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UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Insects, Spiders, Mice and More

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Do-It-Yourself Termite Control is Not a Good Idea

by Barb Ogg, PhD, Extension Educator

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My husband and I love our 90-year old house in an established Lincoln neighborhood. Like many people, we feel good after we have completed a project which upgrades or restores our home. After reading and watching the Do-It-Yourself shows (DIY) on the cable channels, we believe we can tackle just about any project. (How fast the project gets done is another matter. . . there always seem to be more projects than time or money.)

But, with all the DIY shows I have watched, I have never seen a DIY discussion of termite control. Why? Because there are just too many obstacles to getting a good and effective treatment for the homeowner.

Currently, there are two different approaches to termite control. The first is the traditional barrier treatment. With the barrier approach, the goal is to protect the house by surrounding the entire house and basement with a chemical barrier. This includes injecting an insecticide into the soil at least four feet deep around the basement and injecting it under the basement slab. A home built on a slab or crawlspace is treated much the same, except less insecticide is used.

One reason why homeowners shouldn’t attempt barrier treatments themselves is specialized equipment is needed to do a proper treatment. Injection rods, concrete drills, a large tank with a pump are so expensive it is cost prohibitive for the homeowner. The other reason is homeowners don’t have skills and experience to do an effective treatment. I certainly wouldn’t want a novice doing his or her very first termite treatment on my home, but would specifically hire somebody who has specialized training and experience.

Some folks believe if they use liquid or granular insecticides on the soil surface around the outside of the house, it will protect their house against termites. This may be somewhat helpful in controlling some insects, but not effective against termites.

The second approach to termite control is the use of baiting systems. The goal of the bait is to kill the colony and indirectly, protect the home. Right now, the baiting systems that have the best chance of killing the colony are those that contain an insect growth regulator (IGR). The worker termites take the bait back to the colony where it gets passed to other termites. The growth regulator does not kill the queen or adult workers, but kills immature termites by disrupting the molting process. When the adult worker termites die a natural death, there are no young termites to take their place. With no workers, the colony slowly starves to death.

It seems like this system might be simple enough for homeowners to use, but none of these IGR baits are available for homeowners to purchase. The supply is very tightly controlled by the manufacturers who only work with pest control professionals. There are some other types of baits being used by pest control professionals, but, at best, they only suppress the colony and should be only used in conjunction with a good barrier treatment.

There is one non-IGR bait that can be purchased in hardware stores, called Terminate (tm). However, this product’s label recommends users have their homes inspected by a pest control professional. In addition, the label states the bait is not intended to be used in place of a liquid treatment when termites have been found infesting homes. Unlike 20 years ago, making a decision about termite treatment is more complicated today because all termite control companies do not use the same treatment approach. It is important for homeowners to understand enough about termites and termite control to make an intelligent decision about what type of treatment is best for them.

For more information on termites and their control, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/termite.shtml


This resource was updated September 2009 - it originally appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

Contact Information

University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180