The secret to profitability lies in avoiding retreats at every turn.
Occasionally, a subterranean termite job is done correctly. Label directions were followed and there’s no obvious reason why the job should fail — but it did. Why? Here’s a checklist of questions about the discovery process that might answer the question:
- Was it really a subterranean termite infestation? It might be ants or drywood termites.
- Was it an active colony? The presence of old wings doesn’t always indicate an active infestation.
- If there were moisture problems above ground level, were they properly corrected? Did you document these conditions before treatment?
- What was the weather like? Heavy rains and faulty rain gutters can move treated soil or wash out termiticide. Alternatively, snowdrifts can accumulate against a foundation. When they inevitably melt in warmer weather, they can dilute a chemical barrier.
- Is there a burrowing animal problem on-site? Armadillos or rodents could have disturbed, and even removed, treated soil adjacent to the treated structure.
- Did the customer perform any landscaping recently? Planting flowers and moving shrubs can disturb the chemical barrier. Adding mulch to the topsoil can create an above ground passageway for termites.
- Is the PVC plumbing under the slab broken? A slow leak can be slow enough to go undetected, but still destroy your chemical barrier.
- Are there mature trees on the property? Large roots can grow underground, right through the chemical barrier. Additionally, underground cable lines, gas lines or swimming pool plumbing can serve as disturbances that could have been added after you treated.
- Are there hidden or overlooked areas? Maybe there’s a double cinderblock wall you missed. Perhaps a crawlspace is completely sealed and unrecognizable.
- Did you check your application equipment? Faulty components or use of the wrong injector tips can often lead to retreats.
The case of the recurring retreats
Here are five scenarios where thinking outside the box solved the problem:
- Over the years, the water table rose enough to touch the bottom of the slab. During the dry season, the water table would drop. This cycle repeated several times, and within a few years led to there not being enough termiticide left in the treated soil.
- A large potted plant was placed on the patio. It was infested with termites. The termites moved from the pot to the structure.
- Winged termites were pulled to the roof from an updraft. One pair managed to survive and start a colony in the rain gutter.
- The original structure was built on top of a few large rocks. There was not enough soil under the structure to hold any termiticide. Sometimes, you can get a clue about a situation like this when you see a high rock jutting out of the ground nearby. In such cases, termite baiting is the better way to go.
- The soil between the slab dropped in some areas, creating a sizable air pocket in which the termites are active just under the slab, but not in the soil you’re treating. In such cases, you need a foam treatment with directional slab injector tips to drive the chemical treatment back up under the slab.
You can reach Dr. Frishman, an industry consultant since 1967 and president of AMF Pest Management Services, at email@example.com.