Subterranean Termite Detection & Treatment
Worldwide there are over 2,600 species of termites; in South Florida there are at least 3 common species – Drywood Termites, Dampwood Termites and Subterranean Termites. One of the most damaging types of Subterranean Termites is called Formosan Termites. Formosan Termites are common in South Florida and are known for large colonies that can cause faster damage than other species.
Most homeowners will be unaware that a subterranean termite problem exists until a significant finding occurs – during a remodel disturbance or swarming season. This is not unusual due to the cryptic and secretive life habits of subterranean termites hidden behind walls or buried away in crawlspaces and under slab foundations
Because the telltale signs of subterranean termites often occur in dark and sometime hazardous locations (attics or tight crawlspaces that have nails, dust, or standing water), it is recommended that you contact a licensed professional for inspection and subsequent treatment. Homes that have had a history of subterranean termite problems can be especially vulnerable to re-infestation and should be inspected by a professional every several years.
Treating and Controlling Subterranean Termites
Subterranean termites in structures cannot be controlled using techniques that are appropriate for drywood termites, such as fumigation, heat treatment, freezing, and termite electrocution devices, because the reproductives and a large majority of the termites are concentrated in nests near or below ground level out of reach of these control methods. The primary methods of controlling these termites are insecticides, either applied to the soil adjacent to the structure, directly to nests via shelter tubes, or through bait stations. To facilitate control of subterranean termites, destroy their shelter tubes whenever possible to interrupt access to wooden substructures.
Liquid applications of pesticides are most often used for subterranean termite control and applied to the soil either in drenches or by injection. There are no reliable over-the-counter termite control products available for the public in Florida; all effective products are for professional use only.
Pest management professionals are provided special training because of the hazards involved in applying insecticides to the soil around and under buildings. Applications in the wrong place can cause insecticide contamination of heating ducts and/or damage to radiant heat pipes or plumbing used for water or sewage under the treated building.
Recently, active ingredients used to control subterranean termites in soils were broadly classified as repellent or nonrepellent. Subterranean termites can detect repellent insecticides, usually pyrethroids; and they are repelled without receiving a dose that would kill them. Because of this negative reaction, termiticide products containing repellent active ingredients have been phased out.
Newly introduced chemicals are available that are less toxic to humans and other mammals than the older insecticides but remain highly toxic to insects. These insecticides, are nonrepellent to termites and have been shown to be effective in killing termites at low dosage rates under Florida’s climatic conditions. These materials are used as barriers and also as local treatments, targeting nests directly via shelter tubes.
Subterranean termite baits, which are slow-acting insecticides consumed during feeding and shared within the colony, are commercially available in Florida. Generally, bait is delivered within a cellulose or wood matrix infused with the active ingredient and installed underground at regular intervals around a structure. Commercial bait products are also available for above-ground use, where there is no soil for in-ground station installation. This method of controlling termites is very appealing because it doesn’t require extensive site preparation, such as trenching, or extensive application of insecticides to the soil or structure, and because the most effective baits suppress or destroy the entire colony. They also have very low toxicity to humans and their pets. The most effective bait products, however, are available for professional use only.