Ant management in urban and natural areas often relies on toxic baits. Liquid baits are highly attractive to pest ants because they mimic natural food sources such as honeydew and nectar, the principal dietary components of many ants. However, liquid bait use has been limited owing to the lack of bait dispensers that are effective, inexpensive, and easy to service. The current study evaluated the potential of water-storing crystals (Polyacrylamide spheres) to effectively deliver liquid thiamethoxam baits to laboratory colonies of Argentine ants, Linepithema humile Mayr. Results of laboratory trials show that bait crystals saturated in 25% sucrose solution containing 0.007% thiamethoxam are highly attractive to Argentine ants and highly effective against all castes and life stages, including workers, queens, and brood. Fresh bait crystals were highly effective and required ≈2 d to kill all workers and ≈6 d to achieve complete mortality in queens and brood. Results of bait aging tests show that the crystals lose ≈70% of moisture in 8 h and the duration of outdoor exposure has a significant effect on moisture loss and subsequently bait acceptance and bait efficacy. A gradual decrease in mortality was observed for all castes and life stages as bait age increased. In general, fresh baits and those aged for <8 h retained their efficacy and caused substantial mortality. Baits aged longer than 8 h were substantially less attractive and less effective. Horizontal transfer tests examined the transfer of thiamethoxam from live treated donors to live untreated recipients. The results show that donor ants that obtain thiamethoxam by feeding on bait crystals effectively transfer it to untreated recipient ants. The level of secondary mortality depended on the donor:recipient ratio, with ≈40% recipient worker mortality with the 1:5 ratio and 15% recipient worker mortality with 1:10 or 1:20 ratios. However, no queens died in any transfer tests, suggesting that multiple feedings from multiple donors may be necessary to produce queen mortality. The results of the transfer tests demonstrate the role of trophallaxis in the distribution of thiamethoxam and confirm that thiamethoxam is effectively transferred in Argentine ant colonies. The distribution of thiamethoxam within Argentine ant colonies was further examined using protein marking coupled with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to detect the marker. The distribution of thiamethoxam was highly efficient, with 79 ± 13% of workers testing positive at 15 min and 100 ± 0% of workers testing positive at 6 h. In summary, the results of this study demonstrate that water-storing crystals effectively deliver thiamethoxam to all castes and life stages of Argentine ants and may offer an effective tool for Argentine ant management.
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Vol. 107 • No. 2