No structural pest causes more confusion than termites. Most homeowners have little knowledge of these troublesome insects, and what it takes to get rid of them. Our understanding of termites has progressed considerably in recent years. |
New management tools have emerged, and a significant number of pest control firms are now using baits as an alternative form of treatment. This publication will help homeowners understand termite baits so that they can make a more informed purchasing decision.
Subterranean termites excavate narrow, meandering tunnels through soil, eventually encountering wood, their primary food. Decaying tree roots, logs, stumps, woodpiles, and plant debris afford a ready and abundant supply of food for the colony. In nature, termites are very beneficial since they aid in the decomposition of organic matter and the return of nutrients to the soil. Occasionally during their persistent foraging, termites encounter wood within buildings. Once a suitable feeding site is found, the workers establish an invisible odor trail to attract other termites to the structure.
Subterranean termite infestations can go undetected for years, hidden behind walls, floor coverings, and other obstructions. Over time, significant damage can result. The cryptic nature and tenacious foraging habits of these insects also pose a challenge to control efforts. Unlike other services such as plumbing or electrical work, termite control involves living creatures. Traditional treatments may fail at times, underscoring the need for other forms of management.
Termite baiting employs a very different approach. With baits, small amounts of material are deployed like edible "smart missiles" to knock out populations of termites foraging in and around the structure. Foraging termites consume the bait and share it with their nestmates, resulting in a gradual decline in termite numbers. Some baits may even eradicate entire termite colonies. A comprehensive baiting program then seeks to maintain a termite-free condition on the customer's property through ongoing inspection, monitoring and re-baiting as needed.
The baits consist of paper, cardboard, or other palatable food, combined with a slow-acting substance lethal to termites. The bait must be "tasty" enough that termites will readily consume it, even in the presence of competing tree roots, stumps, woodpiles and structural wood. If the bait kills too quickly, sick or dead termites may accumulate in the vicinity of the bait stations, increasing the chance of avoidance by other termites in the area. Delayed-action also enhances transmission of the lethal agent to other termites, including those that never fed on the bait. Entire colonies can be eliminated in this manner, although total colony elimination is not always necessary to afford structural protection.
Buildings with hard-to-treat construction or chronic retreatment histories are logical candidates for termite baits. Some structures have construction features that interfere with conventional soil treatment methods, such as wells, cisterns, plenums, drainage systems, and inaccessible crawl spaces. With baits, gaining access for treatment is seldom a problem since foraging termites are as likely to encounter below-ground bait stations around the foundation exterior as well as beneath the structure.
Homeowners who do not want floors drilled and furniture/stored items/carpeting moved are good candidates for baits. Baiting requires fewer disruptions than does conventional barrier treatment. Installation and subsequent monitoring of bait stations generally does not even require the technician to come indoors. Noise, drill dust, and similar disruptions associated with conventional treatment are avoided.
Homeowners who are strongly opposed to the use of pesticides around their home are good candidates for baits. Although conventional liquid termiticides pose no significant hazard to humans, pets or the environment when applied according to label directions, some individuals are still apprehensive. Chemically-concerned homeowners may find the concept of baiting more attractive. With baits, the total amount of pesticide applied is small in comparison to the high gallonages needed to achieve a thorough and effective soil barrier treatment.
Property owners with a serious termite problem or those involved in a real estate transaction are good candidates for termiticide barriers. They may not be able to wait 2 to 6 months (sometimes longer) for baits to suppress or eliminate the infestation.
People living in attached housing (condos, attached residences) where the entire structure cannot be baited are good candidates for termiticide barriers.
In periods of economic instability, soil termiticide treatments may be preferred over baits. Baits typically require an annual maintenance fee for the regular inspections. If the fee is not paid, the bait system may be removed. With soil treatments, at least the termiticide remains in the soil, regardless of whether or not an annual inspection contract is retained.
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