Termite Baiting and Other Termite Control Methods – Mother Earth News

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Adult eastern subterranean termites swarm and mate in the spring.

ISTOCKPHOTO / MELINDA FAWVER

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Subterranean termites eat wood but live mainly in the ground.

ISTOCKPHOTO / MICHAEL PETTIGREW

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Drywood termites live primarily in hot areas along the coastline of the United States.

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If you have a termite problem at home, don’t panic. There are effective measures, such as termite bait, in place to control termites.

Safe pest control

Standard pest control methods to get rid of underground termites involve applying toxic chemicals to your home, your soil, or both. And “camping” – basically wrapping and gassing your entire home – is the most common way of shipping drywood termites. The good news is that many of the methods available today for controlling termites are just as effective, if not more effective, than the toxic kills.

Professionally installed bait systems are the least invasive and in demand way of getting rid of underground termites. Although the active ingredients in the baits are toxic pesticides, they’re effective in limited, targeted, gram-sized doses, compared to 100 to 150 gallons in your home. Bait systems work by using the termites’ own process to feed their hoards to deliver venom to the entire colony.

Small bait stations are placed in the ground around the house. Unbait wood is placed in each station and they are monitored quarterly for termite activity. If termites are found eating in a bait station, wood baited with the chemical is used. The termites bring the baited wood back to the colony for wider consumption.

“Our bait system not only stops termites from feeding on a house, it also provides complete elimination of the colonies,” says Dave Maurer, marketing manager for the Sentricon system. “And we only use the chemical agent when termites are eating. When the colony is destroyed, we take out the active ingredient. “

The Sentricon system is recognized as a LEED-approved termite control system and is currently in use at the White House and the Statue of Liberty. “We set great store by stewardship,” says Maurer. “With quarterly monitoring, we can track the effectiveness of the treatment and help catch new colonies before they cause damage.”

It can sometimes take several months for a bait system to destroy a colony, which seems like a long wait. But most termite damage occurs over the course of years, not months, says Maurer.

Do-it-yourself bait systems are also available at home and hardware stores.

Extreme heat is the only non-chemical method of killing drywood termites and is the most trusted method to ensure that you have completely eliminated a colony. The process is probably the closest you can accomplish in controlling organic termites.

For treatment throughout the house, the structure is tented and hot air is pumped into it. With the isolated treatment, the hot air flows through channels that are directed into certain areas, for example a wall. The air temperature needs to reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which will bring the wood to 130 degrees (about as hot as a dry sauna) and stay at that level for about an hour.

The price for a full structure heat treatment for the remediation of dry wood termites is comparable to a standard chemical fumigation treatment. But consider this: “It takes a day versus three days and two nights. Best of all, it’s 100 percent non-toxic, ”said Ron Ketner, co-owner of AZEX Pest Solutions, an Arizona pest control company. “If you research the numbers, a Thermapureheat treatment is far less kind to the environment and your wallet.”

Other natural termite control options have lower success rates on their own but could be used as part of a greener integrated pest control plan. Some of these options include:

  • Nitrogen “freeze” treatments
  • High voltage electricity treatments
  • Microwave treatments
  • Biological controls such as nematodes or fungi
  • Orange oil applications

Termite barriers

When you have the luxury of starting from scratch and are about to build a new home, there are many preventative measures you can take to stop termite damage before it occurs.

Sand, stone, or trellis designed specifically for termite control can be installed around and under a house to create a barrier that termites cannot cross. These physical barriers provide a protective buffer between the hungry insects and potential sources of food in a home, much like their counterpart to the chemical barrier – but without the toxicity.

Boric acid can be used to control termites. Borate treatments, although often recommended for post-constructive treatments as well, are much more effective when used as a preventative measure. You can buy borate treated wood, spray or brush a borate solution on untreated wood, fill cavities with borate foam, or dust cavities with boric acid.

All termites on earth outweigh all humans seven to one. This fact is often cited by pest control companies and leads to instant heebie jeebies. But you don’t have to throw a bucket of pesticides all over your home. A termite is just another bug. Find a trusted pest controller and insist on natural control methods.

Different types of termites

There are two main types of termites that are commonly found at home in the United States, and each type requires a different method of treatment. It is crucial to realize which type is bothering you; here are some basics:

Subterranean termites live in every state in the United States except Alaska. Nationwide they cause more property damage than fire and wind combined. They live in the ground and feed on dead or rotting wood. Moisture is essential to their survival, and they are very susceptible to dehydration and temperature extremes. Formosan termites, considered to be aggressive, intelligent, and difficult to kill, are a wide variety of underground termites.

Drywood termites are found in warm coastal regions of the United States and live deep within the wood they feed on. Their colonies are much smaller than those of the underground variety, but drywood termites are more difficult to spot – they’re usually only seen when swarming.

You could have a termite problem if …

Knowing what to look for is the first step in thwarting an invasion. Some signs of an active termite problem are:

  • Spring flocks of winged adults
  • Mud pipes – especially along foundations. Mud tubes are protective tunnels that termites build out of the earth so that they can move from their nest to a source of food without exposure to light.
  • Dark, blistered, soft or hollow sounding wood
  • Piles of sawdust under pinholes in wood, drywall or wallpaper
  • Little piles of thin wings

Published on August 21, 2009

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