Using Poison Baits for Insects 

- Low toxicity alternatives to insecticides -

Summary: Baiting is a technique that uses an attractive food to lure insect pests to an insecticide (poison). Baiting tends to be more selective and less environmentally disruptive than conventional pesticide applications. Baits work best for the so-called social insects that live in colonies like ants, wasps, cockroaches and termites.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Using Poison Baits for insect control

Insect baits are made of some type of attractive food product that has been combined with either an insecticide or insect growth regulator (IGR). IGRs don't kill outright but rather disrupt insect or colony development by preventing immature insects from completing growth to the adult stage. Baits are generally used in pest control situations where one is trying to control a social insects, those that live in a colony or nest such as ants, wasps, cockroaches, and termites.

In a typical social insect colony foraging insects collect food, or bait, and bring it back to the colony. The insecticides or IGRs then contaminate the colony as the food is passed between colony members. In this way colony development is disrupted over time.

ants at a bait station

Household ants feeding at liquid bait station. Photo by J.D. DeAngelis

Baiting is often seen as a low toxicity alternative to conventional, synthetic insecticides and is better accepted by many homeowners. Baiting is far more selective because it targets only the insects that forage for the bait. Baiting often takes longer to get control but the control is usually more complete when compared to conventional insecticides. Another advantage to baiting is that it can be used in chemically sensitive areas where conventional insecticides can not, or should not, be used. Use the links below for additional, pest specific, information. Many bait products that were once only available to pest control professionals are now available to homeowners for do-it-yourself projects (use the search box at, our affiliate for specific pests).

Insect control with bait

  • Household ants -- (see Using Ant Baits) for a variety of household nuisance ants are very effective; baits contain boric acid, sodium borate, conventional insecticides or growth regulators.
  • Carpenter ants -- (see Carpenter Ant Baits); baiting should be combined with conventional methods.
  • Cockroaches -- (see Cockroach Baits) are very effective when combined with sanitation and "crack & crevice" treatments.
  • Termites -- (see Termite Baits) are effective for subterranean termites (not drywood termites) but may require professional set-up and monitoring.
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