Outsmarting Termites in our Homes: Tricky things in Indian Context
By G. K. Mahapatro
Often, we come across numerous advertisements in media every day, on pest control advertisement, attracting and inviting homeowners’ attention to call them for termite control in your premises. Before contacting them, we ought to know their control strategies, contract conditions, most importantly what termiticides they are going to use. In these days of digital awareness, few aspects are discussed for the benefit of the common public in this blog.
Smart societies use digital technologies and urban/rural planning to enhance performance and wellbeing; strive for effective resource utilization, and engage securely and safely, and more effectively with city/rural dwellers. This paper aims to deliver better citizen service by making them aware of the nitty-gritty of termite control aspects and available technologies in the Indian context. Clean termite management practices following the standard protocols both pre-and post-construction are needed for making our houses more smart and sustainable.
Our status paper on termites (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., India, Sect. B Biol. Sci. DOI: 10.1007/s40011-016-0837-5) highlights the importance of termites in the Indian context as a structural pest. Undoubtedly sustainable infrastructure is an integral part of the Smart Cities Mission. Negligence starting from the initial pre-construction stage itself, cause irreparable loss to mankind, the best example is the termite ruining the JNU research labs latest during the covid-period in Delhi (https://www.indianentomologist.org/post/covid-compulsion-coupled-with-carelessness-gave-termites-a-free-run-to-ruin-jnu-lab). In the past, two towns were almost abandoned due to termite invasion (Gurudaspur in Punjab: 1955 and Jhargaon ki Jhopdi (Kota dist., Rajasthan: 2013). Recently, Lambari - a village near Almora is seriously infested with termites also.
City dweller ought to understand the following basic aspects–
Know your termite pest. Termite species like Heterotermes indicola and Microtermes and Odontotermes species are serious structural pests in India.
Know the control strategy (Pre- & Post-construction strategies)
Know your insecticides (most important)
Know & understand termite treatment plans offered by agencies, Digital diligence – Be aware.
Worldwide more than 40 billion was estimated on account of termite damage. Our study revealed at least 13 species of termites belonging to three families are associated as indoor pests with structural damage in India. Heterotermes indicola (Rhinotermitidae: Isoptera) is the key termite species causing structural damage with substantial impact (even with astounding cases of abandoning houses by victimized villagers). In Delhi, we observed even this termite attacking floors as high as the 11th floor in high rising flats. House-owners themselves can identify the species seeing its characteristic hanging mud tunnels. House dwellings adjacent to forests, wasteland, agricultural fields may be invaded by Microtermes and Odontotermes species, but these are restricted to low-rise buildings mostly.
End-users must take care that they prefer the imidacloprid, bifenthrin over the toxic chlorpyriphos. In the recent past, there was a reported fatal case of chlorpyriphos treatment in Pune city. Post-treatment, sufficient care should be taken with regard to REI (restricted entry interval). Proper caution while dealing with children and domestic animals is also needed.
Swarming, the most important sign of termite infestation in and around buildings/structures is to be verified keenly. Sustainable termite control in the light of present and upcoming eco-technologies is identified as the major focal point. Use of termiticides as recognized and recommended by Indian Standards, Insecticide Act (1968) and United Nation Environment Program for management of termites in pre and post-construction stages of various buildings and other structures are recorded with the relevance of application and dose. Termite management technologies like the use of borate, bait, and barrier (3B) are briefed; with pest-control industry-invented devices such as termatrac are brought into focus along with indigenous traditional knowledge of termite control. The status of termite R&D in India is discussed in various institutional and web-based levels along with recognizing research gaps.
Pre- & post-construction: Bifenthrin 2.5% EC shall be applied at 0.05% a.i. conc. i.e. 20ml formulated product diluted in 1 liter of water for the control of termites in the building during pre and post-construction. Treatment should be as per IS 6313 (Part-2): 2001 for pre-construction chemical treatment and IS 6313 (Part-3): 2001 for post-construction treatment of the existing building.
For, chlorpyriphos 20%EC, recommendation is @1% a.i. (pre- & post-construction treatment). It is the most popular, as cheaply available. Chlorpyriphos 50%EC is used @ 0.5% and 1.0% for protecting structures from termite attack at pre-and post-construction stages, and for wooden works in the structures, wood protection is suggested by chlorpyriphos @2% (w/w basis).
A non-repellant termiticide imidacloprid is used for protecting building from termite attack at pre- and post-construction stages, apply Imidacloprid 30.5% SC @ 0.075% a.i. concentration.
Barriers, Baits, and Borates – these 3B’ are best for protecting building setups related to farm/orchard. Other precautions such as no soil-wood contact, proper drainage, and relevant construction standards for foundation – are to be followed scientifically.
Physical barrier: Sand or stainless barrier is effective in new construction, not for remedial measures. Sandbed (treated with chlorpyriphos 4%D) is preferred to pile/arrange the potted plants on this bed for your house premises around. The earthen pot may be painted with red earth (termiticide-treated) or lime.
Non-repellant: Chloranthraniliprole, Imidacloprid*, Chlorfenapyr, Fipronil etc.
Repellent: Chlorpyrophos*, Bifenthrin*, Permethrin etc. (* recommended).
Bait-technology - Bait-chemicals such as Hexaflumuron, Sulfluramid, Noviflumuron etc (not available in India). Baits have the disadvantage that they work slowly and are not 100% reliable, these are used for indoor termite-pests. Boric acid can be tried-and-tested in baits.
Wood-protection - Treated wood may be combined with either chemical barriers or termite baits, woodworks in the crawlspace can be treated with borates.
Nothing is certain. But both baits and barriers can be made effective with careful planning. In areas of average termite pressure and moderate rainfall, they should last at least 5 years.
The role of city dwellers is of paramount importance, not only for their personal properties, but also for public places. Digital awareness is a need, a web-portal (www.termitexpert.in) web-launched in 2017 has garnered >4.6 lakh visits/hits, public awareness is to be promoted by all quarters. The website deals with management aspects for Construction, pesticides to be used, and other important aspects in outsmarting the termites in structures. As cities expand, it is imperative to invest in termite-proof smart buildings and housing to enable cohesive development in the coming future.
Dr. G. K. Mahapatro is Head and Principal Scientist at ICAR-IARI Regional Station, Pune, Maharastra. He is an expert in toxicology and termite management.
Disclaimer: The contents, style, language, plagiarism, references, mention of any products if any, etc., are the sole responsibility of the authors.