I spy a termite


September 22, 2021


An inspection for wood-destroying insects may uncover infestations and damage like this found on the second floor of a home. PHOTO: GREG BAUMANN

Pest Management Professional magazine (PMP): Today, we are speaking with a mole of one of the species considered to be “native subterranean termites” in America; the other species being R. hesperus, R. tibialis, R. virginicus and R. hageni. We say “mole” because this specimen changed sides and now works for us! We are going to talk about a few topics beyond biology and control, common topics at meetings. To start, please tell us what is different about you and other native subterranean termites compared to the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus?

Eastern subterranean termite (EST): Well, while we might be related, “native subs” cover much more ground in North America than Formosans do. We can be found far south and north well into Canada. Our geographical coverage is huge, and we have multiple species.

PMP: I see. It has been argued that many termite colonies are simply portions of one large colony. What do you think?

EST: I assure you that destroying a local colony, no matter how big, will not wipe us out. Researchers are doing some valuable work, but the fact remains that we have been around for a long time and plan to be for a long time in the future — just like our cousins, the cockroach.

PMP: Historically, homeowners have been petrified of termites, especially subterranean termites. Their homes are literally eaten, and there can be unappealing deposits of mud, so it is foul-looking. You can do a lot of damage (see photo at right). Should people continue to be that concerned about termites?

EST: Yes, certainly. Our habits haven’t changed. With a housing boom of both new and existing construction, we can get a better foothold in a home.

PMP: How is that?

EST: Many mortgage companies no longer require wood-destroying insect (WDI) inspections when a house is sold. We can stay under the radar until we emerge as alates, or the buyer sees peeling paint or soft wood. And then it’s … surprise! Costs of repairs and materials have skyrocketed, too, making an infestation even more devastating.

PMP: Whoa. So what can a buyer do to reduce the chances of purchasing an infested home or commercial building?

EST: Get an inspection. Pest management companies can speak to mortgage brokers and real estate groups to encourage inspections, which are a visual inspection of readily accessible areas. Inspections protect the brokers and agents, as well. Your industry needs to show the value of an inspection. An inspector who finds termites can be a hero — and a lifelong pest management provider — to a buyer, and maybe even the broker and real estate agent. Today’s buyers sometimes are not aware of how we can destroy the value of a home. Termites are very proud of that.

PMP: Duly noted. Moving on, would you say that today’s termite control treatments are effective?

EST: Definitely. For decades, the industry only had soil treatments. But today, there are at least three main, formidable control methods. They are improved soil applications, modern wood treatments, and innovative baiting systems.

PMP: Which is termites’ most feared pest management measure?

EST: All of them! They all are effective, and it is a matter of the pest management professional’s preference for a particular structure or location.

PMP: This was all very insightful. One key point is that the industry has an opportunity to re-energize the emphasis on inspections. Hopefully, none of your colony-mates saw you here giving us the inside story.

EST: Well, that isn’t an issue, really.

PMP: Really, why not?

EST: Remember, we can’t see.

About the Author

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Greg Baumann is Vice President, Technical Services & Regulatory Affairs for Nisus Corp.

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