Termites are the number one threat to homes in the United States. The damage they cause is severely harmful to a home's structural integrity, but because the damage occurs underground and inside the wood of a home, many homeowners don't realize there's a problem until it's too late.
If your home is under attack from a termite infestation, or you believe it might be at risk, you have the option between chemical and nonchemical treatments. While a chemical treatment will be necessary to eliminate the problem, nonchemical treatment methods can assist the chemicals' effectiveness.
Chemical pesticides are an integral part of modern termite treatments. While great strides have been made in recent years to improve the safety and limit the environmental footprint of chemical treatments, they still need to be handled with care so as not to poison the soil or water of the surrounding areas.
Soil-Applied Liquid Treatments: The most common of chemical treatment techniques, soil-applied liquid treatments use pesticides that kill termites on contact. Beyond eliminating any termites that have entered the home, soil-applied liquid treatments also create a long-term barrier that helps prevent future infestations.
(At Breda Pest Control, we use a Termidor treatmen that does not kill on contact. This method slowly infects the termites as it passes from worker termites to the termites they feed, and is specifically designed to slowly but completely eliminate the entire colony.)
Termite Baits: Termite baits contain slow-acting insecticides that have a much smaller negative health impact on both humans and the environment in general. The baits are placed around the home's perimeter, either underground or over active mud tubes. Termites ingest the bait and spread the poison throughout the nest, thereby gradually (but completely) killing the colony.
Borates: Borates are chemical materials derived from Boron, a natural element mined from the earth. Typically, borates are used as a preemptive treatment to seal cracks and crevices in a home, thereby preventing termites from gaining entry. Borates can be harmful to humans and pets, so borate treatments are generally reserved only for hidden areas where termites forage.
While chemical treatments kill termites directly (albeit sometimes slowly), nonchemical treatments are designed to supplement the effect of the pesticides, killing termites indirectly. This can be achieved in a number of ways, but is generally done by incorporating nonchemical biological agents and by creating physical barriers to entrance.
It is important to remember that nonchemical treatments will not be able to fully eliminate the problem in the same way that a chemical treatment will, but that incorporating nonchemical strategies can bolster the effectiveness of a chemical treatment.
Nematodes: Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that seek out and enter termites and other insects, living inside them as parasites and feeding until the host dies. Because they have no negative impact on humans, pets, or plants, nematodes are seen as a safe yet effective method to supplement other termite-extermination efforts.
Fungi: While termites feed on certain species of fungi, others are lethal to them and can act as a natural poison. Metarhizium anisopliae is particularly effective: like termite baits, the spores inside the fungus function as a slow-acting poison that spreads from the first infected termite to the rest of the colony, gradually but effectively destroying the colony in a matter of weeks.
Sand: Sand can be a great barrier to keep termites out. Sand does not retain moisture and can't be tunneled through, making it a great preventative solution for crawl spaces, fence posts, terraces, and other termite hotspots. Beyond basic prevention, sand is also a useful tool for keeping an existing termite infestation isolated, stopping the problem from worsening.
Interested in learning more about termites, how to identify an infestation, and what you as a homeowner can do to stop these pests in their tracks? Download our free informative Ebook, The Lifecycle of a Termite Colony, and protect your home today.