The California summer is in full swing, and while fun in the sun is on the minds of many folks, others will probably find themselves preoccupied with another summer tradition that is anything but fun: fighting invasive ants. We’ve talked about the best ways you can combat ants in the past, but in this post we’re extremely excited to discuss a very intriguing new weapon in fighting invasive ants, created at the University of California (Riverside).

Inexpensive to create, made with surprising ingredients, and holding the promise of greater ant-fighting efficacy with reduced toxicity, the new compounds—called hydrogels—are part of an initiative to bring even greater environmental stewardship and responsibility to the field of pest control. And they might just embody the new standard in ethical pest control for the coming age.

Fighting Invasive Ants – Hooray for Hydrogels

Made with seaweed and looking more than a little bit like a wobbly gelatin dessert from the buffet line, hydrogels have some fairly amazing properties. In addition to being much easier to distribute than traditional liquid baits (hydrogels can be spread where ants are already searching for food, instead of requiring a time-consuming and sometimes inconvenient dispenser), hydrogels pack astounding ant-killing efficiency but require only one-thousandth part of the traditional toxin. Averaging around 70 percent efficiency in reducing ant populations, the gels also avoid the unwanted side-effects that accompany chemical sprays and baits.

Best of all, the hydrogels are especially effective against Argentine ants, one of the most troublesome invasive species in California, and known carriers of diseases dangerous not only to humans, but also to keystone species such as honeybees.

Slow and Steady: the How of Hydrogels

Laced with both trace toxins and sweeteners to attract ants, hydrogels work slowly, but relentlessly, in fighting invasive ants. The gel attracts ants, who drink from the gel and carry the toxic liquid back to the nest, where they not only share it with the rest of the brood, but create a trail that attracts other ants who will repeat the pattern. These new compounds are much slower than traditional sprays, but carry much lower risk to users, other animals, and the environment as a whole. They’re also inexpensive to create, relying as they do on seaweed as a chief ingredient, and requiring much less toxin to work.

So will hydrogels becoming to a shelf near you soon? Not just yet. For now, they are still being studied and refined for potential use against a wide array of pests, in a range of environments, by professional pest exterminators and homeowners alike. But these wobbly wonders offer a promising glimpse of a future that allows for better pest control with less risk to the environment we all share. In the meantime, if you’re struggling with an invasion of Argentine or other ants, be sure to reach out to your local ant control experts. They’ll provide a thorough review of your ant problem, identify the best (and environmentally friendly!) solutions, and help ensure you avoid reinfestation in the future.