How NOT To Treat For Termites: Video Guide
Here at Pest Control Everything, we're constantly on the hunt for useful tutorials, how-to-videos, and other shareable resources that may be valuable for pest professionals and aspiring do-it-yourself pest controllers. Sometimes the value of these videos may be found in the accuracy of the information. Sometimes, however, the value is in the inaccuracy.
The YouTube video below titled How To Kill Termites Yourself DIY has been viewed more than half a million times, with what appears to be a largely favorable reception. We've taken a moment to dissect the information provided and assertions presented within this video as a means of assessing the accuracy of the video and extracting the essence of any real value that may be gotten. Our points of consideration have been included below the video in the order in which the topics arise.
Please note that our commentary is for informational purposes only and is based on our direct involvement with hundreds (if not thousands) of professional subterranean termite treatments in several geographies over many years. We view this video as a prime educational opportunity to help those considering to do their own termite treatments do so in a safe, responsible, effective manner with minimal risk of exposure to people, pets, and non-target organisms. And in instances where those considerations may not be feasible, to consult the services of properly trained and equipped termite control professionals.
How NOT to Treat For Subterranean Termites:
Assertion 1 (0:29): The most labor intensive part of their job is to dig a trench around the perimeter that is 6 inches wide by 6 inches deep...
Professor Pest Says:
Reality Check: In some instances it may be true that the most labor intensive part of a termite treatment is digging the trench. In most instances, however, this is not the case. Every termite treatment has its own unique sets of variables, challenges, and treatment requirements. Trenching and treating the perimeter foundation is just one of several critical parts of most every conventional liquid soil treatment. Sometimes the trench component is a large part of the treatment...other times a comparatively small part.
How labor intensive it is to dig a proper trench depends on several factors, including the foundation type of the structure, where the trench needs to be done, the type of soil adjacent to the foundation, type of ground cover, extent of foliage, electrical and plumbing conduits, intersecting root systems, and many, many others. The labor intensity of trenching a crawl space with an 18" clearance, for instance, is exponentially greater than what we see in this video with a perimeter foundation trench of a loose soil base with virtually none of those other complicating factors, representing amongst the most simplistic of trench scenarios. Most trenches are not this simplistic.
Assertion 2 (0:47): Once you dig that...you can use a pick-axe or a shovel...
Professor Pest Says:
Reality Check: Yes, to dig the trench you can use either a pick-axe or a shovel. However...the 3 foot spade shovel and mini pick-axe shown in the video are highly unlikely to be sufficient for most trenches in most soil types and conditions. At a bare minimum, you'll want to be equipped with full-size options of both those tools.
Assertion #3 (1:01): The beauty of this product is that it's almost like a "ninja juice."
Professor Pest Says:
Reality Check: Admittedly, I have no idea what "ninja juice" is. But the point being made here seems to be correct. Non-repellent termiticides (like Taurus) function by being undetectable to termites, allowing them to continue foraging uninhibited through the treated areas, picking up the slow-acting toxins via both contact and ingestion and passing those toxins on to other termites on their way to a methodical death. This delayed effect and high transferability increases the likelihood of total colony elimination.
Assertion #4 (1:50): I got this Taurus SC which is 78 oz. This will essentially cover 100 linear feet across your whole property worth of termites.
Professor Pest Says:
Reality Check: Per label requirements, Taurus is to be mixed at a rate of .8 oz. per gallon and applied at a rate of 4 gallons per 10 linear feet per foot of depth to footer (in most typical termite treatment situations). At this rate, under the conditions presented in this video, the 78 oz. of Taurus would actually sufficiently treat 250 linear feet, not the 100 linear feet suggested. Applying at a rate of 78 oz. per 100 linear feet would be applying at a rate 2.5 times greater than what the label permits, which could be a dangerous and costly violation.
Assertion #5 (2:03): What's the difference between Termidor and Taurus SC? Absolutely nothing. It's like if you go to Walmart and get the Great Value brand versus, you know, the name brand...same difference.
