ANOTHER NEW TERMITICIDE!

There are two major strategies available for the control of subterranean termites: liquids applied to the perimeter of the foundation, and bait stations distributed around the perimeter of the house. To this list is now added the use of a biological insecticide which is an insect killing fungus. The product is called Bio-Blast and is produced by EcoScience and is available to professional pest control operators. The fungus occurs naturally but is not harmful to other animals. The application of Bio-Blast to the soil surrounding the house. When individual termites come in contact with the fungus (Metarhizium sp.), become infected and die within two weeks. Before they die, infected termites carry the fungus back to the colony, thus spreading the fungus to other termites. All types of termites are susceptible to Bio-Blast, including Formosan and drywood termites. This material may be used in conjunction with standard (liquid) termiticide treatments, retreatments, and in environmentally sensitive accounts in which clients may prefer this kind of control.

TERMITE SWARMING SEASON

This year termite swarms seem to have started early--we had several calls in February and now lots of calls this month! Let's review some important aspects of termite swarms and infestations.

Swarms: The emergence of winged termites from subterranean colonies is in the spring and usually following a rainy day. Swarms may appear inside or outside the house, and are characterized by hundreds to thousands of small (1/4 inch), black insects with long, pale wings. These insects may go unnoticed in a basement, but the pile of discarded wings are a tell-tale sign. [The wings are broken off by the swarming termites.] Swarms may appear more than once in a house, and they may occur in more than one location (not usually). Consider that a colony that is capable of producing a swarm is about 5 years old and is "established" in the house. The amount of damage may not be that extensive (falling through the floor, house tilting to one side, etc.), but the problem is not going to correct itself! There is one species of subterranean termite that swarms in late summer! It only swarms in late summer, not in the spring. It is found primarily in eastern VA, but it is not common.

Do-it Yourself Treatment. I advise that homeowners DO NOT attempt to treat their house for termite infestations. To be done correctly requires specialized equipment, chemicals, and experience. If done half right, the colony will not be controlled or the infestation terminated and false security prevails.

Companies. There is a range of companies that can provide termite control services, from small, local companies to large, national or regional companies. There are advantages to each, and probably differences in prices. Select the company for the job based on what you know about them and what they intend to do. If there is a question about whether the company belongs to the Va Pest Control Association, call: 540/891- 9253.

Chemicals. There are about eight different chemical control strategies available for subterranean termite control--BUT there are no silver bullets, no magic chemicals, one company doesn't have a better chemical than another. In general, the chemical control material work about the same, and they all last about the same length of time in the soil. Differences occur because of soil type and other variables that we can't control.

Odor. In general, modern termiticides have little or no odor. The days of smelling the chemical for long periods after application are gone. And what you were smelling was not really the termiticide, but the solvent system in the technical material. But all that is gone now, there are slight to no odors.

Baiting. There are at least two baiting systems: Sentricon (DowElanco) and Firstline (FMC Corp.). These strategies are different from the traditional liquid application methods. They are not better, just different. They may be more expensive. There may be some areas and for some people this method (baiting) is the best approach. Baiting may not be available from all pest control companies in all areas of the state.

Foam Application. The use of foam to deliver termiticide beneath concrete slabs is not a common practice in the pest control industry, and there are several pieces of equipment that make and deliver foam. [The major work on foam and the design of foam making machines was and still is done here at the Urban Pest Control Research Center!] Foam is no gimmick, it works, it provides added coverage under slabs. However, there are liquid application tips that provide good coverage as well. Foam is no silver bullet!

Yearly Inspections. Most pest control companies provide a 1-year guarantee of the termite treatment. After that they offer a yearly inspection for a fee. This is not for re-application of the chemical, just an inspection to be certain that there is no further infestation.

Swarms After Treatment. It is not uncommon to have a swarm within a few weeks after treating the house for termites, especially in the early spring. The swarmers were produced in the colony in late winter, and they have been sitting waiting for the signal to leave the nest. Chemical treatment to the house may not prevent their release. It is a swarm a year later that should cause concern!

Ants or Termites. While it is primarily termites that swarm in the early spring, there are some species of ants that may swarm at this time. The most common would be yellow ants, and they may be found nesting close to houses. The narrow waist and elbowed antennae of ants easily distinguishes them from termites.

TICKS

There is good evidence that mild winters are favorable to increased tick populations. This winter has not been very cold, we may expect a healthy tick population! People should be reminded that outdoor activity in the early spring should include repellents applied to the socks and pant cuffs, followed by a thorough "tick check" upon return. And the dog and cat pets should be checked as well!

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