Quite a Problem
Termites are the most economically important insect in the United States and in other places as well. Their destructive force is simply incredible and they cause millions of dollars worth of damage every year. As property owners, we tend to forget that termites attacking our homes are simply performing their natural function of breaking down wood. Termites are common in forests as recyclers of wood.
There are several species of termites in the United States. The most common ones are the Subterranean , Drywood and Formosan termites. Regrettably, some newer species have recently been discover - introduced from other parts of the world. What makes these insects so destructive is their ability to actually digest the wood fiber or cellulose. The actual digestion of wood is performed in the gut of a termite by protozoa living there. The protozoa are passed on from generation to generation by the feeding of termite fecal matter from adults to young termites.
Is it a Termite or an Ant?
One of the most urgent questions we get is where a winged insect found in the home is a termite. Both termites and ants may have a swarming stage or reproductive. Here are some characteristics to help you to make a determination:
Wings are paddle shaped and are twice the length of the body
Antennae are straight and fairly short
Body has only two components: head and (ribbed) abdomen as one continuous piece
Wings are somewhat pointed and only slightly longer than the length of the body
Antennae are curved (elbowed antennae)
Body has three distinct components: head, thorax (mid-section) and abdomen
Avoiding an infestation of termites can be achieved to some extent by eliminating moisture build-up, especially in areas where structural wood exists. Sometimes, something as simple as adding vents to an area with excessive moisture can do wonders to help make wood less attractive to termites.
When it comes to control, there are some do-it-yourself products. However, it has been our policy at The Bug Clinic to always recommend a commercial applicator for termite control. There are three reasons for this:
- If you go to sell your home or business property in the future and during a routine inspection, evidence of termites is found, the bank will not accept self-treatment and will require a commercial application
- If you do it yourself, the treatment is not guaranteed; commercial applicators generally offer a warranty which is often continually renewable and transferable.
- Some treatments such as fumigation are beyond the skills of a building owner or the termiticide required is restricted and can only be purchased by a state certified commercial applicator.
Commercial Termiticide Applications
Currently, there are a few techniques for termite treatments, depending on the type of termite infestation. However, there is some disagreement among professional applicators in terms of the performance of these treatments as well as selecting a method from the variety of treatments that may be done for a particular termite problem. Things are also complicated existing by state laws in the US which restrict products and techniques which further confuses the treatment issue.
The most commonly performed termite treatment is a perimeter soil treatment. The concept is to erect a insecticidal barrier by applying termiticide to the soil surrounding a structure. Several years ago, only a complete barrier which included treating both the inside and outside of the home was acceptable to the industry. Today, partial treatments are common with a warranty offered for the any treated areas only. Applicators, where possible, may treat the outside only to minimize the inconveniences involved with treating inside a structure (drilling through floors) and the potential liabilities that accompany that.
There are a number of products in use today. These include (by trade name) Demon TC, Dragnet FT, Prelude, Phantom, Premise, Prevail, Talstar P Professional and Termidor. The most effective of these include Altriset, Phantom, Premise and Termidor.
Premise contains a nicotine derivative call imidacloprid. This product has proven to be the effective. The second product, Termidor, contains fipronil. Fipronil has proven to be an excellent control product and the manufacturer is providing a five year performance warranty to the applicator. (Note to New Yorkers: neither of these two product is registered for use in your state.)
For home owners in New York, there are now two termiticides that are registered in all states including New York. Phantom contains the active ingredient, chorfenapyr. It, too, has non-repellent characteristics which make it similar to both Premise and Termidor. The results from this product have been very good.
The other termite control product that is approved in New York is called Altriset. This product contains a new active ingredient that is very specific for termites. Chlorantraniliprole, a new compound, is qualified by the EPA as a reduced risk pesticide which means it is much less toxic to people and their pets. Its mode of activity is to affect muscle. With termites, it affects their jaw muscles and within hours of contact with soil treated with Altriset, they can no longer chew wood. This is good news because if means that the damage from termites will stop soon after it is applied.
Most of the available soil termiticides may be applied by mixing them with a foaming agent and using a small compressed air tank which churns up the mixture into a shaving cream like foam and then pushes the foam into drilled openings. Foam offers some advantages in situations where liquid applications cannot be directed into areas where it is needed. There are also a couple of pressurized products that contain a ready-to-use foam that can be applied to voids such as behind steps.
Dusts may be applied to wall voids or other areas where liquids or foam are impractical. Products that may be used include Tim-Bor, Drione, Delta Dust and Tempo 1% Dust. Dust applications will only control localized infestations. They are not intended as replacements for soil applications with either a liquid termiticide or a bait treatment.
Direct Wood Treatment
Products such as Bora-Care or Tim-Bor are applied directly to wood. These will kill both subterranean and drywood termites. In other cases, equipment such "Electrogun" are used to electrocute drywood termites.
Termite baits for subterranean termites are an alternative to traditional, in-ground perimeter treatments. There are currently three manufacturers of professionally installed products: Exterra (Labyrinth), DowAgro (Hex-Pro and Sentricon) and BASF (formerly Whitmire - Advance Termite Bait System).
All of these products, Advance Termite Bait System, Hex-Pro, Sentricon and Exterra use an IGR (insect growth regulator) mixed into a cellulose fiber. IGRs help to assure elimination of termite colonies because the fatal effect are slow and undetected by termites.
Typically, monitoring stations are installed at recommended intervals that do not contain active ingredient. Each stations contain a removable component.
The stations are inspected periodically for termite activity. If activity is found in a station (removable component eaten), the affected component is taken out and replaced with a like component containing the active ingredient (Insect Growth Regulator). The IGR is distributed when termites contact and later consume the treated cellulose fiber
Tarp or tent fumigation is generally done using a product called Vikane. This technique is used for drywood termites although it can be used for other species as well. Fumigation will kill all insects in the treated area, but there is no residual property. This leaves the area quickly vulnerable once again. Dow AgroSciences manufactures Vikane. Click on the link to learn more about it at the manufacturer's web site.
If you have any other questions on termites, please contact us at 800-433-1128 or 845-356-2837. We can also be reached via fax at 845-746-9018. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.