It's a Revolution!
Baiting is the most significant innovation to occur in subterranean termite control technology since the introduction of modern termite control chemicals in the 1 950s. Until recently, the only methods available for subterranean termite control were barrier treatments using large amounts of environmentally persistent chemicals. Several alternative termite control strategies have been proposed and commercialized recently, however baiting is the one that promises to replace barrier treatments as the preferred method of subterranean termite control.
The research that forms the foundation of termite baiting was conducted over 25 years ago. However, because barrier type products then available were very effective, termite baiting was not developed. However, baiting has finally been commercialized for several reasons. First, barrier treatment products now available are not as effective as these previously available products. Secondly, questions are beginning to be asked about the logic of routinely applying large amounts of environmentally persistent chemicals around and under inhabited structures when effective alternatives such as baiting are now available.
Baiting vs. Barriers
Barrier treatments only exclude termites from a structure, they do not suppress or eliminate termites. Because they are not eliminated, termites are still able to probe beneath the barrier looking for gaps in the barrier, trying to find a way into the structure. If the barrier is not continuous and a gap is found, termites can penetrate the barrier and gain entry to the structure undetected. Additionally, currently available barrier treatment products are not as longlasting or as effective at low concentrations as barrier treatment products, such as chlordane, that were banned in the 1 980s.
Even the most carefully applied barrier treatments do not always form continuous barriers. This means that gaps can be left in the barrier through which termites can invade the structure. Additionally, the strength of the barrier may deteriorate at one or more points allowing termites to infest the structure undetected at these weak points in the barrier.
Forming a complete termite barrier under a structure is often not practical. For instance, termites can enter the structure through cracks in the middle of slabs and through hidden expansion joints under which it is nearly impossible to form a continuous barrier. Barriers that are formed may be physically disturbed when treated earth that forms part of the barrier is moved, disturbed or washed away.
Barrier treatments involve the application of large amounts of liquids around and under a structure. Barrier treatments may require drilling hundreds of holes in the foundation of the structure. Drilling can result in busted pipes and unsightly holes in slab surfaces. The application of barrier treatments sometimes involves the removal of finished interior surfaces such as flooring and molding. Finally, some barrier treatment products may leave an odor in the structure that persists for several days.
There are several advantages to baiting for termite control but two are paramount. First, a termite bait actually suppresses activity by a termite colony that is consuming the bait. This suppression substantially reduces or eliminates the potential of the colony to attack a structure. in fact termite baits may, under the right circumstances, eliminate the termite colony. The second important advantage is the dramatic reduction in the amounts of pesticide necessary for termite control when termite baits are used in place of barrier treatments.
In order to affect termites, a termite bait must be consumed by the termites. Additionally, termite colony members must consume a bait for a long enough period of time for the bait to affect the entire termite colony. However to be effective, termite baiting systems must deal with two key habits or characteristics of termites.
The first key characteristic of termites that must be dealt with by a termite baiting system is the fact that termites cannot be attracted. However, because termites continuously randomly forage in the ground around their colony close to the earth's surface in search of food, they will eventually forage at almost every point in the earth around their colony. If a substance termites consume is placed at a fixed location in the ground near the colony, the colony will eventually find the substance and begin consuming it. For this reason, the first step in the termite baiting process is the placement in the ground of a station containing a substance, referred to as an "interceptor", that termites will consume. Termites that find this substance and begin feeding on it in the station are referred to as having been "intercepted".
The second key characteristic of termites that must be dealt with by a termite baiting system is the tendency of termites to desert an area in which they have been feeding if the area is disturbed. Because termites have no natural defenses against such disturbances, their response to a disturbance may be to leave the disturbed area. Therefore an effective baiting system must minimize disturbance of termites feeding in the station at all times during the interception process and the subsequent baiting process.
- Easier Does It
The Exterra Termite Interception and Baiting System is superior to other baiting systems and metheods. This is because it represents a simplified approach to termite baiting. This simplified approach results in a minimization of the disturbance of termites during inspections and baiting, a key attribute of an effective baiting system.
Other multi-step baiting systems remove their interceptors in order to inspect them for termite attack. This removal disturbs the termites infesting the interceptor potentially resulting in the termites leaving the station. Exterra stations are designed to permit visual inspection of the interceptors for termite activity without removing or disturbing the interceptors. Because the interceptors are not removed during inspection, disturbance of termite feeding during station inspection is minimized.
Other multi-step baiting systems remove their interceptors during the baiting process, further disturbing termites in the station at this most critical point in the baiting process. With Exterra, instead of removing the interceptor and replacing it with bait, bait is placed in the station in contact with the termite-infested interceptors. Because termites prefer the texture (density and consistency) of the bait to that of the interceptor, they transition from feeding on the interceptor to feeding on the bait.
Just as important as the innovative interception and baiting method used with Exterra is the inclusion as a part of the system of an effective termite bait. That bait is Labyrinth, the result of a three-year research and development project to develop an effective termite bait.
Almost any type of insecticide will kill termites if they consume it. However, termite colony members have avoidance instincts that protect them against most types of toxicants. This is because most toxicants are quick acting, meaning they cause death soon after the toxicant is consumed. If a large number of termite colony members perish soon after consuming a quick acting toxicant, other members of the colony may stop feeding on that toxicant and avoid further contact with it. This avoidance means the toxicant does not eliminate substantial numbers of colony members before the colony learns to avoid it. For this reason, a termite bait active ingredient must be carefully selected to defeat this avoidance instinct.
