Ant Management: Tips from the Trenches


April 16, 2014

Pest Management Professional (PMP) asked several leading ant management professionals to share some of their hard-earned wisdom. Here’s what they had to say:

Top 5 Ant Management Dos

  1. Do be more persistent than the pest. If you’ve ever watched an ant at work, you already know about this pest’s persistence. If controlling these highly adaptable insects was easy, there would be no need for your service. Be thorough in your observation, precise in your diagnosis and exacting in your treatment.
  2. Do bait and switch — if needed. If your bait isn’t working, consider the menu. Like humans, the dietary needs of ants vary. If one bait fails to attract the critters, try another. You’re the chef, and you need to bring ants to your “restaurant,” so don’t be afraid to experiment. Sometimes, another brand of the same bait can be enough to entice your diminutive diners.
  3. Do reap referrals. One of the best sources of new revenue is word-of-mouth referrals, assuming your customers have good things to say about you and your service. An added benefit from establishing an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect is your clients also are far more likely to cooperate in the ant management process.
  4. Do CYA (Cover your … assets). If a customer insists you deviate from the best course of action, it might be best to walk away. However, most pest management professionals (PMPs) have to eat, making it easier for rationalizations such as: “I suppose partial treatment is better than none at all …” or “Who am I to argue with a customer?” In those cases where results might be compromised by the customer’s demands, thoroughly explain the risks, and always document any deviations from established protocols.
  5. Do consider the source. But never assume it’s the only one. At the end of a long day, or shortly before lunch, you might be especially tempted to conclude there’s only one source or colony, especially if it’s been difficult to locate. Don’t stop inspecting and observing until you’re certain you’ve found all sources of infestation.

Top 5 Ant Management Don’ts

  1. Don’t think you know all there is to know. When was the last time you and your team of techs carefully read the product labels on all of your ant control solutions? Formulations and protocols change. Never stop learning. Every job is unique. Even if you’ve been in the business for decades, there’s always something to learn or re-learn.
  2. Don’t assume your client has common sense. Sure, it’s reasonable to assume your client
    knows enough to remove scraps of food and other detritus that attract ants, or to keep children and
    pets away from treated areas. But don’t. Tell them, and put it in writing. You never want to hear “You didn’t tell me.”
  3. Don’t fall into the “more is better trap.” Using more chemical or bait than necessary isn’t better. Follow labels and protocols precisely, and avoid wasting time and money. Too much of a good thing can be hazardous to your and your client’s health.
  4. Don’t neglect customer education. Explain how they can help prevent future outbreaks. After all, who will they blame when the ants return? Decrease the chances of re-infestation by ensuring your customer knows what needs to be done after your part is done.
  5. Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth. Making the prospect aware of all the potential health hazards and other costs of an infestation will go a long way toward justifying your price. Tell the prospect another company might charge less but they might not eliminate the problem. Paying a little more will give them the peace of mind that only effective treatment offers. pmp

You can reach Mahoney, a Cleveland-based freelancer, at


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