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A home invasion you can fight

Malacañang Palace’s Kalayaan Hall was infested by termites. The Xterm baiting system was used to eliminate the colony.

MANILA, Philippines - Throughout their lives, they will serve the queen — they will for-age for her food, feed her and groom her. She will do nothing but eat and bear “children.” If the king dies ahead of her, she will simply pick a new king and start mating with him and the colony grows as the workers and solders serve her while a standby reproductive caste awaits in case she can no longer lay eggs.  

This is the caste system that keeps things in tight order — and they live in your house. This colony can wreck your house, inch by hollow inch, by feeding on the wood and your other valuables. Termites are the bane of every homeowner, especially those that build their houses in what used to be wooded, forested areas outside the city — or even in places like Ayala Alabang.

Malacañang Palace, which sits by the Pasig River, was not spared either. Sumitomo, a 400-year-old Japanese company with over a hundred subsidiaries, and producer of Xterm, the revolutionary termite baiting system, came to the rescue. 

Sumitomo Chemicals Phils. Inc. (SCPI) country manager Ferdinand de Gala

Xterm uses only baiting cartridges to exterminate termite colonies. Sumitomo Chemicals Phils. Inc. (SCPI) appoints any of its 20 authorized installers around the Philippines to treat your home with the Xterm system, which does not use chemicals so you do not have to evacuate your house because there is no spraying to be done.

Xterm baiting system has been used in Malacañang Palace, six hospitals of the DOH, the National Historical Institute, Crosswinds in Tagaytay, a number of upscale condominium buildings in Metro Manila, and countless residential homes.

Sumitomo Chemicals Phils. Inc. (SCPI) country manager Ferdinand de Gala says, “First, the installers will inspect your home to see if a termite colony already exists. If it does, they will install an above-ground baiting system; if the homeowner wants prevention, they will install an in-ground system.” 

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It takes about four weeks to eliminate a termite colony, he says. How does it work? “The baiting system relies on the natural behavior of termites,” he says. “Termites share their food in a process known as trophallaxis. Once they ingest slow-acting toxicants they pass it around the colony until it reaches the queen. The key is the use of a system that attracts termites to a readily accessible feeding station containing a suitable bait matrix that is carried back to the nest.” So the workers who forage for food inadvertently kill their own colony.”  

Xterm above-ground (left) and in-ground stations

An entire house can collapse from termite infestation, warns De Gala, so it is easier to prevent a colony from invading your house rather than exterminating it. There is hardly a house that doesn’t have termites; even newly constructed ones may be attacked by termites. And there is hardly any material that termites will not eat (the queen must be fattened!) — wooden flooring and paneling, books, paintings, rubber soles of shoes, even clothing. I have a friend whose library was wiped out by termites. I had my own unfortunate experience with anay. When we were moving to the south to our newly renovated house, the packing boxes sat unopened in the lanai for months. When I finally opened them, anay spilled out even though these boxes didn’t contain wood — but rather held clothing, albums and documents. Like any other ignorant homemaker, I asked our cleaning lady to spray the balikbayan boxes with insecticide.

An XTerm AG Station and one with wet termite galleries

“That’s what most people do, but it’s not going to kill the termites,” says De Gala. “Only a proper baiting system will do it. It is an environmentally friendly way of treating termite infestations, using very small amounts of a pest-specific chemical in a non-disruptive low-hazard application. Baits are ideal, even those sensitive to insecticide use. A house with a big termite colony may require more than one Xterm baiting system.”

“Especially these rainy days, homeowners need to be vigilant to avoid attracting termites. Moisture and wood act like magnets for termites and you can prevent that by taking a few simple home maintenance steps,’’ says Jay Adalla, entomologist and sales and marketing officer of Sumitomo Chemical Philippines, Inc. (SCPI).

An Xterm baiting station in Malacañang Museum

De Gala says that most of the time, you don’t even know that your home has a termite because your wood looks okay on the outside. “Underneath, it is already hollowed because they eat from the inside out.” He adds that warning signs include swarmers around near light sources after rain, “mud shelters” (those thin mud-like streaks) on foundations or other walls running from the ground, sawdust-like powder near doors and window frames, stray wings of termites, tiny holes on wood surfaces, and paint that has started to bubble on wood surfaces. Lastly, termites are not exactly quiet — sometimes you can hear them (thousands of them) gnawing on your wood. 

When something goes bump in the night, check for termites first.

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