Professor Pest Says:
Reality Check: This is an interesting assertion, and one that is commonly made inside and outside the pest control industry all the time pertaining to many different products with the same active ingredients. The applicator in this video is contending that because both Termidor SC and Taurus SC contain 9.1% of the same active ingredient (Fipronil), there is "absolutely nothing" different between the two products. Is this a reasonable deduction?
Let's start with what we know. We know that the Active Ingredient (AI) of a pesticide is the ingredient that actually does the killing (or repelling, or otherwise impacting). In this instance, the AI is Fipronil. So we know that the killing component of both Termidor SC and Taurus SC is the same. What that tells us, then, is that if and when termites are exposed to either product in the same exact way, to the same exact extent, under the same exact sets of conditions, the eventual impact on the exposed termites should be the same with either product.
What we do not know, however, is vitally important. If 9.1% of both Termidor SC and Taurus SC are Fipronil, what is the other 90.9% (the inert ingredients) comprised of in each product? Unlike active ingredients, which must be identified by name on the pesticide product's label along with it's percentage, the inert ingredients are considered confidential business information that need not be disclosed on the label. Yes, all inert ingredients must be approved by the EPA before they can be included in a pesticide, but they do not have to be individually identified on the label, nor disclosed in the same way.
While it is clear that 9.1% of Taurus is identical to 9.1% of Termidor, it is unclear what other similarities, if any, exist with the other 90.9% of the products...those inert ingredients. And as you might expect, those unknown inert ingredients are the ones that largely determine a product's performance, sustainability, and usability. They are the ingredients (not the AI) that ultimately determine to what extent the product may bond with the soil, or break down over time, or provide optimal levels of termite exposure throughout the expected lifetime of the treatment.
So to say that there is "absolutely nothing" different between two products that we know to only be 9.1% identical probably does not follow a sound reasoning approach. Without knowing what the other 90.9% of each product is comprised of, we aren't reasonably able to determine how truly similar they actually are. And just because both products may seem to be highly effective doesn't necessarily mean that they are equally effective.
Assertion #6 (2:45): Fill 0.8 oz (of Taurus) in a 4 (5) gallon bucket...4 times. Once you do that, take a little piece of wood, and you mix it a little bit...then slowly fill in the trench...
Professor Pest Says:
Reality Check: Ok. Don't do this. This one is really where the aspiring do-it-yourselfer would be well served to take a few moments for due consideration. Here's what the Taurus label stipulates:
To mix Taurus SC termiticide / insecticide:
Those are the mixing instructions in their entirety, and there are several important points of note. First, the mixing instructions presuppose, or take for granted, that the applicator has the termite treatment application equipment necessary to properly perform termite treatments, such as a spray tank, pump, treating tool, anti back flow device, etc. (Important to note that the instructions say to fill the tank, and do not make any mention of using a 4 or 5 gallon bucket or anything else in the event a tank is not available).
The mixing process also calls for by-pass agitation, which is necessary to ensure satisfactory dispersion of the termiticide throughout the finished solution. Is stirring the termiticide and water in a bucket sufficiently equivalent to the by-pass agitation process required by the label? Likely not. It might pass for equivalency some of the time, but perhaps not always.
Also on the Taurus label is this statement:
This product may only be applied by licensed technicians familiar with trenching, rodding, short rodding, sub-slab injection, low-pressure banded surface applications and foam delivery techniques. An important question to ask is why is this statement on the label? If it is ok for any untrained, unlicensed individual to mix and apply this termiticide out of a 5 gallon bucket, why include this disclaimer to the contrary? Of course it is included on the label because the manufacturer of the product considers it a necessity. The beginning of the Taurus SC Label has been included below:
It should come as little surprise that when dealing with pesticides of any type, the greatest risk of accidental exposure is during the handling, mixing, and/or application process. Proper use of personal protective equipment is one part of minimizing the risk of accidental exposure. So too is utilizing proper application equipment. In the scenario presented in this video, the applicator is in many ways maximizing (or at the very least, drastically increasing) the associated risk of exposure. Consider this...
