To Bait or Not to Bait . . .

The most common question from homeowners is: “Which form of treatment — baits or barriers — is more effective, and which would you choose if it were your home?” The question is a difficult one with no “pat” answer. . . . Clients considering a bait treatment are usually relieved to learn that their carpeting won’t have to be pulled back, their floors automatically drilled or their stored items moved. No drilling, no noise, no dust, and no pesticide in the house are other often-cited advantages of termite baits.

Furthermore, some structures have construction features that make it difficult or impossible to treat with conventional methods (e.g., wells, cisterns, drainage systems, sub-slab heating ducts, inaccessible crawl spaces). Buildings with hard-to-treat construction elements are logical candidates for baits, since foraging termites are as likely to encounter bait stations installed around the foundation exterior as beneath the structure. Since baits are non-volatile, non-leachable solids, they can be used in the most sensitive treatment situations.

The biggest complaint, common to all of the current systems, is that baiting is a slow, prolonged process. Several months may pass before the termites find the untreated, below ground monitoring stations and begin to feed on the bait. Consequently, it is not uncommon for the elimination procedure to take more than a year to complete. Although usually minimal, some degree of termite feeding and damage may occur before the slow-acting bait takes effect.

Baiting programs often are more expensive than conventional treatments. This is because the process requires multiple visits to the structure to monitor for termites, and to add or replenish baits as needed. Homeowners should consider both the initial treatment price and the annual renewal fee in making their purchasing decision. Failure to maintain their annual service agreement is a prescription for disaster with baits, since there is no residual pesticide left in the soil after the termites have been eliminated. Ongoing structural protection depends upon diligent monitoring for new evidence of termites in the future.

So.... if the homeowner (1) has limited income, (2) straightforward construction, (3) is amenable to having their wall-to-wall carpeting pulled back and their basement/slab floor, patio, porch, etc. drilled, and (4) is offered a renewable service agreement (guarantee) by the pest control company, a conventional ‘barrier-type’ treatment may be desirable. If one or more of these criteria cannot be met, the situation may warrant a bait job — but, ultimately, the customer must make the decision.

In closing, termite prevention and control is a very complex topic.

This article was excerpted from the following University of Kentucky article:

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