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Introduction to Termiticides

05/03/2016

Edited and Compiled by Ralph H Maestre BCE


Subterranean termite workers

Magic Pest Management has been in the termite business since 1960. Magic Pest Management has eliminated thousand of termite colonies in the metropolitan area, while protecting your property. Subterranean termite treatment has changed dramatically over the last two decades. In the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Nassau Counties the number of systems, application techniques and products available for termite control has tripled in the last 10 years. Today, if you experience a subterranean termite swarm, you may call four different pest management companies and receive four completely different treatment recommendations. In most cases the Pest Management Professional (PMP) is only familiar with the treatment used by his or her company. So how can you make an informed decision? This overview of some of the currently available subterranean termite treatment methods should help you make an informed decision. It includes general descriptions of treatment products, brand names, application techniques, and their unique features.

Prevention

Subterranean termites feed exclusively on wood materials and have strict moisture requirements. With these characteristics in mind, a lot can be done to prevent an infestation by eliminating the food and moisture resources in their environment. Listed below are a few practical ways to prevent termite infestation by modifying their habitat.

  • Repair structural and plumbing leaks.
  • Pull all mulch and landscaping back at least 6 inches from the foundation.
  • Remove piles of trash and debris from around the home.
  • Remove dead tree stumps from the yard.
  • Keep firewood stacked away from the structure.
  • Make sure downspouts are long enough to direct water away from the foundation.
  • Keep gutters clean.
  • Avoid direct wood-to-ground contact when building porches or decks.
  • Siding, brick veneer, or foam insulation should not extend below the soil grade.


Subterranean Termite Treatment

Subterranean termites are widespread throughout the United States. Because they are so abundant, prevention alone may not always protect a structure from infestation. If a structure has become infested, additional action must be taken. Over the past few years, the number of subterranean termite treatment methods has increased dramatically. Below is a description of the most commonly sold methods of termite treatment in New York.

Liquid Termiticide Applications


PMP drilling the steps so that he can inject liquid termiticide against the foundation wall.

Liquid termiticides are usually applied completely around and underneath a structure covering all areas where termites might gain access. For new construction, this is accomplished by treating the graded soil and foundation walls before the slab is poured. For an existing building, the perimeter of the foundation is trenched and drilled, then treated with termiticide. The goal of the treatment is to put a chemical blanket between the termites in the soil and the structure above. The chemical blanket can also affect those termites inside a building by allowing the termites to go through the treated area, killing them. The reason is because Magic Pest Management uses Phantom® a non-repellent termiticide. This allows the termites to walk through the treated area without knowing they have pickup the product.

Repellent Termiticides

We do not use repellent termiticides at Magic Pest Management LLC. There are advantages and disadvantages to repellent termiticides. One advantage is that a complete barrier of repellent termiticide will effectively keep termites from coming into the structure. Also, the pyrethroids used for these barriers are relatively inexpensive and last for several years. The disadvantage is that termites are able to detect these termiticide barriers in the soil and avoid lethal contact with them. This is important because applying a perfect barrier under a fully constructed house is very difficult. Construction features, plumbing lines, and landscaping are just a few of the obstacles that hinder liquid termiticide application. Because of these difficulties, there are often gaps in the treatment where the termiticide was not applied completely. Eventually, foraging termites may locate these gaps and gain access into the structure. If these termites find the structural wood, they will tunnel back and forth through the untreated gap and recruit other termites into the building.

Non-Repellent Termiticides

At the time of this writing there are a few non-repellent termiticide treatments available on the commercial market. These chemicals are not repellant and termites cannot detect them in the soil. Therefore, the termites tunnel into the termiticide while foraging, contact the chemical, and die.

Phantom (BASF Corporation, Research Triangle Park, N.C.) is a non-repellent termiticide. The active ingredient in Phantom is chlorfenapyr. Chlorfenapyr is an insecticide that is not toxic to the insect until it is broken down by enzymes in the insect's immune system. Once broken down, the toxic metabolites of chlorfenapyr stop the insect cells from producing energy. The termites die because they cannot produce the energy needed to function. Because of its mode of action, termites contacting Phantom do not die immediately but live long enough to carry some of the termiticide away in their gut and on their bodies. These termites live long enough to transfer (through contact and trophallaxis) some of the termiticide to their nest mates. This transfer produces secondary kill within the colony. Like the other non-repellent termiticides, Phantom is also more expensive than the pyrethroid formulations.

