I have received numerous inquiries recently about termite services. This post will cover the most basic questions a homeowner would have about Termite Control.
Why do I need termite treatment?
Termite control is essential for any home in our area. Estimates say there are a dozen termite colonies on any quarter acre lot of land in the State of North Carolina. Logic would dictate that in the wetter, warmer climes of Brunswick and Horry County, SC (as compared to the Piedmont and mountains of NC) the numbers would be significantly higher. It is for this reason that both states require termite pretreats on any new construction and Wood Destroying Insect Reports for the sale of any home.
What does a termite treatment entail?
I will cover the 3 most common ways local companies treat homes. First, conventional liquid treatments. This includes creating a trench around the entire house, in the crawl space, and piers, and drilling through the slabs of the garage, porches, abutting patios and walkways, in an attempt to create a continuous barrier separating the structure from the subterranean termite colonies. The termiticide used in this service are contact kills. This means that it only kills any termites passing through the barrier; thus if any additions, severe weather, heavy drainage or leaks, or extensive gardening next to the home is done, the barrier may be compromised and allow termite entry.
Second, a similar barrier using Termidor. Termidor is a liquid termiticide with a different mode of action. The active ingredient is Fipronil. One, it has no repellent effect as the aforementioned termiticides do. That is purposeful, combining with its properties of being slower acting and communicative. Foraging and worker termites will travel through it and then carry it back to the colony, including to the young and queens that otherwise may never be killed with the first type of treatment.
There are several advantages to using Termidor. 1. If the barrier is compromised, the neighboring, still active termiticide will have a kill action if any foragers travel through. 2. It will kill off entire colonies near but not attacking the home yet. 3. Because it has this kill action, neither the label nor the states of North and South Carolina require that the crawl space be treated, since a full perimeter barrier will have an inclusive, expanded kill radius.
The drawback is that Termidor is a bit pricier than the other liquid termiticides.
The last treatment type is baiting. There are numerous baiting systems but they all work very similarly and there is no concern in the differences in brand names as to quality. Every 10-12 feet around the perimeter of the house, a baiting station is placed in the ground. This station has the yum-yum, yummiest wood to entice any blindly (literally, as termites are completely blind and have no sense of smell) foraging termite to tell its family about the great food at this restaurant. Once each quarter, the Pest Control company checks each station and, if any have been hit, the food source is replaced with a similar one with minute amounts of termiticide in it. The workers collect this food and feed the rest of the colony. Death ensues. A much more indepth overview of termite baiting can be found on this site from the University of Kentucky.
(P.S. This reminds me-Please, please, please only get information from accredited colleges and universities, museums of natural sciences or the EPA and/or CDC. Pesticides and pests, more than any subject I know, have more incomplete, inaccurate and just false information being spouted as fact. That includes almost all the for profit, high sensationalism news sources out there. "Are pesticides killing your family??!! We'll tell you after these commercial messages from Budweiser, Ford and McDonald's".
P.P.S. If you don't get the irony in that, I'll be happy to explain it.
So what is the best treatment?
That's an unfair question. They all have their advantages. If you are treating a wooden storage shed, a trailer without underpinning or with single brick underpinning, the conventional treatment using a product less costly than Termidor would probably be the wisest choice. I'd probably recommend Termidor treatments for many beach houses on stilts, or ones that have few ornamental plants and decorative patios and slabs. For instance, a home with an enclosed garage taking up the entire ground floor and living space above with a porch/deck wrapping around the majority of the second floor. Still, Termidor is a great treatment for any home, although I would recommend against it if the house has a well, cistern or pond/stream close to the foundation.
I prefer the baits for most occasions.
Side note: This is very odd for me. When the termite baiting systems first came out I was a huge critic. My biggest concern was its newness. I wanted to see how it actually performed in the field. It is ten years later now and the success rate is equal to any other means of control.
The reasons I like the baits are they are easier and less time consuming to install, there is no need to drill into the home or slabs, pull back carpeting to drill into the slabs, dismantle the often stocked full garages, but lastly, I like the ability to at any time, open the baiting stations and get a real time report on termite activity. Yet there are other reasons. If conventional treatments fail, it is highly unlikely the baits can come in secondly to control it. Whereas with a baiting system, one can always come in with the liquid termiticides in conjuction, should conditions call for it and expect results in those situations. With bait staions, if one is destroyed, removed or compromised it is known on the next visit. With a liquid barrier, you are going on faith that no construction, gardening or weather has removed the barrier.
What about price?
I know, that was really your first question but would you have kept reading if I answered that first? The rates actually compare very favorably (at least with my company). Most pest control companies will charge $600-$1500 for a conventional termite treatment on an average sized house. What's average? I'd say your basic 3 bedroom/2 bath home with a 2 car garage. Home & Garden's rates would be around $700.00 for that average house (an exact measurement would have to be made for an actual quote) to be treated with Termidor. The agreement would be for 5 years with a $110.00 annual reinspection fee. The baiting systems are about half the initial price, approx. $350.00 but the annual cost runs more. The quarterly inspections are generally $65.00. If I am already at the home for the general pest control service, the termite service on that visit will be reduced (if I am saving money, I pass the savings on to you). This will generally save the pest control customer $30-$60 a year.
So over 5 years a Termidor treatment would cost the average customer $1140.00. Baiting would cost $1190.00. Please note, with any company doing a conventional liquid treatment, after a 5-7 year period the termiticide will no longer be viable and you will have to have the home redug, drilled and treated for another $600-$1500, assuming inflation hasn't made those prices rise. With baits this will never occur. Which means in years 1-4 and in years 6+ the baiting system will be the less expensive method.
Diflubenzuron is the active ingredient in Advance bait stations. Also, www.dpr.clemson.edu is an excellent site for consumer information and they have an article entitled "A Guide for Consumers Considering Subterranean Termite Treatment Options".