For every 4 gallons of finished solution, this applicator is tasked with making 4 individual termiticide measurements and pouring each one individually into the 5 gallon bucket. Compounded over the course of this hypothetical 100 gallon job, this applicator would then need to make 100 individual termiticide measurements, each of which bring an obvious inherent risk of accidental exposure. Having the proper application equipment (as professional pest control companies do) would reduce this particular risk of exposure from 100 to 1. Why? Because instead of using a 5 gallon bucket, the applicator would be using something like a 100 gallon termite tank (which would simply require one pour of the entire 78 ounce bottle of Taurus) or a professional-grade inline termite injection system.
Give it a Shot...
If you're questioning the validity of this concern, consider doing a test-run by filling an empty 78 oz metered bottle (identical to the one used for Taurus) with water, and then making 100 individual measurements of .8 ounces, pouring each one individually into a 5 gallon bucket filled with 4 gallons of water. When you do this, be sure to record any errors, mistakes, or inconsistencies that may take place over the course of the 100 pours, and then consider the result had you been using actual termiticide instead of water. Anyone who has measured and poured from these types of pesticide containers understands that "perfect pours" are as much the exception as the rule, particularly for those not accustomed to routine usage.
Furthermore, not only will the applicator in this video need to make 100 individual measurements of termiticide concentrate, he then also will need to physically mix the solution by hand in an uncovered, exposed container...not just once...but 25 individual times. Each individual instance of mixing 4 gallons once again creates a significant (and entirely unnecessary) risk of exposure. Not convinced of this concern either? Give this one a shot using just water as well. Over the course of 25 mixings of 4 gallons of water in a 5 gallon bucket, using a stick or other piece of wood as suggested, consider how many times some of that water (whether a droplet here or a splash there or whatever) ends up somewhere outside the parameters of the bucket. Record those findings, including how long it has now taken you to make 100 individual measurements and conduct 25 chemical mixtures.
So by now the applicator is dealing with 100 individual measurements and 25 individual mixings...a pretty significant risk of potential exposure by any means. And yet the exposure risks are just getting started. After he's gotten the termiticide measured and mixed with the water in the bucket, the finished termiticide solution needs to somehow make it to the application site. In this video, that's accomplished by carrying the uncovered bucket filled with termiticide to the pre-dug trench along the foundation of the structure and emptying the contents of the bucket. In the video, this appears to be rather simple. But let's continue looking at the larger picture...
Applying 100 gallons of finished termiticide solution in this manner is going to require filling, mixing, carrying, and pouring 25 individual bucket loads into 10 foot stretches of trench around the entirety of the structure. Question: how far will each filled bucket need to be carried from the water source? To see how cumbersome and potentially hazardous this process may be, start by taking a 5 gallon bucket and filling it with 4 gallons of water. Then carry the bucket to the first trench site, pour it in, and return to fill up the bucket again. Do this 24 more times, once for each of the 10 foot trench areas. Remember, some of these areas may be on the side of the house opposite (or away from) your water source. Record how long this process has taken, how you physically feel at the end of it, and all instances in which any of the water spilled, splattered, splashed, or otherwise accidentally worked its way outside the bucket. How much water ended up on your shirt, or pants, or shoes, or skin? Then consider the ramifications had this been actual termiticide instead of just water.
But Will Treating With a Bucket Be Effective?
Then of course comes the question as to the likely effectiveness of this treatment in comparison to using proper termite application equipment. Is applying termiticide with a bucket just as effective? Potentially, but probably not likely, and any likelihood goes down as the size of the treatment area (and a host of other factors) goes up. The lasting effectiveness of any non-repellent liquid soil treatment is dependent upon several factors, among them starting with a uniform barrier within the soil throughout the treatment zone. Is slowly pouring from a 5 gallon bucket effectively equivalent to the targeted, pressurized consistent flow and rodding application achieved through use of proper application equipment? Once again, not likely. Perhaps similar in some areas, to some extent. But almost certainly not equivalent over the entirety of an application site. The application requirements are clearly outlined on the Taurus SC label:
When watching the application by bucket in the video, consider what levels of uniformity (or lack thereof) exist from one part of the trench to another. Does it appear that a uniform barrier exists? Professional termite application equipment is designed to ensure this uniformity which is essential to effective termite applications. You can decide for yourself whether the bucket application in the video complies with the application requirements listed on the Taurus SC label.
