Sharing Some Light on The Basics
First: Don’t Panic
Hearing that you have a termite problem—or suspecting that you do–can bring about a wave of panic and visions of your home coming down around your head all at once. Termites are a probably the insect with the most economically destructive impact in the world and come by their reputation honestly, but a well ordered plan of attack against an infestation is key to a successful outcome for the homeowner.
The good news is that there are more ways than ever before to control termites and a well established industry devoted to their removal and the prevention of re-infestation. Termite colonies take years to grow and mature, which makes the best course of action less a matter of choosing between termite control methods in a blind panic than a well considered and carefully researched evaluation of the best termite control options.
Do-It Yourself or Call in the Pros?
One of the first realities that a homeowner must face is that controlling termites is not a job for the do-it-yourselfer. Even the most dedicated DIYer will find that the products available “over the counter” to the average homeowner are not effective against a termite invasion, and time wasted employing such methods will ultimately only allow a colony that much more time to grow. An early decision to call in the professionals will often pay for itself in the long run. Professional pest control experts are licensed on the national and state governmental level to use pesticides and other termite control products in levels effective to route the wily insects, which the general public has no ability to purchase, let alone use. Further, termite control experts have specialized knowledge and equipment that will enable them to launch a successful assault on the invading colony.
Finding the Best Exterminator at the Best Price
It is important however, to exercise extreme caution in contracting with an exterminator. Some general rules of thumb apply to the process.
The reputable termite exterminator will:
• Be licensed/certified, insured and bonded
• Will be able to provide written estimates based on a thorough inspection of the affected property
• Will have an established place of business
• Will offer a variety of treatment methods for controlling termites, not just one
• Will be able to provide testimonials from satisfied customers
• Will provide warranties on their service
• Be able to offer monitoring services going forward against re-infestation
A good exterminator will also likely belong to a city, state or national pest management association and be listed with your state’s official licensure entity.
It is About More Than A Price Tag
Just as a homeowner would expect to field bids for a building addition or renovation, they should also expect to contact and invite estimates and bids from several termite exterminator businesses.
Most reputable exterminators offer initial inspections and cost estimates for treatment for free or at low cost. A homeowner should make no decision regarding pest control services without having gathered at minimum, three bids from competing companies. The standard precautions of any bidding process apply here as well—be wary of “low ball” bidders and demand explanations and clarifications from the firm submitting the highest bid. Be aware of the going market rate of termite control prices in your area, and choose carefully based on more than JUST the price.
There are additional considerations that impact the choice of a pest control service and choosing between the treatment options that they will present.
Chemical vs. Natural Termite Control
Increasingly there has been a great deal of attention given to the safety of traditional chemical termite control products both in terms of human and animal health and impact on the environment. Some of the pesticides used for decades in controlling termites have, in recent years, been banned for use internationally. This has resulted in renewed interest in natural termite control.
Natural termite control is a bit of a misnomer, since one of the most effective chemical pesticides (used in fumigation for over 40 years) occurs naturally in the environment: methyl bromide which is produced by the world’s oceans. An organically based compound, nonetheless it has been found to have severe impact on human health and is a known cause of depletion of the ozone layer.
The term “natural termite control” is used by the modern pest control industry to indicate termite control products with a verified low toxicity to humans and negligible impact on the environment. Among these are products such as orange oil (distilled from the rinds of oranges); the use of beneficial nematodes (a parasite worm that feeds injects digestive bacteria into termites); boric acid; and Diflubenzuron (a benzamide based pesticide that inhibits production of termite chitin—the prime component in termite exoskeletons).
Also falling into the “natural” category are mechanical means of termite extermination which include freezing, heat and electronic disruption. These methods are effective primarily only in drywood termite control where the colony lives in galleries within affected wood structures, not in the eradication of the much more pervasive and highly populous subterranean species which nest in the ground surrounding their food source and travel into the structure via mud tubes.
Chemically based methods are still among the most effective, however, and the concern about safety, health and environmental safety have resulted in chemical termite control products such as Vikane gas (which has largely replaced methyl bromide as the termiticide of choice in fumigation techniques) which have been developed to be low in toxicity and have minimal environmental impact.
The very best termite control, of course, is always prevention. The use of specially treated termite resistant building materials; soil barrier methods surrounding structures and crops; the encouragement of known termite predators in the natural environment; frequent overturning of earth to destroy and break up existing termite mounds are all effective methods of preventing termite colonies from infesting areas of economic importance to human beings.
How to control termites has been an age old problem and one that will continue to present the world with challenges as a balance is sought between effectively controlling an insidious pest that is responsible for over $30 billion dollars worth of damage each year in the United States alone. Termite control will continue to be a dynamic area for research and development of effective chemical, natural and mechanical means of treatment as long as these wood devouring pests continue to prey on the economic interests of the human population.