When it comes to controlling termites, over-the-counter products may be less expensive, but in the long run, they could really cost you.
"If you see a swarm of termites around your house, don't panic and rush out and buy the first thing you can find to control them," said Brian Forschler, an entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Take Time to Think
"Most termite damage isn't sudden and catastrophic," he said. "So take some time to think before you act."
Most termites native to Georgia swarm from now until early June, he said. They swarm when a percentage of the termites within a population become adults and fly away to start a new colony.
"Termite control is a difficult process at best," Forschler said. "One of the advantages of using professionals is that they will give you a contract that assures you the job will get done."
Homeowner-applied treatments don't come with any guarantees.
Don't Rely on Home Control
"Using a store-bought termite bait is a really scary prospect," he said. "I'd say, use one if you'd like to, but don't use it as your sole method of control."
Homeowner termite baits hit the market about four years ago, shortly after the professional baits became available.
"The over-the-counter baits sell, but you're just rolling the dice if you use them," Forschler said. "I've gotten the material to work, but I know termite biology and have time to test it, check it and replace it three weeks after the bait is eaten. Not three months later when you think about it again."
Forschler says when it comes to controlling termites, don't opt for the cheapest choice.
You Get What You Pay For
"People just want something easy and cheap," he said. "For about $40, they can buy something they think will protect their house. And it may or may not. All this versus the $1,000 you'd pay a professional for a termite treatment."
Despite the high sales of termite baits, the professional pest control industry doesn't appear threatened by the competition, said Forschler.
"Professionals aren't concerned about homeowner treatments because they know how difficult it is to control termites," he said. "They just figure those customers will become their customers soon enough."
(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)