Build a Better Termite Trap
Traditional barrier methods, which consist of treating the soil around existing structures with pesticide (as well as treatment of reachable building components), are effective but problematic; it can be impossible to adequately permeate the ground evenly at a successful level, or access all parts of a home vulnerable to attack.Termite bait systems have arisen in response to the need to stop termites in their tracks before they have a chance to infest and destroy homes as well as to prevent re-infestation after successful treatment of an existing termite problem.
What is termite bait?
A termite bait system is most effectual against the subterranean termite species, which arguably is the type of termite that inflicts more damage per capita than its fellow wood devouring species, the drywood and dampwood termites. The latter two groups tend toward smaller initial swarm and colony size, whereas subterranean termites, which also nest primarily in the ground around homes and buildings release massive swarms in termite prone areas and can, have colonies that number in the millions of organisms.
A termite bait system consists of a series of “stations” implanted most often into the ground surrounding a home and which contain a cellulose based substance (frequently cardboard) permeated by termiticidal agents. A bait system works on the principle that foraging termite workers will be attracted to the “food” source in the station and will attack and consume the contents first, taking the pesticide back to the subterranean nest where it will poison and kill the colony.
Termite bait stations must be carefully designed and deployed; the pesticidal agent used must be slow acting enough that the foraging termites live long enough to return to the main colony, bodies of dead and dying termites in the vicinity of the trap have been shown to “warn” the colony to avoid the traps. The bait must also be attractive enough for the termites to target it over the rich source of food a home presents. The best termite bait system must be resistant to decomposition once in the ground as well, not be prone to being neutralized by rainfall or lawn watering.
How to Bait Termites?
Termite bait treatment consists of planting termite bait boxes at fixed intervals in the ground surrounding a home. The best termite bait stations—and those most often used by professional exterminators—utilize untreated wood as bait in the initial stages of treatment. These first implantations serve as “monitor” stations which attract colony scouts, when termite activity is noted the wood can then be replaced or augmented by the pesticidal cellulose material. Stations generally are placed between 10-20 feet apart in a perimeter around the property, as foraging termites have no senses of sight or smell to help them zero in on the bait the dispersal of the stations must be adequate to allow for the “accidental” discovery of the stations by the foraging colony.
Advance termite bait systems must also be deployed during the time of the year when the termite colony is most active. In most areas in the United States this is in the spring and summer months when colony activity tends to be at its highest and the time of the year when swarms from mature colonies are actively released. Fall and winter treatments have been historically shown to be less effective; termite activity is often reduced during those months and the traps can be more prone to decomposition from wetter more damp weather patterns.
Baiting systems are not a quick fix to the termite infestation problem—but rather a long range plan best utilized in conjunction with other methods of treatment including barrier plans. The homeowner utilizing a baiting system must be flexible and persistent—willing to expand the bait station perimeter and take an active role in monitoring the stations. Results cannot be expected over night, or even in the first months or year of a successful termite bait system deployment.
Do It Yourself or Professional Bait Systems?
While most termite extermination efforts are best left and most cost effective in the hands of professional termite control specialists, termite baiting systems are one area in which the homeowner may be successful in applying a do it yourself mindset. Termite baiting systems can be found at Home Depot and other home improvement and hardware retailers at reasonable cost, are easy to prepare and an disperse, but they also have drawbacks.
If the initial bait system is deployed during a rainy period, the cellulose in the traps might be compromised before any discovery by termites. Lawns that are frequently watered or with built-in sprinkler systems may cause premature triggering of the stations, again before the colony has had a chance to discover the bait. Homeowners cannot expect to plant the termite bait stations into the ground and then walk away leaving them to do their work. Successful use of a home termite bait system requires diligence in maintaining the stations, which may include frequent bait replacement and the addition of more stations as needed. Home bait systems will always involve the active monitoring of the termite bait boxes by the property owner.
While initially cheaper than more advanced systems available from professional exterminators, the latter might be more cost effective in the long run due to termite bait kits needing to be frequently replaced or redeployed due to weather conditions or other factors. Most professional bait systems will be part of an ongoing multipronged extermination process, or follow up to the treatment of a property for a pre-existing infestation and as such may be part of the warranty package against reinvasion by the colony.
The amount a homeowner is willing to devote to termite baiting systems must ever be a consideration in their use. Liquid barrier treatments are often considered less costly over the long run due to the fact that follow up by the pest control company is usually limited to annual follow up visits after initial deployment. Termite baiting systems on the other hand require 3-4 or more follow up visits yearly for the purpose of monitoring and replacing bait, or implantation of more bait stations as needed. This can result in a cost up to three times that of a barrier treatment. Also, baiting stations are not a permanent solution of themselves—they must be maintained or replaced on an ongoing basis to prevent re-infestation by a colony. Because the bait itself is exhaustible and does not permeate or remain in the soil after initial ingestion by the colony, a new colony or colony satellite can reinvade the property after the resolution of the original termite problem.
While termite baiting systems can be a very effective tool in controlling termite infestation, they cannot be considered to be the sole solution for a termite problem. Rather, baiting systems are most useful as part of a comprehensive treatment program package offered by a professional termite exterminator.