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Department of Entomology
Insect Notes

Insect Note - ENT/rsc-21

NOTE: This discussion applies to the use of termite baits in North Carolina. If you live outside North Carolina, you should contact your State/County Cooperative Extension Service Office, your state's land-grant university or state regulatory agency for local information concerning the availability and use of these products.

Baits are an important tool for termite prevention and control programs. Conventional termite treatments for existing homes rely primarily on soil-applied liquid termiticides. However, there are a number of situations where a baiting system may be preferred over a liquid treatment, used along with a liquid treatment, or it may be one of the few alternatives to a liquid treaatment. For example:
  1. A liquid treatment is considered too difficult:
    • There is a foundation drain around the house.
    • Heating/air conditioning ducts are located under or in a slab floor.
    • A proper treatment would require extensive drilling of a slab that is covered by a wooden, tiled or carpeted floor, or drilling through other masonry such as a finished basement wall.

  2. A standard soil treatment is illegal under federal, state and/or municipal regulations, e.g., when there is a well or cistern under or near the house

  3. Liquid treatment is considered unacceptable for whatever reason.

Which is the best method of termite control?
Because liquid treatments and bait treatments are used (and work) very differently, it is difficult to compare the two methods in terms of which one works "better". The current soil-applied liquid termiticides act essentially as chemical barriers to stop invading termites and kill the ones that are actively infesting the structure. Termites encounter these treated barriers during the course of their normal underground foraging ("food hunting") activities. The pyrethroid termiticides (e.g., Dragnet®, Demon TC®, and Talstar®) kill termites in treated areas and may repel termites that approach the soil. Other chemicals, such as chlorpyrifos (Dursban® and other brands) which are no longer used for termite control simply killed termites that contacted the treated soil. The newer "non-repellent" termiticides (such as Phantom®, Premise®, and Termidor®) kill termites more slowly than the "older" chemicals after the insects come in contact with the treated soil. Studies indicate that "contaminated" termites may pass some of these non-repellent chemicals to other members of their colony which increases the overall impact of the termiticide.

With the baiting systems, termites obviously must find and eat the bait in order for the chemical to be effective. It is important to realize that the current bait delivery systems (the bait stations) and their contents generally do not "attract" termites, although there has been research and products development for possible attractants that can be incorporated into these systems. Just as with baits used for cockroaches, ants, and rodents, the termite bait stations contain materials that the manufacturers have determined to be attractive food resources for the termites. Laboratory studies have shown that some of these materials appear to be "preferred" or more attractive than the surrounding wood. Termites find the stations during their normal foraging (food "hunting") activities, just as they might find any other underground food source. The acceptability of this "food" in the station results in more termites coming to feed on it. There is no way to predict how soon termites will find and feed in a bait station so an important part of the baiting strategy is to install the stations completely around the structure and to target known or suspected sites of termite activity (e.g., tree stumps near the house). For that reason, a thorough inspection of the house and immediate property is important before the stations are installed. Also, weather may adversely affect termite foraging. If the soil becomes very dry (for example, during drought), termites may move further down or stay in surrounding moister soils (such as in mulched or irrigated areas) and so they may be less likely to travel to stations in the drier areas.

Baiting is a long term approach to termite control. Unlike most conventional insecticides, the impact of termite baits is not immediate. By design, the baits contain chemicals that may take several days, weeks, or even months to kill individual termites depending upon the age of the termite and the type of chemical in the bait. This delayed effect is important. You want the termites to carry the bait back to the colony and feed it to other termites within the nest. As a result, it may take several months before the entire colony is substantially reduced. The time of year will also affect how quickly termite activity is eliminated. For example, if the bait system is installed in the fall against an active infestation, you might still see activity, including swarming (winged) termites in the spring. This is particularly true for the bait products that contain insect growth regulators (the active ingredients in the Exterra, Advance TBS and Sentricon systems) that do not directly affect the adult swarmers. However, this same situation may occur even with a liquid treatment that is done very late in the year (or in the winter).

The baiting program continues year-round as long as you maintain your contract with the pest control company. The key to a successful termite baiting program is proper monitoring and maintenance of the stations. Make sure you understand the monitoring/inspection schedule followed by the company and that you receive regular updates after every inspection, which may occur monthly or quarterly.