Termidor Foam (BASF Corporation, Research Triangle Park, N.C.) is also a non-repellent termiticide in an aerosol foam can. The active ingredient is fipronil. Fipronil is unique in that it can be transferred from one termite to another through contact and trophallaxis (communal feeding). This allows it to affect more termites than those that contact the chemical directly. The advantage of this product is its long-term effectiveness. A disadvantage is that Termidor is more expensive than other termiticides. Another disadvantage is that there is not enough in one can to eliminate and entire colony of termites in and around the property.

Liquid Termiticides

Advantages

  • Intended to provide immediate protection for the structure
  • Lasts multiple years in the soil
  • Non-repellent termiticides eliminate the problem of termites locating "gaps" in the treatment
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to baiting systems (see below)


Disadvantages

  • Even the most conscientious pest management professional will have difficulty putting down a chemical blanket that is free of "gaps." Gaps in repellent termiticide applications may later provide access to termites.
  • Liquid termiticide applications can be disruptive to the structure, requiring that porches, stoops and even the slabs be drilled through at 12-16" intervals so that the liquid can be injected into the soil along the foundation walls. Even though these drill holes are later plugged, they are still visible after treatment.
  • Liquid termiticides applied within 50 feet of a body of water, well, or cisterns are a water contamination risk. However, it is not illegal to use liquid termiticide near these areas. A treatment method where the soil around a structure is removed, treated, dried and replaced is frequently used where water contamination is a concern. However, this treatment method does not eliminate the risk of the chemical leaching into a water source over time. In areas of potential water contamination, termite baiting is a better option.


Subterranean Termite Baits

Termite baiting takes a very different approach to subterranean termite control than liquid termiticide application. Instead of attempting to protect a structure by creating a chemical blanket between the building and the termites, baiting targets the termites themselves. Termite baits are designed to suppress or eliminate the termite colony living in the soil.

The first commercial termite baiting system became available in 1995. Since that time, several termite-bating systems have been developed. The most widely used bait products are applied very similarly. The initial installation of any baiting system involves plastic stations being inserted into the ground around the periphery of the structure approximately every 10 feet. The Sentricon Always Active only needs to be inspected once a year. If live termites are found in the station, toxic bait is already inside the station. The Sentricon Always Active System is intended to be used by it self, while others can be used in combination with a spot applications of liquid termiticide (applied only to areas where termites are active) or a complete liquid treatment.

Because the in-ground bait stations are placed outside the structure, they may not directly affect termites that are already foraging inside. To address these inside infestations, Sentricon has provided aboveground station. Aboveground stations are basically plastic boxes that contain a matrix (bait) laced with the active ingredient (toxicant). The boxes can be attached over a termite mud tube or directly onto infested wood. The termites forage inside the box and consume the bait.


Major components of the Sentricon Termite Baiting System

Sentricon System - The Sentricon system was the first termite baiting system commercially available. It is now the most widely used bait system within the United States and internationally. It was developed in 1995 by Dow AgroSciences (Indianapolis, Ind.) and the University of Florida as a stand-alone bating system. Sentricon was not intended for use in combination with liquid termiticide because at the time of its development, only repellent termiticides were available. If a repellent termiticide contaminated a bait station, termites would turn away from the station, rendering it useless. However, now that non-repellent termiticides are available, Sentricon can be used in combination with a non-repellent termiticide.

The bait system consists of in-ground stations that contain a high-density bait matrix. The stations are checked once a year. The Sentricon System is marketed as a termite colony elimination system. In order for a colony elimination system to work, the bait must affect almost every termite in the colony. Worker termites do all of the foraging, so how does the bait get from the worker termites to the rest of the colony? Remember that the worker termites are responsible for feeding all of their nest mates. They do this by consuming food themselves then regurgitating part of it into the mouths of the other colony members. This same natural behavior is exploited by the Sentricon system to disperse the bait toxicant throughout the termite nest. It is important to note that the bait cannot work too fast. If the active ingredient killed the termites too rapidly, the worker termites would die before they could pass the bait to other colony members.

