Assessment of toxic baits for the control of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in South African vineyards

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Ant infestations comprising the Argentine ant Linepithema humile (Mayr), common pugnacious ant Anoplolepis custodiens (F. Smith) and cocktail ant Crematogaster peringueyi Emery are a widespread pest problem in South African vineyards. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes aimed at suppressing the problematic honeydew excreting vine mealybug Planococcus ficus (Signoret) (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) on grapes must include ant control to optimize the effectiveness and efficacy of mealybug natural enemies. If ants are eliminated, natural enemies are able to contain mealybugs below the Economic Threshold Level (ETL). Current strategies for ant control are limited and generally include the application of long term residual insecticides that are detrimental to the environment, labour intensive to apply and can disrupt natural biological control if applied incorrectly. A more practical method of ant control using low toxicity baits was therefore investigated. Field bait preference and bait acceptance assessments aimed at determining bait repellency and palatability, respectively, were carried out during spring, summer and autumn in three vineyards of the Cape winelands region during 2007/08. Five toxicants comprising gourmet ant bait (0.5%), boric acid (0.5%), fipronil (0.0001%), fenoxycarb (0.5%) and spinosad (0.01%) dissolved in 25% sugar solution were tested against a 25% sucrose solution control. Gourmet ant bait was significantly more preferred and accepted by all ant species than the other baits. Laboratory bait efficacy assessments using four insecticides (gourmet, boric acid & spinosad) at concentrations of 0.25; 0.5; 1; 2 and 4 times the field dose and fipronil at 0.015625; 0.03125; 0.0625; 0.125; 0.25 times the field dose were carried out. Results revealed that boric acid (2%), gourmet ant bait (2%) and fipronil (1.0 X 10-5%) exhibited delayed toxicity for L. humile and C. peringueyi while spinosad (0.01%) showed delayed action on L. humile. Field foraging activity and food preference tests were also carried out for the three ant species during 2007/08. Foraging activity trials revealed that vineyard foraging activity of L. humile is higher relative to A. custodiens and C. peringueyi. This means fewer bait stations are required for effective L. humile control making low toxicity baits a more affordable and practical method of controlling L. humile than the other two ant species. Food preference trials showed that L. humile and C. peringueyi have a high preference for sugar while A. custodiens significantly preferred tuna over other baits. However, all ant species had a preference for wet baits (25% sugar water, 25% honey, tuna & agar) as opposed to dry ones (fish meal, sorghum grit, peanut butter & dog food). This research concludes that low toxicity baits show potential in ant pest management and can offer producers with a more practical, economical and environmentally friendly method of ant control which is compatible with vineyard IPM programmes.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherStellenbosch: Stellenbosch University
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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