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TO BAIT OR NOT TO BAIT? THAT IS THE QUESTION

When colony elimination is the aim, pest managers should consider termiticide baiting as the strongest weapon in their arsenal. 

When their home is under attack by termites, homeowners want them gone – fast! Treating active termites with dusts or foam work quickly to take care of the problem in the treated area, but how confident can you be that termites have actually been eliminated from the whole structure or if the colony has been destroyed? Baiting certainly provides the best option for colony control and some baiting options are not as slow as you might think.

Termite professionals know that locating and destroying the termite nest, either physically or by chemical injection, is the ideal first step in any termite treatment process. In reality, it is not possible to locate the nest in most cases, and even if you do, how can you be sure it is the nest attacking the property? As a result, treating active termites in the structure is also a key part of the treatment.

But should you use dusts, foams or baits? Non-repellent dusts and foams work on the principle that they will kill termites in the treated area and that the treated termites will pass on some of the insecticide to nest mates. But the key question is how much of this is passed on, and is it enough to eliminate the colony?

Certainly, a good dust treatment will eliminate active termites from the treated area. But it’s not possible to know whether the colony has been destroyed or whether termites have just abandoned the feeding site.

Research on non-repellents has focused on transfer in soil treatments, and certainly the data demonstrates that at best, transfer of fipronil occurs over a maximum of six meters. What happens with dusts in field situations is largely unknown, but it is unlikely that colony elimination will occur unless the nest is very close to the treatment; even a nest under a concrete slab may be too far away from a treatment to be affected.

Additionally, termites are known to block off tunnels to feeding sites where significant mortality has occurred. In such cases the termites can continue foraging at other sites, possibly in a different part of the house. So, it’s not possible to know whether the absence of termites from a previously active area has really solved the problem. Making sure all entry points have been identified and monitoring activity at those points can help determine the level of success. However, finding all entry points is also somewhat problematic, especially for houses built on slabs.

In contrast, baits are the proven method to deliver colony control, with the change in termite health and ratio of workers to soldiers foraging in the bait stations giving confidence that colony control is being achieved. Termites don’t block off foraging tunnels to baiting sites, as they do not associate the bait with the cause of colony decline. As a consequence, they keep foraging on the bait right until the point of colony collapse.

The benefit of colony elimination and the subsequent reduction in termite pressure on the property is an easy sell, but speed of action is a concern for some. However, Xterm bait (main picture) using the insect growth regulator bistrifluron at a high concentration, has been demonstrated to deliver control in as little as four weeks during the warmer months, often requiring as little as 20-30 grams of bait (Evans, T.A. 2010).

However, even though bait treatments are known to deliver colony control, it’s still important to bait each feeding site in the property, as you never know whether more than one colony may be attacking the property, this is especially the case with Schedorhinotermes.

So, when looking to control active termites in properties, especially in buildings with access issues and unknown termite entry points, termite baiting provides pest managers with confidence they are solving the problem… and it’s not as slow as you might think!

Charles McClintock, Professional Products Business Manager, Sumitomo Chemical Australia

Evans, T.A. (2010). ‘Rapid elimination of eld colonies of subterranean termites (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) using bistri uron solid bait pellets’. Journal of Economic Entomology; 103(2):423-32, 2010.