“Natural” termite control—using naturally occurring microbials (such as nematodes; parasitic roundworms that live in the soil) and pathogenic fungi that attack termites where they live—is a wonderful idea, but does it work? Some say yes, others say no. Some termite control experts are willing to give it a chance, but should you?
What’s so natural about natural termite control?
Natural termite control is a relatively new method of handling termite infestations. Some exterminators, rather than creating newer and more powerful chemicals to combat termites and other pests, have become involved in termite eradication efforts based in a more traditional philosophy: fight nature with nature. This is nothing new; there are a number of states and countries that have tried natural pest control for other annoying animals.
Texas has imported foreign insects to combat fire ants; a strange creature not unlike the nematode, which attacks ants by planting its larva inside of the ant, which grows until large enough to consume the ant’s brain.
Similarly, the Virgin Islands imported mongooses to take care of a snake problems (and then, American hunters to eradicate mongoose problems).
Natural termite control advocates and exterminators have begun using strange sounding organisms like nematodes and bad sci-fi plot drivers like pathogenic fungi to battle termite infestations.
Who knew these things even existed, let alone actually worked for natural termite control?
Nematodes: Termite eating worms
According to studies at the University of Nebraska, a whole lot of people did. Unfortunately, using nematodes as a method of natural termite control doesn’t work. The idea of using nematodes (parasitic round worms that live in the soil naturally and eat termites) is filled with good intentions, but outside of laboratory situations, it’s just not feasible:
When a nematode attacks termites in a laboratory environment, there is nothing else there for the nematode to eat; the environment is specifically not natural.
In the natural setting of your home, or the soil around your home, experiments with termite-killing nematodes have largely failed. There is no evidence to show that the nematodes haven’t just left after being deposited in the soil around your home, preferring to eat something else, instead.
Deadly Spores? Unleashing pathogenic fungi
Unlike nematodes, pathogenic fungi have been shown to have some positive effect in exterminating termite infestations.During germination (when the spores of the fungi are let out to reproduce), pathogenic fungi can infect termites seriously enough to kill them. Natural termite control using fungi poses some problems:
Once death begins, noticeably sick termites are shunned from the colony, left to die on their own. If this happens before a large segment of the termite infestation colony is infected, the treatment will not work.
Ten percent of the termites causing infestation must be infected for the pathogenic fungi to successfully eradicate the termites. While this is possible, it is highly difficult to ensure, and few termite eradication exterminators are trained in the use of pathogenic fungi.
Pathogenic fungi are very sensitive to environmental conditions. They may not be suitable for wide use, and must be used during a specific time period for the climate to be right for effectiveness. If it is too damp, too hot, too anything, they are likely to die and will not work.
The Termite-Control.Net Consensus on Natural Termite Control:
You’re better off using synthetic pyrethroid barrier treatments like permethrin , or termite bait systems.