Termite Control by Inhibiting Molting

Every year termites attack thousands of homes. Scientists estimate that Americans spend billions of dollars every year to treat termites and repair the damage that they cause.

Because termites are such an economic threat, scientists are constantly researching ways to control them effectively. The scientists work to find termite control methods that do not put people and animals at risk.

In the 1990’s scientists found a class of insecticides that prevented immature insects from growing. They called these chemicals Insect Growth Regulators, or IGR’s.

One type of IGR that proved to be very effective was a chemical called a chitin synthesis inhibitor. Chitin is a material in the body of an insect. As an insect grows, its body uses chitin to form the outer shell, called its exoskeleton. When it is time for the insect to grow, it forms a new exoskeleton inside of the old one. Then the old exoskeleton splits and the insect crawls out. This process is called molting.

Scientists found that termites were ideal target insects for these new chemicals because a termite colony has thousands of immature insects. The scientists found that when termites were given the chitin synthesis inhibitor, the immature termites would perish at the next molting.

Scientists also found that the chitin synthesis inhibitor had very little effect on humans or animals. When the products were registered with the EPA, they were given the signal word of Caution because of their low toxicity to humans.

In order to get termites to ingest the chitin synthesis inhibitor, scientists developed monitoring and bait systems. The systems use plastic stations that are placed in the ground.

When termites enter the station, they find paper or cardboard that has been treated with the chitin synthesis inhibitor. The termites eat the treated material and share it with their nest mates. In this way, the chitin synthesis inhibitor is spread through the termite colony.

Scientists have found that termite control by inhibiting molting is a very effective way to protect homes. Depending on the situation, the system can be used alone or it can be combined with a liquid termiticide application. The system is available from many pest control professionals, but it is not currently available in stores.