you drop hydrogels on the ground
next to a colony, the ants really go crazy.
It’s like a big party,” Buczkowski says.
In his study, hydrogels saturated
with sugar water and 0.007 percent
thiamethoxam reduced the Argentine
ant population in an orchard by about
94 percent in two weeks. “This has great
potential for managing invasive ants
in agricultural systems and natural
environments,” Buczkowski says. | N.V.H.