Assertion #7 (3:40): I forgot to mention...you want to wear nitrile gloves, which are chemical resistant, face mask, and some goggles. You want to protect yourself, along with wearing long sleeves throughout. I don't want to get this stuff on my body. If it kills termites, I don't know what it could do to me...
Professor Pest Says:
Reality Check: Excellent points made by the applicator in this video. (Unfortunately these sound recommendations are being made in the midst of ill-advised practices such as hand-mixing with a piece of a wood in an exposed 5 gallon bucket). The list of personal protective equipment required by the manufacturer on the Taurus SC Label are shown below:
Assertion #8 (3:40): So now you're thinking, what about the backfill. I called the manufacturer, and they gave me the professional recommendation with what to do with the backfill. After you fill in the backfill, put another 4 gallons of water in the bucket. But for the backfill, put in .8 oz of Taurus SC twice instead of 4 times and then pour that over the backfill.
Professor Pest Says:
Reality Check: In this instance, the failure to use proper termite application equipment actually created the need to externally account for the backfill. When proper application equipment is being used (in this type of scenario), the backfill is routinely reintroduced into the trench during the rodding and treating process in a way that maintains the necessary uniformity without having to separately treat the backfill soil.
The process for properly treating backfill is also specifically outlined on the Taurus SC label:
Was the Proper Amount of Termiticide Applied?
Based on the rate of application presented in the video, the applicator applied the required 3.2 ounces of Taurus (.8 oz per gallon, 4 gallons) per 10 linear feet, but then added an additional 1.6 ounces of Taurus SC to account for the backfill. So the actual application made was 4.8 ounces of Taurus per 10 linear feet, which in many instances is likely to be an over-application of the product and a potential label violation. It should also be noted that with this application rate of 4.8 ounces per 10 linear feet, this 1 bottle of Taurus SC would then only treat 160 linear feet, as opposed to the 250 linear feet of coverage per label requirements.
Additional Termite Treatment Considerations...
It is critical to point out that the treatment method shown in this video (trench and treat) is just one method of termite treatment that is only used under certain specific sets of circumstances, and is just one part of a comprehensive treatment plan. In most instances of active termite infestation, additional treatment measures will be required and are dependent upon several factors. Other treatment methods include the following, and many, many others:
- sub-slab injection
- vertical drilling / injection
- horizontal drilling / short-rodding / long-rodding
- hollow block injection
In many instances, trenching and treating the perimeter foundation alone may not resolve an active interior termite infestation (though in some instances, it may). The single most important part of any subterranean termite treatment is identifying all potential point(s) of entry.
What This All Means...
So what's the take away from all this? Making a proper, safe, effective termite treatment is not easy, but it some instances it can be done. Although for most people, in most instances, seeking the services of a professional termite company is probably advisable, some instances may in fact warrant a do-it-yourself approach. Before jumping into a termite treatment, be sure to properly identify the species of termite you're dealing with, understand what type of foundation your structure has, and identify all potential points of termite entry. Remember, this particular soil treatment is used only for subterranean termites. If you are unable to determine what kind of termite you have, or specifically how they may be getting in, it is highly advisable to consult a professional termite company.
If you're certain you've got subterranean termites, have confidently determined how they are gaining access to the structure, and want to proceed with a do-it-yourself approach, then begin the process of acquiring the necessary termite treating tools and application equipment. Before doing so, however, you should be confident that where you will be applying the termiticide is in the same area(s) that the termites are accessing the structure. An enclosed spray tank system is highly recommended for safety, efficiency, and effectiveness.
Should You Do Your Own Termite Treatment?