The active ingredient in the Sentricon bait is noviflumuron, a slow acting toxicant. Noviflumuron is an insect growth regulator (IGR). IGRs interfere with the insect's physical development. This particular IGR interferes with the insect's ability to molt. Insects have their skeleton on the outside of their bodies, an exoskeleton. In order to grow larger they must periodically shed this exoskeleton in a process called molting. Noviflumuron does not allow the termite to molt properly, so it dies in the process. When noviflumuron is passed from one termite to another, the affected termites die during their next molt. In time, there are too few termites left to take care of the colony and feed the queen. When the queen dies the colony is eliminated.

The Sentricon system also supplies above ground stations that the pest management professional (PMP) can place directly on termite mud tubes or infested wood. Noviflumuron is the active ingredient in the above ground stations as well.

Professional Termite Baiting Systems

Advantages

  • Baits are very environmentally friendly because there is considerably less active ingredient put into the environment compared to the hundreds of gallons of diluted insecticide used in liquid treatments.
  • Termite baits are ideal for use around structures inhabited by persons with chemical sensitivity.
  • In situations where the infested structure is within 50 feet of a well or 100 feet of a body of water, termite baits may be the only treatment option.
  • Bait installations generally do not require any drilling of the porch, slab, or foundation walls, so there is not damage to the structure.


Disadvantages

  • There are no means of coaxing termites into stations that are being monitored so it may take months before baiting can begin.
  • Professional baiting systems are generally more expensive than liquid termiticide treatments because of the inspection requirements.
  • Termite baiting systems when used alone do not protect the structure directly. Termites feeding within the structure will continue to do so until the colony is eliminated or they are controlled with an above-ground station.


Much of the above information is taken from the following references. We at Magic would like to thank these individual for the fine work they perform for our industry.

Below is an attached chart to help process all of the information already discussed above.

Subterranean Termite Treatment Cheat Sheet

Control Method Non-repellent Liquid Termiticide Bait Systems
How it is supposed to control subterranean termites The structure is drilled, trenched and the soil injected with the liquid, but the termiticide is not repellent to the termites. The termites cannot detect the non-repellent termiticide in the soil, so they tunnel into it and pick it up on their bodies. They can also transfer the toxicant to other termites before they die. Sentricon Always Active High Density Termite Bait in every station. Monitoring is done once a year. Termites consume the bait but live long enough to return to the nest. There they feed the bait to their nest mates, thus killing a greater portion and eliminating the entire colony.
Termiticide products used by Certified Pest Management Professionals Phantom Termidor Foam Sentricon Always Active Termite Baiting System
Relative costs Can be more expensive than repellent liquids because the termiticide is more costly. The application is the same as the repellent treatment so labor costs are equivalent. Baiting systems are often the most expensive type of treatment. The station installation, monitoring trips to the home, and annual renewal are responsible for the cost.
Treatment longevity Phantom 5 + years Continuous process of monitoring with baits applied as necessary.
Advantages Provides immediate protection for the structure. Most effective treatment because it kills foraging termites. Baits are environmentally friendly (no water contamination). They present almost no exposure risk to humans and pets. Structure does not have to be drilled to install a bait system.
Disadvantages Requires drilling of the structural features to get a complete application. Structure not directly protected. There is no way to attract termites into the monitors, so actual baiting may take a long time to begin. This leaves the structure at risk.

References

Potter, M. F. Termites, pp. 232-333. In S. A Hedges and D. Moreland [eds.], Mallis Handbook of Pest Control, eighth edition. Mallis Handbook and Technical Training Company. 1997.

Koehler, P. G., D. E. Short, and W. H. Kern. Pests In and Around the Florida Home. University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS No. SP 134. Gainesville FL. 1998.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg. March 5, 2010