• 1. Baits
Baits, traps, lures or whatever you want to call them. Feed termites so you can deal with them.
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  • 1. How long will termite baiting take?

    The process of baiting for termites is highly variable. Sometimes termites take a weeks or months to go into a bait. Sometimes they're in by day two.

    Some slow bait toxins may take months to noticeably affect the colony. This is especially true of the hormonal approaches which interfere with moulting. Some toxins will usually kill off a colony within two to three weeks of the first feeding. Three to eighteen months is about right for nearly all jobs and most are done by eight months..

    Some termite species are bait shy and may take weeks or months to return to a disturbed bait. Some termite species don't share very well, so with them the toxin takes much longer to reach all parts of the colony.

    If you are using a commercial bait system, the supplied information should be able to tell you roughly how long things should take. If you don't know, ask. The technician's job is to (i) manage the termites and (ii) communicate the process steps. You should always know how the technician is expected to declare when the termites are 'controlled'.

    In some risk situations, baiting may become a permanent process. While DIY baiting is possible and widely promoted by bait sellers, it is rarely advisable to take on the whole job yourself. At least have a competent person assess the situation and detail the species and risks before you decide what to do.

    Don't assume that because a lot of termites have been killed there won't be other (colonies) ready to move in an take up the attack. Even if you have baits in place, sometimes termites may not find them before beginning an attack. Baits are not anecessarily a reliable prophylactic measure.

    After any baiting program, an ongoing inspection program is necessary.

    The bottom line is that baiting may kill colonies but it is just part of your ongoing termite risk management and so doesn't really have an end date.

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  • 2. My home is being baited for subterranean termites. How will I know when they're all dead?

    The technician will assess the activity in the baits over the course of the program and, usually, make a judgement call as to when success has been achieved (the subterranean termites killed). A good tech will almost never tell you that the termites are all gone but will talk about colony elimination or control or the length of time since any of the bait has been eaten. You'll still need ongoing inspections as baiting provides no residual control. Often colony decline can be observed to be happening when the proportion of soldiers increases or when the feeding workers develop white abdomens (uric acid crystals).

    Baiting is used for subterranean termites (not drywoods and rarely for dampwoods). Baits use slow-acting toxins in low doses. The big problem is that there may be more than one colony active in the area Some colonies have fuzzy boundaries so that outside termites may be recruited to replace those affected. A great example of this is from Devon, England where introduced termites turned up in two houses. More than a decade of baiting later, there were still some termites active.

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  • 3. Is product X better than product Y?

    Apart from the things that look too-good-to-be-true, like weird ultrasonic and electronic termite repellers, just about any termite product you're offered that has some sort of government approval or label is capable of doing the job.  Trouble is that each product has situations that suit its use and usually also some situations where it isn't the best choice.

    So how do you choose which product to use to keep termites at bay?  The easiest way is to ask your technician.  For termites, nothing beats local knowledge.  Your climate, your species and the way houses are locally built, even land-use history, all have a major impact on what's the best management option.  So, you can spend a lot of time online researching all the options or you can spend a bit of time getting a background and then ask your technician.

    Don't just look at which works best and is cheapest.  Look at safety and environmental toxicity as well. Some chemical products will have off-target impacts. Some termiticides don't last well and others last too long, becoming persistent environmental pollutants.

    It is so easy to make mistakes and think you have control when you really don't, As you explore the options, just remember "Don't do this at home".  DIY management of termite infestations can be very risky but in saying that' there's lots you can do to lower risks and also to monitor for termite activity. You might even put in your own baits and call the technician back when you have activity.

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  • 4. Will the DIY termite stakes from hardware stores kill my termites for good?

    I saw them at Home Depot but they look very small.

    I've seen these sorts of DIY baits too. Way back, there was a court case where various groups once claimed that one retail bait system was not working properly. Stores kept selling them, but with a little warning on the box about how they weren't quite the same as a professional treatment. The ones I bought said "not recommended as sole protection against termites, and for active infestations, get a professional inspection". Companies don't put things like that on their products unless they are forced to or need to so as to avoid liability. Even if the bait system was 95% foolproof, that warning might still be valid. Baits don't make barriers.

    Baiting has a long history, I began working on baiting in the mid 1980s and some work had been done a decade before that.

    How big does a piece of wood have to be before your termites will be likely to find and eat it? Mostly a lot bigger than the little bits that are sold. You can overcome this by using lots more baits, but even with the best systems on the market you often have only one in ten being eaten. That's why people tend to fork out for the professionals. Exterra and Sentricon have the bulk of the market but there are clones and newcomers.

    Let's say you've hand your house professionally inspected, so you're fairly sure termites aren't ripping into it yet. You could place your own baits around it as an early warning system. These can be just bits of tasty wood. If you put each one under a big paver, the squirrels won't touch them and the termites will be more likely to find them (thermal shadow effect). Cheaper than retail products. When termites attack, do not disturb them any more than necessary and call in the professionals. You might try the old bait box method before you call them to build up a big feeding group that can be more easily poisoned. But don't forget to check your baits often, or else they can become a stepping-stone for subterranean termite attacks on your house.

    If you already have termites attacking, then just like the Spectracide bait label suggests, most people will call a professional. Look to the best way to spend your bucks.

    If you are not afraid of soil poisons, then a trenched-and-backfilled perimeter spray of non-repellent poison may do what you want for less than a commercial baiting setup and you'll have the advantage of a residual action. That way the next colony that comes along and tries will find something in the way.

    Nowadays you can buy baits online, even sometimes the same ones the professionals use. Some companies are making a lot of money out of these baits. While I agree that there are some infestations that a homeowner can safely bait, there are many that require a great deal of skill and knowledge to achieve success. Telling the difference is why you should hire a professional inspector. When you feel sick, you might buy your own stethoscope and scalpel but do you really know enough to use them properly in every instance? That's why a professional termite inspector should be your first port of call. Who knows? It may be that you can fix your own. How lucky do you feel? Can you afford to bet the house on your ability? If you get it wrong (and don't know it) a bit later you may be looking at a lot of expensive damage as the termites keep on eating while you attempt their control.

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  • 5. What is termite baiting?

    Baiting for termites has a long history.  I first used it in 1979 to survey a park, but others had used baiting way before then.  Basically, a bait is something that termites will happily eat.  Often it is placed in a fancy (=expensive) container.  When the termites are feeding on the bait you (i) know they are there, (ii) can identify them and (iii)  you can exploit them.  The original bait box method had the termites collected and dusted with toxin before being allowed to sulk home.  Other methods replace the actual bait with one containing a slow-acting toxin.  If done well, the toxins applied can spread through the colony before any individual termite is affected and so, with luck, the whole colony will die.

    Baiting is good for colony control and sometimes for monitoring but it typically does not provide any residual protection and baits don't equal a barrier. There's lots more information here.

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  • 6. Will a baiting system ensure that my home is not attacked?

    It might, but don't count on it. Baits are not prophylactic. Baits are good at grabbing termites' attention and can be used to slowly poison their colony BUT baits are not barriers and it is possible for termites to ignore them and eat your home anyway. The baits don't make a continuous wall around the house, so termites may just walk between them. The termites mightn't find the baits, the baits might be poorly placed, they mightn't suit your termites, they might be too often disturbed or left too long, too wet or too dry, they might have the wrong food or they might have gone mouldy. Baits are great at cutting populations and even killing colonies, but it is probably best that you add other ways to keep termites out of your home, just to be sure. Of course if the service company is offering you a contract with a strong warranty, maybe you can take the risk. Just make sure that all the checks and inspections are done, that you keep all the records and that the company is well insured.

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