Using seaweed to kill invasive ants

Scientists at the University of California, Riverside have developed an inexpensive, biodegradable, seaweed-based ant bait that can help homeowners and farmers control invasive Argentine ant populations.

The researchers found the "hydrogel" baits, which look like liquid gel pills but have a jello-like consistency, reduced ant populations 40 to 68 percent after four weeks. After a second treatment, between weeks four and five, ant population reductions were maintained at 61 to 79 percent until the experiment ended after eight weeks.

"A 70 percent reduction is really successful, especially considering we are not spraying an insecticide but instead using a very targeted method that is better for the environment," said Dong-Hwan Choe, an assistant professor of entomology at UC Riverside and an assistant cooperative extension specialist. "With 70 percent control, homeowners really don't see any ants."

Jia-Wei Tay, a post-doctoral scholar in Choe's lab, is the lead author of the paper. Co-authors are Choe; Mark Hoddle, an entomologist at UC Riverside; and Ashok Mulchandani, a distinguished professor of chemical and environmental engineering.

In addition to the applications for homeowners in an urban environment, which was the focus of this paper, the hydrogels have applications in agriculture, including in citrus groves and grape vineyards.

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