Which provides best termite protection – termite baits or liquid soil treatments?

April 24, 2016

Which is the the best termite protection?

It’s a pretty common question – “Which is the best termite protection?” The problem is, there is no easy answer – it depends. There are a whole range of factors which may dictate the best termite treatment, but it is important to realise the best termite treatment for your house may not be the best termite treatment for your neighbour’s house – each situation is different. The best termite treatment (and therefore the one your pest professional should recommended) depends on a range of factors, the key ones being the construction of the house, the soil type and slope of the block, the species of termites. Firstly it is probably best to recap how each product type protects your home

Liquid soil termite treatments

Liquid soil termite treatments, when applied properly are design to create a complete treated zone around and (in houses with a sub-floor) under your home. It is designed to work in conjunction with the physical elements of your house such as the concrete slab or metal shielding (‘ant caps’) on your piers, to prevent the termites getting in to your house without being noticed.

Termite tube going up a concrete stump

Soil around piers in the sub-floor need to be treated as well as the perimeter of the home to prevent termite entry. Termite have built a mud tube up this untreated pier

And that’s the important point. A liquid soil treatment is not a ‘barrier’; it does not stop termites getting into your house. For example, termites can build their way around or over a treated zone (with their mud tubes). When a treatment is correctly applied and working with the physical features of the home, it forces the termite to reveal themselves and the mud tubes can be spotted (a key reason why regular termite inspections are vital) and the problem dealt with. When correctly installed a liquid soil treatment is generally considered the preferred method of protecting a property. However, the challenge is installing it correctly – soil types or construction issues may not allow a complete and continuous treated zone to be applied. Any gap in the treated zone could potentially allow termites a way in to your home unnoticed.

Termite baits

Termite baits are places around the perimeter of buildings to intercept any termites in the area before the get to your home. The bait stations are placed in the ground and contain wood attractive to termites. These bait stations are checked every 2-3 months by a pest professional to see if termites are feeding on the wood. If there are active termites, a termite bait containing a slow acting insecticide is placed in the bait station. The termites feed on the bait, taking it back to the nest and killing the colony, protecting the home.

Heavy termite activity in monitor station

Heavy termite activity in monitor station

One question homeowners new to termite baiting often ask is, “What stops termites ignoring the bait stations and attacking my home instead?” From years of research, the required distance between bait stations to prevent this happening is known. So if the system is installed properly and regular inspections are carried out, termite baiting systems are a great way to protect your property. However, there are a number of factors as to whether termite baiting or liquid soil treatments are the best option for your home.

Factors affecting choice of termite treatment

Construction type

There are a range of home construction types, most commonly in Melbourne homes are either built on brick piers (ie they have a sub-floor) or built on a concrete slab (on the ground). If the homes are built well (and there are no other influencing factors present), generally speaking, liquid soil termite treatments are the best option for both construction types, although treatments on a home with piers will be more expensive as the sub-floor also needs to be treated. Termite baiting systems are a good option for concrete slab homes as well, but they also have benefits when there are construction flaws or when the construction type is unknown.

Construction flaws

It is surprisingly common for homes to have construction flaws (even new homes!) that mean a continuous treated zone cannot be created with a soil applied termiticide. Such issues are quite common when extensions are built without appropriate termite protection being installed at the time of construction. Typically these construction issues result in a break in the physical barrier provided by the construction (for example an untreated join between two concrete slabs). As such even if a complete treatment is carried around the perimeter of the home, the construction flaw is left unprotected – it’s amazing at how good termites are at finding holes in your termite defence!

Homes with construction flaws are better protected by baiting systems or, sometimes, using a liquid soil treatment and termite baiting system in combination. Home surrounded by concrete and pavers also present application issues. To treat such homes properly, the concrete should be cut and pavers lifted, to enable a complete application to the soil underneath. Homeowners often don’t want to do this for aesthetic or cost reasons. In such cases, termite baiting systems can be the better option.

Soil type

To get a good, even distribution of a liquid soil termiticide, the soil should ideally be a sandy loam, devoid of rocks. If your home is built on clay or has high rock content, it will prevent the treatment being applied evenly to the soil and therefore gaps in the treatment are likely. In such cases to apply a liquid soil treatment, the pest professional should be quoting to remove the existing soil from the home perimeter and replacing it with a sandy loam, before the application takes place. This is obviously adds additional costs and often makes the baiting system the better option.

Slope of block

The slope of the block can also impact the choice of treatment. Application of liquid soil termiticide to steeply sloping blocks can be difficult and there is always the danger of rain moving the treatment away from the application areas, making the treatment ineffective. In such cases termite baiting systems often prove the better option.

The wrap up

Be aware of pest managers pushing only one treatment type without justification. Your termite professional should always discuss a number of different treatment options for your property, although as we have seen, some of these treatments may not be suitable. If more than one treatment type is available for your home, cost and personal preference may also come into the decision making process – some prefer baiting systems as the environmentally smart option. At the end of the day there is no ‘best’ termite protection system that can be applied to all buildings, just the right system for your home and your situation.

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