By Peter Cardillo / Published April 2022
Condominium and homeowner associations should react with caution—and perhaps some skepticism—when pest control companies urge them to purchase so-called subterranean baiting systems for termite control treatments.
Baiting systems have been around since the 1990s. They were designed to replace chlordane and other chemicals that had been used successfully for years to block termites from burrowing through the ground and into buildings in search of the cellulose found in wood.
The theory behind using chlordane and other chemicals was that pouring the chemical around a building and allowing it to seep into the ground created a barrier that termites could not breach. Pest control companies would dig a trench around a building, pour chlordane into the trench, and then cover it up with soil.
This worked well, but chlordane was eventually removed on environmental grounds. In 1988 it was taken off the market.
This created a serious challenge for the pest control industry, which had relied on chlordane for years. It turned to other chemicals, but none of them were as effective as chlordane. By the early 1990s, the industry had accepted the fact that it would have to find some other solution to the termite problem.
By the mid-1990s, the pest control industry had come up with an entirely new approach to the termite problem—bait traps. The theory was that subterranean termites could be baited in traps located outside of buildings rather than repelled by liquid poisons. Since the post-chlordane poisons hadn’t worked very well, bait traps seemed like a big improvement.
But that’s not exactly how things worked out. In the early 2000s, a new liquid termiticide, Termidor [active ingredient fipronil], was introduced. It may have been older technology, but it was found to work as well or better than chlordane. Termidor has been on the market for 20 years now and has been found to be extremely effective.
While Termidor has been found to be very effective, bait trapping systems have failed to live up to their initial billing. This firm has handled a number of cases involving baiting systems, and here is what we have learned.
Baiting systems use hollow cylinders that are placed in the ground every 10 feet around the perimeter of a building. Inside the cylinders—also known as “stations”—are pieces of wood. Although the wood is referred to as “bait,” subterranean termites are not attracted by the wood; they do not have the ability to smell or detect wood. Rather, termites are blind and randomly forage for wood by digging tunnels. The so-called “bait” is just wood pieces that subterranean termites may—or may not—stumble onto.
The termites may very well tunnel right past the bait stations, wiggle their way into your building, chew up its wood, and then return through the same tunnel that brought them into the building. On their way out, they may wiggle right on past the bait station and back to their colony.
Pest control companies send workers to monitor the bait stations. If they find the wood in the bait station to have been chewed by termites, they will add poison to the bait station, believing that returning termites would eat the poison and then deliver it to their colonies, killing them.
However, our research does not lead us to believe that these claims about bait stations are true. We urge condominium and other housing associations to avoid bait station systems and invest instead in Termidor liquid treatments.
Some pest control companies have begun to offer a combined approach, using both liquid Termidor barriers and baiting systems, a sort of belt-and-suspenders approach. We have no concerns with this approach but believe it will be the Termidor part of the equation that provides the best protection against termites.
Attorney, Cardillo Law Firm
Tampa-based Cardillo Law Firm is a property damage and plaintiffs litigation firm devoted to the area of termite and other property damage claims and property insurance law. Board certified attorney Peter Cardillo may be reached by email at Pete@cardillolaw.com or phone at (877) 642-2873. For more information, visit www.cardillolaw.com.