The good news about termite control is if you don’t like the way services are being performed, wait because it will change.
When I started in pest management in 1961, we were using chlordane as the primary termiticide. There was a label, but I’m not sure most read it. We discovered the label wasn’t consistent with how most pest management professionals (PMPs) were using the product. It was structured from the work that was done on new construction, not existing construction. Chlordane served us well until the early 1980s, when odor became a problem and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring — first published in 1962 with the message some chemicals could be affecting the environment — finally caught on with the public.
The work was difficult, and the equipment wasn’t as good as we needed, so quite a few PMPs cut corners. We quickly discovered termiticide worked well, even if it wasn’t applied according to new developing recommendations — that 2 percent on government-funded construction and 1 percent on other treatments often wasn’t needed. Much less termiticide placed in correct areas would have controlled termites and lasted for many years in most cases. Closer hole placements, trench-and-rod treatment, and a continuous application typically would have provided effective control.
A post-chlordane profession
After chlordane was removed from the market in April 1988, the technology in termiticide expansion went into full swing, ushering in changes we struggled with daily. The past 28 years have shown the most advancements in the termite control and prevention in history.
I was blessed to be in the middle of this technology development and part of its field application testing — including organophosphate (Dursban), pyrethroids (Bifenthrin), baits, neonicotinoids (Premise), fipronil (Termidor) and chlorantraniliprole (Altriset). Now we have an arsenal of materials that’s better than expected and appears to be lasting much longer — sometimes more than 20 years and showing no signs of increased infestations and damage. The problem with new termiticides is some might be too good, meaning they might last too long in the environment and target more than termites.
Other factors also have advanced termite control. Regulations have helped even the playing field with regard to training and recordkeeping. Labels are more consistent in the application and use of termiticides. Termite work is still difficult, but label changes lowered the intensity of treatments, making it easier to do trench-and-rod and vertical treatments. Baits and borates also have changed how new-construction treatments are made, with more than 1 million treatments showing effective control
of subterranean termites, native and Formosan. Foam-diluted pesticides also have been proven to reach places liquid alone won’t, providing control in even the worst conditions.
If the next 20 years is anything like the past 28, the sky is the limit. Starting about a decade ago, field testing improved considerably by using inspection technologies such as infrared, acoustical emission (sound) moisture meters, X-ray and radar technologies. Infestations of termites, as well as other insects and rodents, can be found in structures with these tools. Small amounts of targeted injection treatments show excellent results. By 2033, I don’t see us using the same quantities of pesticides to control pests. Sensors will tell us when and where pests are in structures, as well as outside on lawns, fields and golf courses.
All of these improvements come at a price — specifically the rising cost of developing innovative control solutions and the time needed to properly train PMPs on product usage and regulations. Even so, retreatments and claims are at an all-time low thanks to decades of improvements, and professionals from various sectors are working together more than ever to make the industry even more successful by 2033. pmp
You can reach Hardy, a 2005 PMP Hall of Fame inductee, at firstname.lastname@example.org