Possible Drawbacks to Termite Baiting Systems

This issue does not have a simple answer, but here are a few points to consider:

Treatment Cost
- the initial cost of the baiting system may be higher than that for a liquid treatment. Termite treatments, whether they're baits or liquids, are labor-intensive and based largely on the dimensions of the house. The size ("footprint") and complexity of the house's construction elements can affect both baiting and liquid treatments in similar ways, e.g., larger houses will require more soil-applied chemical or more bait stations in order to do the job compared to a house with a smaller footprint. However, the cost for a liquid treatment will be affected more significantly by factors such as the type of construction. For example, since liquid termiticides are applied to a vertical area of soil and must reach a certain depth (4' or the top of the footer, whichever is less), a basement house could cost as much as 4X more to treat compared to a crawlspace or slab house of the same size depending on how deep (below grade) the basement extends. Also, drilling and treating concrete slabs (e.g., garages, porches and patios) and masonry voids under state specifications increases both labor and chemical costs. Click HERE for details about treating for termites.

As noted earlier, in many instances a house may not "treatable" with a liquid termiticide (e.g., wells under the house) OR a liquid treatment may be difficult or environmentally
questionable. In these situations, the seemingly higher "cost" of a baiting system must be weighed against its benefits in protecting you and the environment.

Contract Maintenance
- You can probably go anywhere on your property and find termites, but that doesn't mean that they are constantly attacking your house. It does mean that there is always a chance that termites may find a way to invade the house. Although we expect liquid termiticides to remain effective in the soil for at least 5 years (usually longer), this does not guarantee that termites will not invade your house for 5 years. An annual inspection is the only way to maintain that level of protection on your house. As with the termite treatment itself, the cost of the annual renewal can be affected by factors such as type of construction which can impact on the extent of any post-treatment routine inspection. For example, certain types of slab homes as well as homes with finished basements have far less exposed areas where you might be able to detect termites when they first invade the home.
Pest control companies may charge more for an annual contract simply because of the greater risk (to them and to you) if they cannot detect termites in a timely manner. It is somewhat similar to having higher medical insurance premiums because of some previous health problems that make you a greater "risk" for certain medical problems in the future. The renewal for a baiting system contract is likely to cost 2x-4x more than one for a liquid treatment because the bait stations are typically checked at least four times per year (more frequently when termites actually attack a station) whereas houses treated with a liquid soil treatment are inspected annually. With a termite baiting system, if you discontinue your contract, then the company usually removes the stations or simply stops servicing them. Depending on when the house was last treated (and with what chemical), quite likely you will be left with little, if any, chemical protection against termites and you may well need to have your house retreated conventionally at some point. The bottom line is that termite baiting requires a long-term commitment on your part. Take this point into consideration when making your decision.

If you decide that you prefer the baiting system approach, make sure that your contract includes an annual inspection of your house. No chemical termite treatment, whether it's a liquid or a bait system, is going to be 100% effective everytime. If there is termite activity in your crawlspace and it's ignored for many years, you could end up with serious damage. An annual inspection of your house is critical - make sure that the pest control company provides one.

Current Termite Baiting Systems
The information presented here is not intended as an endorsement of one bait product over another or for the use of the baits over liquid termiticides. As with any termite control product, we recommend that you read all available literature and make sure you understand how the product works and what guarantee(s) the pest control company will provide to protect your home from further termite attack and damage. All of the currently approved termite bait products are registered for "standalone" use, i.e., as the sole means of controlling the termites. However, a common practice among pest control companies is to perform a liquid soil treatment either to the immediate area of termite activity (i.e., a "spot" treatment) or possibly to the entire exterior of the structure with the baits serving as a monitoring/supplemental control component.
Before signing a contract for any termite treatment, make sure that you understand what control methods will be used and to what extent each is serving in protecting your home and the additional cost of combined methods (versus the use of either a bait or liquid treatment alone). Currently, there are five baiting/monitoring systems registered in North Carolina for use by pest control professionals. These products (listed alphabetically) are explained below. The mention here of specific products is not as an endorsement of any one product over another or of baiting being better or worse than a liquid treatment. The information is here to provide you with basic understanding of termite baiting and to allow you to pursue additional information before making a decision on how to proceed in protecting your home:

  1. Advance™ Termite Bait System (Whitmire-Microgen). Advance TBS is a monitoring-baiting system. Inground stations are installed around the structure. At the time of installation, the stations are pre-baited with two levels: one a grooved cylinder of wood and the other a Puri-Cell™ monitoring matrix. When termites are found in a station, a termite bait cartridge containing the molt-inhibiting chemical diflubenzuron is installed on top of the wood monitoring base. Adult termites, including reproductives and soldiers, are not affected directly by this active ingredient. Immature worker termites which do the foraging and food collection. Advance TBS can be used as a standalone product although many companies employ a liquid spot treatments of soil in the vicinity of known termite activity. For information about this product:

