It’s important that pest control operators study and understand the lifecycle of termites before they create a control plan, writes MOHAMMAD ARIF HUSSAIN, entomologist at Masa*.
Saudi Arabia today is expanding its cities and is busy constructing many industries, buildings and residential areas. This raises the issue of pests infestation since animal and insect pests are present wherever human beings are active, whether at airports and transport stations or industries and warehouses.
In such a scenario, the onus lies on the pest controller to be able to tackle all kinds of pests in and around the building premises.
Many pest control operators (PCOs) only deal with termite control, but Jeddah-based Masa tackles all kinds of pests, such as structural pests, those that attack stored products, as well as occasional invaders like snakes, scorpions, dogs and cats – before and after the occurrence of infestation. Amongst these, termites are the most destructive insects for buildings and the industrial sector, damaging properties worth millions of dollars.
In order to control termites, it’s imperative for PCOs to be well-versed in their biology and behaviour. Subterranean termites are social insects that live in colonies in the ground and have three primary castes: workers, soldiers, and reproductives (kings, queens, and secondaries), to perform specific functions.
During late winter or early spring, swarms of the reproductive caste can be noticed in infested buildings. These black, winged termites are the stage most commonly seen, since the other castes do not expose themselves to light. When winged termites emerge, they swarm about doors and windows. After crawling or fluttering about for a short time, the termites break off their wings and locate a mate. Each pair attempts to locate moist wood in contact with the soil to start a new colony, but only a few succeed. Although they alarm the homeowner and can be a nuisance, no damage is done by the winged forms.
The most distinctive feature of subterranean termite damage is the presence of a brown mud-like material which lines the galleries in an irregular pattern. As a general rule, subterranean termites are found at ground level. They occasionally occur above the level of first floor windows, especially in the warmer areas of the country. An inspector must thoroughly examine all of the underground sections of a house including the basement and crawl space walls, supporting piers and beams, sill plates, floor joists, and subfloors. Particular attention must be paid to all places where concrete steps, porches, or concrete slabs join with the structure.
A colony is less likely to become established and flourish if the site or structure is not suitable for its growth. Therefore, to prevent and control termites it is important to:
• Remove all wooden debris (stacks of lumber or firewood) from the vicinity of the building. Replace any wooden posts, steps, trellises, etc, that are in contact with the soil with non-cellulose materials or pressure-treated lumber;
• Replace badly damaged timbers with sound materials. Use pressure-treated wood where wood must be in contact with soil. Wherever possible, do not permit any wood within 18 inches of the soil;
• Provide adequate drainage for basements, cellars, and crawl spaces. Be certain that the grade level will drain away from the building;
• Fill all visible cracks and voids in the foundation with concrete or suitable caulking compound; and
• Reduce soil moisture near the structure by directing run-off away from the foundation. Gutters, downspouts, and French drains should be installed correctly and operational; and surface drainage should flow away from the structure.
Soil treatment/barrier control: The principle of soil treatment control for termites is to establish a treated barrier of soil between the wood in the building and the termite colony in the soil. Such a chemical barrier will kill or repel any termites attempting to move through it. Treatments may involve the trenching of soil adjacent to the exterior foundation wall down to the footers, and replacement of the soil after it is mixed with the termiticide; soil injection of a liquid termiticide, under pressure, through a hollow rod to saturate the soil adjacent to the foundation; and the drilling of concrete slabs, porches, and patios to reach the soil adjacent to the foundation beneath these structures.
Termite baits: In recent years, termite baits have gained popularity. This alternative to liquid barrier treatments is a welcome addition and will assist in the battle against termite infestations. Baiting involves the use of an attractant (wood stakes, cardboard, or other cellulose-based material) to establish termite feeding. The active ingredient (insecticide) is either added after feeding begins, or may be included in the initial baiting. Termites feeding on the treated material will carry the toxicant back to the colony where it adversely affects it, possibly eliminating the entire colony.
Mechanical alteration involves modifying the structure so as to provide a barrier that cannot be penetrated by termites, or to eliminate conditions which are conducive to termite invasion.
Masa uses the Raslan Plus termiticide which has the active ingredient Imidacloprid 30.5 per cent SC. It is being used in many countries to control termites. It is odourless, undetectable by termites, and colourless when mixed with water. Raslan Plus has wonderful residual activity that provides protection against re-infestation of treated areas for a number of years, thus making it ideal to use against termites.
*Saudi-based Masa Establishment for Pest Extermination, Maintenance and Contracting has tackled problems related to all types of pests – from household pests to those that pose a public health hazard. The company has in-depth knowledge of the way insects live as well as the safety measures in controlling pests, having successfully treated and saved thousands of factories, dwellings, buildings, museums, antiques, wooden frames and other similar materials made of wood. Its treatment methods are based on 36 years of dedicated service to the public and environment.