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Termite Control Options


Ancient History

Chemical barrier termite treatment around foundationUntil the early 1980's, there was pretty much one way to "do a termite job," and that was with chlordane or something very much like it. Chlordane belonged to a group of chemicals called organochlorines, which also included DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, heptachlor, lindane, methoxychlor, and a few others.

Chlordane was applied around and under buildings as an unbroken "chemical barrier," and it worked great. Buildings that were treated decades ago using chlordane are still termite-free all these years later.

Chlordane was applied using a pump, hoses, and a fearsome collection of drills, rods, valves, nozzles, injectors, and other gadgets that were designed to get the termiticide where it needed to be. It was crucial that the barrier be continuous, and termite technicians had a tool for every conceivable situation.

But between the 1960's and the early 1980's, chlordane and the other organochlorines began to come under increasing scrutiny. The first to go was DDT, largely because it was believed to harm wild bird populations and to possibly have adverse human health effects. One by one, most of the other organochlorine insecticides also were banned or withdrawn from the market; and in April of 1988, chlordane became just another chapter in the history of pest control in the United States.

Current Treatment Options for Termites

Since the loss of chlordane, the pest control industry has developed many new products for the control of termites. Most of these arrived amidst great fanfare, but disappeared quitely into history because they either were ineffective or had hazards of their own. Today, there are four major termite control options available to homeowners. Each has its adherents, and its advantages and disadvantages.

Chemical barrier treatments

Chemical barrier treatments are still performed in much the same way as when chlordane was used, but with newer chemicals.

Chemical barrier treatment of termites is fast-acting and less expensive than some other methods, but the stability and long-term effectiveness of some of the products in current use is uncertain because they haven't been around very long. An unbroken chemical barrier is needed when using chemical barrier treatment.

Non-Repellent Liquid Termiticides

Non-repellent liquid treatments, such as Termidor® and Premise®, are applied with similar tools as those used for chemical barrier treatments, but non-repellent liquid termiticides used are slower-acting.

Because these products are non-repellent to termites, termites travel through the treated areas in blissful ignorance of the fact that they are being slowly and silently poisoned. They carry the poison back to their colonies, as well. Early results with non-repellent termiticides have been promising, with residual effectiveness in excess of seven years.

Unfortunately, there is growing concern that non-repellent insecticides may harm honeybee populations, particularly when they are applied as surface sprays for insects other than termites.

Termite Baiting

Baiting systems, such as Sentricon,™ consist of plastic canisters containing a few pieces of wood, which are installed into the soil every ten feet or so around a house.

Termites eventually come across the wood and begin feeding on it, at which time a technician sneakily replaces the wood with a slow-acting termiticide bait. The termites are too dumb to realize that they've been double-crossed, and they continue to carry the poison back to their colony, eventually eliminating it.

Termite baiting is very environmentally friendly and has many supporters. It is also slow, expensive, and provides no permanent protection against re-infestation. The stations must continue to be monitored for new activity -- forever.

Wood Treatment

Wood treatment for termites is an old, but still fairly popular approach to the problem. Many products can be directly applied to wood for the control of termites, but boric acid is still one of the most popular because it is inexpensive, essentially non-toxic to humans, and effective for a very long time once applied -- basically forever.

The drawbacks to termite control by wood treatment are that it may be impossible to get access to the wood itself in a finished home, that it tends to be slow, and that the application tends to be rather time-consuming.

Can I do it myself? strongly recommends that termite infestations be treated by qualified, licensed pest control companies.

The control of termites is one of the most complicated and challenging jobs in pest control. It requires specialized knowledge of termite biology, building construction, and government regulations. Special care must be taken to avoid contaminating living areas, heating and air-conditioning systems, and water sources. And effective termite control requires tools and materials that are unavailable and unfamiliar to non-professionals.

But if you simply insist on trying to do your own termite control, there are several do-it-yourself termite control products available in most parts of the country that you may want to consider, such as Terminate stakes if you want to try a baiting approach; or Boracare, which is a boric acid product that can be applied directly to wood to protect it from termites and other wood-destroying insects and fungi,