One way to defeat this instinct is to select a toxicant that acts slowly on a termite colony. If a toxicant acts slowly enough on the colony, the colony is not able to "learn" to avoid the substance that is killing colony members.
Instead of an interior skeleton, insects including termites have an exterior skeleton, referred to as an exoskeleton a key chemical component of which is the substance chitin. As they grow, termites must shed their exoskeleton to form a new replacement exoskeleton during a process called molting. A failure to complete the molting process is lethal to termites meaning that a toxicant that interferes with the molting process would be fatal.
The active ingredient in Labyrinth is a toxicant that inhibits the proper production of chitin in termites during molting, thereby interfering with the molting process. However in order for this interference to occur, a termite must consume Labyrinth prior to the onset of the molting process. This is why the active ingredient in Labyrinth is administered to termites in the form of a bait.
When a termite that has consumed Labyrinth molts, the lethal effect is immediate. However, because all the termites in a colony do not molt at the same time, the effect of Labyrinth on the colony is staggered over a considerable period of time. Because the effect of Labyrinth on the colony is gradual or slow acting, colony members are not able to identify and avoid the substance that is causing the slow loss of colony members.
If the colony consumes Labyrinth for a long enough period of time, the number of members in the colony is reduced thereby suppressing the colony and reducing or eliminating its threat to your structure. If consumption of Labyrinth continues, this suppression may culminate in the elimination of the colony itself. However, once a colony is substantially suppressed or presumably eliminated, ground areas that the colony previously occupied are subject to invasion by other nearby termite colonies. This is why the interception and baiting process must continue at the structure for as long as it is desirable to exclude termites from the structure.
Significant reductions in potential exposure of applicators, occupants and the environment to termite control toxicants are possible when Labyrinth is used in place of barrier treatments. Because Labyrinth is only applied in tamper resistant stations, exposure of structure occupants is either non-existent or negligible. Additionally, Labyrinth is present in a station only when termites are actively feeding in the station.
It has been calculated that the use of Labyrinth results in a 10,000-fold reduction in the amount of pesticide necessary for termite control at a structure when its use is compared to the amount of toxicant needed for a typical barrier treatment of the same structure. Additionally, Labyrinth was registered by the Environmental Protection Agency according to their Reduced Risk Initiative that gives priority to the registration of certain pesticides that reduce exposures to toxicants.
Assembly and Placement
Station assembly includes lining the interior of the station side walls with interceptors. Because the interceptors are of a minimal thickness, this configuration creates a vacant cavity in the center of the station where bait will be placed when termite activity is established in the station. The sides of the station contain perforations through which termites can enter the station when earth is in contact with the station sides.
Stations are placed in the ground around the exterior of the structure in areas of suspected or likely termite activity. These may include areas of accumulated cellulose debris (such as mulch), shaded areas and areas of moderate soil moisture. Ground areas that are normally avoided include areas of excess ground moisture. Stations are placed at maximum intervals of 20 feet around the exterior of the structure unless construction surfaces such as patios make wider placement necessary. Stations may be placed in the crawl space (if one is present) if exterior ground access at certain points around the structure is limited. Under certain conditions, it may be necessary to form holes in slabs or asphalt to make sure that station spacing around the structure is not too wide.
Station Inspection and Baiting
Stations are inspected on a periodic basis for evidence of termite activity within the station. During inspections of un-baited stations, the interceptors are visually inspected for termite activity. Because interceptors line the station walls, termites foraging in the area of stations find and begin feeding on the interceptors when they enter the station through the openings in the station side walls.
When termite activity is discovered in the station, termite bait is added. Bait is placed in the vacant cavity at the center of the station in contact with the interceptors. Because the termites prefer the texture and density of the bait, the transition from feeding on the interceptors to feeding on the bait comes easy.
Station Re-inspection and Re-baiting
Baited stations are re-inspected on a periodic basis during times of the year that termites are normally active in your area. During these inspections consumed bait is replaced in order to make sure that bait is continually present in the station. Total depletion of the bait in a station prior to colony suppression or elimination might result in the colony abandoning the station prematurely.
Station Removal and Replacement
When termites feeding in the Station have been absent for a certain amount of time, the station and any remaining unconsumed bait is removed and a new station is placed in the same immediate area. Because termites leave odors and substances wherever they feed that mark their territory, stations that have been previously occupied by termites must be removed in order that termite colonies invading the area vacated by the suppressed or eliminated colony will occupy the station in that area.
The Cycle Begins Again
Suppressing a termite colony reduces the chances of infestation of a structure by that colony. Elimination of the colony gives complete protection of the structure against infestation by that colony. However, other termite colonies will invariably invade the territory vacated by the previously baited colony. This could be a nearby colony that has not yet been baited or a newly formed colony. For this reason, it is necessary to continue the interception and baiting process for as long as it is desirable to exclude termites from the structure. Additionally, if the previously baited colony has been suppressed but not eliminated, it may be necessary to re-intercept the colony and re-bait it.
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