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The Changing World of Pest Control

Options Homeowners Should Consider

As a professional Home Inspector and Service Representative for a major pest and termite control company with fourteen years experience, I have seen our industry evolve in ways I find advantageous for the environment and the people whom live in the homes our industry treats. There is a saying within the industry that mankind has added twenty five years to his life expectancy thanks to prescription drugs, sanitation, and pest control.

It’s become a well known fact that insects in our living areas lower the quality of of our environment through the germs they spread. Roaches are a genuine contributor to asthma among children in most major cities. Rodents are responsible for some of histories worst plagues and in the southwestern United States spread Hantavirus. Those are just two of the most glaring examples of the health risk posed by pests infesting our homes.

Property damage is another major concern. For the average man or woman their home is their single biggest investment in life and it’s the wise homeowner that takes steps to protect that investment from wood-destroying insects and organisms such as termites, powder post beetles, and wood-decay fungi. Termites alone cause billions of dollars in property damage per year. this totals more than fire, wind, and flood damage combined. Wood-decay fungi such as Poria Incrasata can cause extensive damages to a home in surprisingly short time. The moisture that pests and fungi need can also cause harmful to our health molds.

When I first began my career in pest control the standard treatment for common household pests such as roaches, ants, and spiders consisted of using a chemical/water mixture in a B&G pressure sprayer. The “bug guy” would walk through your home spraying these harsh chemicals along the exterior surfaces of the baseboards, behind appliances, and in your cabinets. Often times you would have to prepare for the visit by removing your pets to a safe area, and emptying all your cabinets. You would have to leave your home for a couple of hours till all the treated surface areas had dried. There was a noticeably strong and unpleasant odor that lasted hours after the treatment was complete.

Termite treatments were also a major intrusion into your daily life. If you lived in a home with a basement or concrete slab floor all of your furniture would have been moved away from load bearing walls. Carpet and linoleum had to be cut in patches every twelve inches along every expansion joint in the floors. along the exterior of your home a trench the width of a shovel would have been dug along the perimeter walls in order to drench the soil with a liquid termiticide. all the prep work inside your home would have been done to prepare for the hammer drill. The service crew would have drilled through your floors and pumped the harsh smelling chemical into the soil.In basements the block walls would also be drilled and saturated with chemical. Exterior brick walls would also be drilled. Homes with crawl spaces beneath them would have been spared the interior drilling as the treatment would take place under your home. Either way when it was finished your home would have been protected from termites and your soil would be contaminated with hundreds of gallons of harsh, smelly chemical. Some of the chemicals used then have since been taken off the market for being carcinogens!

Today only the most stubborn of companies rely on these outdated treatments as everything I’ve just described has been replaced by twenty first century alternatives. general pest control for the interior of your home now features “baits” as the primary choice for most companies. These are generally gels or paste in syringe applicators that can be carefully placed in those hard to reach areas pests tend to actually live in such as BEHIND baseboards, and in the cracks and crevices of your home. All areas your pets and children aren’t likely to ever access. There’s little to no odor for this type of treatment. The materials used today work on more than just the pest that feeds or comes into contact with them. These materials have a quality known as the Transfer Effect. The pest spreads the material to other pests it comes into contact with or feeds. Obviously anytime your enemies can do your work for you it’s to your advantage.

Termite control has gone through a complete paradigm shift over the last ten years. Today the responsible company offers Termite Baiting Systems. Rather than creating a chemical barrier between your home and soil, bait systems use a very, very small amount of material to actually eliminate the termite colonies themselves. This too takes advantage of the Transfer Effect.

Here in North Carolina an acre of land can support a dozen subterranean termite colonies. They are continuously foraging for the wood they feed on to survive. Termite Bait Systems take advantage of termites in every way. These systems are installed every ten feet around the exterior perimeter of your home and anywhere on your property likely to have termite activity, such as near dead stumps. These plastic, cylinder shaped stations are usually ten to twelve inches long depending on the brand. Using a gas auger drill the Technician simply drills a hole in the soil and pops the station in. The lids require a specially designed key to open so the stations are child-proof.

I mentioned the hundreds of gallons of chemical an out-dated treatment required. Termite Bait Systems are the most environmentally sound treatments available that feature any chemical at all. When the system is installed each station contains…..wood. That’s it. No chemicals of any kind. As the termites discover the stations and begin feeding on the wood ,the Technician will transfer the termites into a cylinder containing a treated cellulose based material. The termites feed on that material in that station, return to the colony beneath the soil, feed the material to their relatives, and lead them via their own pheromones back to the station to feed some more. It isn’t unusual for a home with,say,twenty inconspicuous stations to achieve total protection from termites with only two or three stations ever having any treated material placed in them at all!

Some of the drawbacks to these modern services are the modern prices and accepting that safer, more effective long term pest control requires some patience. Transfer effect takes longer to have it’s desired impact than the harsher treatments of the past. While out-dated treatments worked faster they left termite colonies untouched, meaning that as the chemicals degraded the potential for re-infestation was higher. Prices for a Termite Bait System can be double than that of a liquid soil treatment but more affordable than the deadly fumigation option I am so offended by I haven’t even reviewed. As with all consumer purchases you should compare prices, warranties, and reputations before making this investment in your home. I believe my choice stands out from all I have written.