San Antonio Express News
Sunday, April 17, 2005
By Molly Keck
So, you think you might have termites? Do not panic! Termites work very slowly and your house will not crumble to the ground tomorrow. Take your time and learn as much as you can before you rush into buying termite control services.
Treating for termites is something that should be left to licensed professionals. Choosing the right company can be just as important as choosing the right treatment. Make sure the pest control company you plan to use is licensed through the Texas Structural Pest Control Board (TSPCB); otherwise they cannot legally administer pesticides in your home. Do not be afraid to call several pest control companies for bids, this is a serious investment, so do your research.
If you already have termites infesting your home you have several options to choose from for treatment: barrier treatments, fumigation, or baits. Barrier treatments involve forming a chemical barrier in the soil and areas in which termite can penetrate into the home. This can be performed by digging trenches where the foundation meets the soil or using long rods to penetrate the soil. Barrier treatments can be a very successful method of control, but homeowners should be aware that small holes may be drilled into the slab, along the outer wall of the slab, or where plumbing and electrical lines enter the home to administer the pesticides. Ask the pest control operators to warn you where the holes will be drilled if you are concerned.
Fumigation involves using poison gas to penetrate all the wooden parts of a structure. A chemical barrier is established before the fumigation begins to prevent termites from entering the home after the gas has left. The gas is very dangerous and all living things must be removed from the home during treatment, including plants and fish. Homeowners will also be forced to leave their home for a period of time until the treatment is complete. There are not many companies that are licensed to fumigate and it is not performed as regularly as other options, so you may have to call around.
Baits are a third option for termite treatment. This is a successful form of treatment that does not involve drilling holes into the foundation, but can be very expensive and involves a lot of labor. Since it relies on termites finding the baits, it may take longer to see results, but it is nontoxic to other organisms. Baits placed in the ground attract termites that feed on it or take it back to the colony and feed it to other members. All termites that feed on the bait will die. It is also important to know what type of termite species you have because bait stations should be checked according to the species of termite. Different species feed at different rates.
Now, what can you do if you are starting to build a new home to prevent termite infestation? You can actually do a lot. Prevention is the best management tool and should be done before or during construction. You can treat the soil around the home as well as spray the slab, providing a chemical barrier. Removing all wood immediately after construction will prevent termites in the soil from moving toward the home.
None of the treatments mentioned will last forever. The average life expectancy of termite pesticides is five years. You should also be aware that pesticides degrade over time and may not be as effective three years after application as they were the day they were applied. You may find that different companies use different types of pesticides. The bottom line is that research has found them all to be effective as long as they are applied at the highest application rate permitted by law. If you are debating between repellents and non-repellents, understand that both will protect the structure.
If your home has already been built, you can prevent termites by applying a chemical barrier, removing all wood to soil contact, planting trees and bushes at least two feet away from the house, and removing fallen limbs and old lumber. Even decking touching both the ground and soil can provide an avenue for termites to enter the home.
Termites are hard beasts to control, but the good news is that we can control them. For more information visit the Texas A&M University website: http://termites.tamu.edu.
This article was written by Molly Keck, Integrated Pest Management Program Specialist with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County.