Just because you can do something, doesn't necessarily mean that you should. We've put together a step-by-step guide to help decide whether a do-it-yourself termite approach is right for you:
Q1: Are you certain you have an active infestation of subterranean termites? Some termites may have a similar appearance to the untrained eye to some ants or other types of wood borers. And several types of termites exist, each requiring very specific treatment approaches. If you aren't certain you've got subterranean termites, consider consulting a professional. Attempting to treat your own Drywood or Formosan Termite infestation is particularly inadvisable.
Q2: Are you able to determine specifically where the subterranean termites are gaining entry to the structure? Subterranean termites make their colonies in the ground and forage above ground in search of food. Common signs of entry include termite mud tubes or mud tunnels on the foundation of a structure, but access points are not always readily apparent. Finding one point of entry doesn't necessarily mean there aren't several others. Before attempting to do your own termite treatment, it is critical to identify all potential points of termite entry. If you are unable to do this, consider consulting a termite professional.
Q3: Are you able to identify and correct all conducive conditions? Most termite infestations are facilitated by the presence of a combination of conducive conditions, most notably structural wood-to-ground contact and/or excessive moisture conditions in or around the structure. Some conducive conditions may be so pervasive that a termite treatment may have little impact on the overall infestation unless those conditions are corrected. If you are unable to identify and rectify all potential contributing factors, consider consulting a termite professional.
Q4: Does your structure have a crawl space? Crawl space construction can pose particular termite inspection and treatment challenges, and often present additional potential points of termite entry that need to be accounted for. If you are unwilling or unable to access all parts of the crawl space, consulting a termite professional is recommended.
Q5: Are the termites located in an interior portion of the structure? The presence of termites on an interior part of the structure is a strong indication that their points of entry include areas other than the perimeter foundation. These may include settlement cracks, plumbing penetrations, bath traps, utility lines, or several other possibilities. In these instances, necessary treatment will likely include a combination of sub-slab drilling & injection and/or termiticide foam applications, and consulting a termite professional is highly advisable.
Q6: Are the termites located in an interior portion of the structure adjacent to concrete ground cover on the exterior? When termites are discovered within a structure, the first place to inspect is the exterior foundation directly outside that area. If the ground cover is soil, grass, mulch, or something similar, and termite mud tubes are present, a trench and treat approach (as shown in the video) may be a practical treatment option. If, however, the ground in this area is covered by concrete (such as a patio, pool deck, porch), trenching will not be an option. To treat the soil in this area where the termites are coming from, sub-slab drilling and termiticide injection will be necessary. If drilling through concrete is required as part of the treatment, consulting a termite professional is strongly recommended.
It should also be noted that wood decks or other ground coverings making the soil inaccessible for termite treatment can complicate termite treatment efforts. If you cannot access the soil where the termites are believed to be coming from, consider consulting a termite professional.
Q7: Do you have the necessary termite treating tools & equipment? If your plan is to attempt a termite treatment with a 5 gallon bucket and a piece of wood, there is a better than average chance of disenchantment and ineffectiveness. Figure out what equipment you are going to need to properly and safely treat the necessary areas. Where you are going to treat will dictate specifically what tools and equipment you will need.
Q8: Do you know how much termiticide you will need to use? The product label for any termiticide you choose will include mixing and application instructions. If you are unable to determine how to properly mix or apply the product, consulting a termite professional is recommended.
Important Note: Treatments for active subterranean termites seldom involve a cookie-cutter type approach. Each environment contains its own unique sets of factors, considerations, and potential challenges. Improper use of pesticides can result in serious adverse consequences to health and the environment. Some necessary treatment measures, including trenching and drilling, bring inherent risks that may be heightened for individuals not professionally trained in these types of applications that may result in serious injury and/or death. Pest Control Everything strongly advises against do-it-yourself termite control measures in most instances, and encourages the use of licensed, trained termite professionals. Please remember that the product label is the law, and must be complied with in all instances.
Still have questions about termite control? Professor Pest's Live Online Chat provides free, real-time support to help you make well-informed decisions about how best to proceed with your termite control efforts.