Termites and their treatment

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Termites are insects that constitute societies. The societies of termites are constituted by millions of individuals that maintain a high organization, collaboration and cohesion with a high specificity in the work they do.

In a colony of subterranean termites we find several types of individuals with different morphology and work, each of these groups are called castes.

The royal couple is formed by a King and a Queen (primary breeders), are responsible for the foundation of the colony and the laying of eggs. From these eggs will emerge the larvae of the incipient colony; these larvae will be differentiated in the different individuals belonging to each of the castes according to the need of the termite nest.

The caste that has the greatest number of members is that of the workers, who take care of the larvae, the construction and cleaning of the termite mound, the search for food sources and the feeding of the rest of the colony.

The soldiers are in charge of the defense of the colony, they are in greater number in the bordering zones of these accompanying the workers in their search for food. They are not able to feed themselves, since they have hypertrophied jaws that they use in their defense work, and they are fed by the workers.

The nymphs appear when a colony reaches a certain size of about 1000 termites, they have a different morphology, their abdomen is more elongated and they show wing sketches. Its function is to become the winged ones that form the swarm in spring. In some cases they can be transformed into secondary reproducers.

The secondary or neotenic reproducers appear in the areas furthest from the termite mound, have a darker color and a conical and bulging abdomen and have developed the ability to lay eggs. These neotenics are differentiated from nymphs that have not become winged or workers who had not yet reached their last stage of development.

Colonies of Reticulitermes – TERMITE SUBTERRÁNEAS
The colonies of termites of the genus Reticulitermes form underground colonies that can occupy even surfaces of 100 linear meters and 2500 m2 and have a population of 4 or 5 million individuals. The termite mounds of this species form diffuse structures that extend radially in their search for food and when they find it they tend to concentrate in these areas. The search for food is carried out in a continuous and progressive manner in a way that increases the foraging territory and the size of the colony as they find food available.

In their search for food termites run through the subsoil, and build access channels or take advantage of any crack in the structures of buildings to access them, once inside they use any method to reach their goal (can be introduce into electrical conduits producing short circuits, or build chimneys made of excrement, soil, saliva and pieces of wood when they are outdoors to protect themselves from light and moisture loss).

Termites feed on cellulose, a molecule that is contained mainly in wood, cardboard, paper and other elements of plant origin. For their digestion, they use flagellated protozoa and symbiotic bacteria that degrade cellulose so that it can be assimilated by termites.

Damages caused by Reticulitermes

The termites belonging to the genus Reticulitermes are enormously harmful, the expenses produced by this species have been calculated to exceed 10,000 million euros. The houses are demolished, cathedrals and the artistic-historical heritage in general is badly damaged, entire municipalities are invaded, … all this without anyone having been able to detect it in time.

Once inside the buildings, they can attack structural elements that support the structure of the house, such as beams and existing loading posts on thresholds of doors and windows. In addition to frames and ornamental elements such as: coffered ceilings, malpernales of stairs, floors and skirting boards of parquet; and cellulosic materials stored on the floor as cardboard boxes in storerooms and warehouses. Sometimes they can attack documents that are stored in dark and damp areas and furniture when near the walls.

The measures that can be adopted to protect themselves from the attack of termites are of two types, curative and preventive.

Preventive measures are taken to avoid future incidences with termites in areas where the presence of these insects is known. They are basically preconstructive measures that are adopted to avoid the attack of the termites to the house or correctors of factors that would attract the termites and favor their proliferation in the event that they are in the place.

The curative measures are applied when the termites have already made an appearance damaging the goods that have found their way; for this, two measures can be adopted to protect our heritage or eliminate the cause of the problem.

Termite healing treatment
Currently in the market we can find two control systems for termite pests that are effective, but both show positive and negative aspects.

Chemical barrier

This technique traditionally used in the control of termites consists in the injection of chemical substances of a harmful or repellent nature for the termites in the subsoil or elements to be protected, so that we isolate from the termites the goods that we want to protect from their attack.

The disadvantages are that a large amount of liquid insecticide must be injected into the subsoil and achieve a continuous barrier. The injection of the insecticide could cause the contamination of underground aquifers and the composition of the soil strata could cause the insecticide not spread homogeneously in it.

In addition, if the entire colony is not surrounded by the barrier, it is possible that parts of it remain isolated in untreated areas, causing the colony of termites to split into several colonies from which it is intended to be eliminated and its extension to areas adjoining.

Toxic baits

The treatments of termites with toxic baits consist of supplying the termites as food with cellulose material impregnated with the toxic. These insects will ingest the bait and will also transfer it to the rest of the colony thanks to their social behavior, so that not only will those who have been feeding in the place where the bait has been placed die but will go produce the death of the remaining termites as they will be fed with this material.

The baits that give the best result are those formulated with growth regulators that contain hexaflumuron or diflubenzuron as an active ingredient. These active principles inhibit the synthesis of chitin, a molecule that is part of the exoskeleton of arthropods, preventing the necessary moult for growth and producing death.

In order for this method to be effective, it must be applied by technicians who are experts in the biology and behavior of termites, and in the management of this type of bait, and keep it for some time in case of outbreaks of isolated cells.

Concluding, before the two curative methods currently on the market the most widespread is the chemical barrier, but its effectiveness is unknown in cases such as Rute, where the characteristics of the houses are of various kinds, from old houses built in one plant with patio or garden of earth to blocks of flats of new construction.

Treat the municipality involves the injection into the subsoil, and wood elements thousands of liters of insecticide, while with the method of baits the amount of active material used is much smaller, in the order of grams. For this reason, the use of the bait method is more coherent.

The system of treatment with toxic baits requires a time of action, and once eliminated the colony does not form a repellent barrier against termites, so we consider that if all colonies are eliminated from the urban area they will not reappear unless they are introduced in a accidental when transporting infected firewood.

Preventive treatments

In addition to the curative treatments, it is convenient that the neighbors follow a series of recommendations that will prevent the extension of the plague, or its reintroduction, such as:

– Avoid accumulating cardboard or other material with cellulose in the ground, and do so on terraces of construction material or metal so that there is a circulation of air underneath. The remains where we have detected activity of termites is better to destroy them by burning them.

– Humidities from pipe breaks or leaks in drains help the proliferation of fungi that degrade the wood, this attracts termites, so it is very convenient to fix these damages.

– Inform municipal officials of the appearance of new outbreaks, so that they can be controlled and not spread throughout the rest of the municipality.

– During the construction of a building you can also take measures, especially if you have news of the presence of termite colonies in the vicinity. There are plastic sheets of great resistance that contain an insecticide that are placed on the foundation and that isolate the housing of the termite walkway through the subsoil.

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