  2. Exterra® Termite Interception and Baiting System (Ensystex) - Exterra uses inground monitoring-baiting system. When the stations are installed, they contain only cellulose "interceptors". When termites are found feeding on the interceptors in the station, the bait matrix is inserted into the station's central cavity. The bait, Labyrinth®, is a cellulose-based material that contains the chemical diflubenzuron, which interferes with the molting process in immature termites. Adult termites, including reproductives and soldiers, are not affected directly by this type of chemical. Exterra can be used by itself, although localized ("spot") treatments with liquid termiticides are often used when the stations are installed. Exterra also has an aboveground baiting system that can be where infestations are accessible within the structure. For more information about the product:
    Phone: 1-888-Exterra (398-3772)
  1. Firstline® Termite Defense SystemSM (FMC Corporation). Firstline also uses an inground monitoring-baiting approach. Stations are installed around the structure, paying particular attention to critical areas where termites may be more likely to be active. When an inground monitor is attacked by termites, it is replaced with the FirstLine® bait station, which uses a tube containing a cellulose-based matrix impregnated with sulfluramid, a slow-acting stomach poison that is also used in some ant bait products. An aboveground FirstLine® Termite Bait Station can be used when termites are accessible within the structure. Firstline can be used by itself, although localized ("spot") with liquid termiticides are often used when the stations are installed. For more information: Phone: 1-800-321-1FMC

  2. Sentricon Colony Elimination System® (Dow AgroSciences). Sentricon is a monitoring-baiting system. Inground stations are installed around a structure at specific intervals (not exceeding 20 feet). At the time of their installation, the stations contain cellulose monitoring devices only. When termites are found in the station, they are transferred to a bait tube which is then inserted into the station in place of the monitoring devices. The bait, Recruit® IV , contains a cellulose-based matrix that is impregnated with noviflumuron, which interferes with the insect's ability to molt. Adult termites, including reproductives and soldiers, are not affected directly by this type of chemical. An aboveground station, Recruit®IV AG, is used in conjunction with the inground stations when termites are directly accessible within the structure. Sentricon is labeled for use by itself, although some companies may use a "spot" liquid treatment at sites of known termite activity. For information about this product: Phone: 1-800-686-6200

Consumer Bait Products -
Terminate® (Spectracide) is a termite bait product available to consumers. The active ingredient in the bait is sulfluramid, the same active ingredient used in the professional product Firstline. While Terminate is readily available to the general public in most areas of the country, please bear in mind a few important points mentioned on the product label:

  • The product label states that you must replace ALL of the stakes after 12 months. Before disposing of these old stakes or any unused stakes, you need to check with your local waste management office about the proper disposal to make sure that you can legally (and safely) discard them with your household trash. In some cases, you may be required to take the items to a municipal or private hazardous materials disposal site.
  • Terminate is not intended as a sole protection of your house against termites.
  • If you have an active infestation, you should get a professional inspection


If a professional inspection of your home confirms the presence of termites, some sort of corrective measure is strongly recommended. Your efforts and monetary expenditures are probably best spent on getting the best possible professional service that you can find. Termite control, whether it is through the use of soil-applied liquids, bait products, or other recognized mechanical methods is best performed by a trained and licensed professionals.


For additional information, consult the following web pages:
Biology and Control of Termites
Tips on Selecting Pest Control Companies


Demon TC is a registered trademark of Syngenta Corporation
Dursban is a registered trademark of Dow AgroSciences
Dragnet and Talstar are registered trademarks of FMC Corporation
Phantom and Termidor are registered trademarks of BASF Corporation
Premise is a registered trademark of Bayer Environmental Science

Pest information and control recommendations presented here were developed for North Carolina and may not be appropriate for other states or regions. Any recommendations for the use of chemicals are included solely as a convenience to the reader and do not imply that insecticides are necessarily the sole or most appropriate method of control. Any mention of brand names or listing of commercial products or services in the publication does not imply endorsements by North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services. All recommendations for pesticide use were legal at the time of publication, but the status of pesticide registrations and use patterns are subject to change by actions of state and federal regulatory agencies. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for using these products according to the regulations in their state and to the guidelines on the product label. Before applying any chemical, always obtain current information about its use and read the product label carefully. For assistance, contact the Cooperative Extension Center in your county.

Distributed in furtherance of the acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

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