Sentricon

Is the Sentricon termite baiting system effective, or is it a scam?
I am neither an expert nor a Sentricon customer, and termite baiting stations were of no interest to me.  However, several consumer complaints pertained to the Sentricon system, and I have been asked for more information.  The following information is provided to help you reach an informed decision rather than one based solely on company advertising and sales tactics:

Entomologist's Comments and Opinions

I wrote to a highly-respected entomologist and asked his opinion of the Sentricon system.  He insists on anonymity; therefore, you must decide for yourself if the information he provided is worth reading or to be considered. I trust his opinion, knowledge, and expertise, which is why I asked him for his opinion of the Sentricon system and why I am providing his response.

Is the Sentricon system effective?
Boy -- is that a loaded question.... The Sentricon system relies on termites finding wooden stakes in bait stations implanted in the ground. Once they begin feeding on the stakes, the stakes are removed, the termites shaken into the station, and a bait tube added to the station. Supposedly, the termites will then begin to feed on the bait matrix, which contains a chitin inhibitor.  By passing this material around the colony by trophyllaxis (mouth to mouth and mouth to anus feeding) the colony will be unable to mature and molt properly.  It happens slowly and the worker termites do not “recognize” the demise of the colony. Well, that’s the theory.  Now for the facts.  When attacked bait stakes are lifted out of the station, it wrecks the termite tubing and foraging pathways and often the termites abandon the station and do not enter the bait tube.  Often the termites simply abandon the station, particularly in the summertime when the soil dries out.  They forage deeper in the earth (up to 18”) and do not come up to the level of the station (6” or so). When foraging stops, a PCO thinks he has wiped out the colony when in fact they naturally stopped feeding on the stakes or bait.

There are all sorts of placements in the country, but Dow will not release the efficacy data on the thousands of accounts that have this system installed.  Basically, Dow gives the operator a computer program on which he downloads information about each account.  Dow accumulates these data, but has never given the industry or the EPA any information about the efficacy.  In a practical sense, I would judge that the success rate is in the range of 10% - 15%, if that high.  Dow made an arrangement, primarily with Terminix, to sell the system across the U.S. This pissed off a lot of PCO’s -- being blocked out of the market. Now there’s a competing system called Exterra, which is much better in a lot of ways and worse in other ways.

What irritates me is the way Terminix markets this program.  First, they sell clients on the non-toxic nature of this approach. All the monied yuppies go for it.  It states on the contract that if this approach doesn’t work within two years, then a conventional treatment will be rendered.  And you know how successful Terminix is with its conventional treatments.  But mostly what infuriates me is the normal way they take existing accounts that they’ve conventionally treated and when the treatment fails, they force the customer into a Sentricon system. So basically they’re saying, “Well, we couldn’t get them under control conventionally, so pay us for a Sentricon system and we will have another two years until you find out we don’t know what we’re doing.”

In isolated, special situations, especially if the PCO uses bait stations right on top of the infested wooden elements, the chitin inhibitor systems can and do work quite well. Remember, even if a PCO wipes out a colony initially, there’s no chemical protection around the house, and the conditions that made the house attractive to termites in the first place have not been altered. It’s just a matter of time before a new gang moves into the home.  And life goes on.....

Is there anything published regarding the information you provided so that I can publish it on my web site?
There is only one published article about Sentricon; i.e., peer-reviewed that I have seen where it actually eliminated a colony of termites. It was published in the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC), 1717 K Street, N.W., Suite 301, Washington, DC 20006, about 8 months or so ago. It was a 2+-year baiting project, funded by Dow and others, for the Statue of Liberty.  Now that’s a very isolated situation without much opportunity for re-invasion. Dr. Nan-Yao Su and others did this work. He is with the University of Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Research and Education Center, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. It was he who first tested the system for Dow AgroSciences about five or so years ago.  And I have yet to see a definitive study brought before the industry or in the Entomological Society of America publications.

Dr. Nan-Yao Su?  University of Florida?  According to the April 8, 2001, Orlando Sentinel article entitled, “UF Makes Killing on Sentricon Royalties,” the university profited $20 million from three products developed at UF -- Sentricon, Gatorade, and Trusopt; and 25% of the product’s profit goes to the person who developed it -- in this case, Dr. Nan-Yao Su, who worked for five years with DowAgro Sciences to develop the product!  Since, as the article states, “the university professors instruct homeowners on what termite products to use through homebuyer extension programs and consumer publications,” I tend to agree with A&M entomology Professor Roger Gold when he was quoted as saying, “It’s a major conflict of interest” and “it looks bad.”

Sentricon Customer's Research

A dissatisfied Sentricon customer wrote, “In further researching documents on the ‘net this morning, I discovered a research paper by the U. of FL which contains one paragraph, which if all consumers were aware of, would likely shut down Terminix’s source of gullible customers.”  The paragraph he was referring to is as follows:

    The other pest control company installed 20 in-ground Sentricon System (Dow-Elanco, Indianapolis, IN) stations on June 6, 1995.  These stations, containing monitoring devices, were inspected monthly (x = 37.5 days) and 23 additional in-ground stations were added during subsequent inspections. The installation and inspection procedures followed label and manufacturer guidelines. Nonetheless, termites were never detected in the in-ground monitoring stations. Water-saturated soil and extensive termiticide perimeter treatments appeared to deter FST from foraging outside of the foundation to sites where in-ground monitoring stations were installed.

Weissling, Thomas J. and Thoms, Ellen M. 1999.  Above Ground Termite Baiting. Florida Entomologist 82(1), March 1999, pg. 64.

Dow Agro Researcher Comments

The previous “Customer Research” information was added to this site on May 29, 2000. On June 29, 2000, I received the following e-mail letter from Ellen Thoms, Ph.D., Senior Research Biologist with Dow Agro:

As co-author of the research publication (Weissling, Thomas J. and Thoms, Ellen M. 1999. Above Ground Termite Baiting.  Florida Entomologist 82(1), March 1999 <http://www.fcla.edu/FlaEnt/fe82p60.pdf>) cited on your web site, I would encourage consumers to link to the Florida Entomologist web site to read the whole article to learn that the Sentricon* System did eliminate the Formosan subterranean termites infesting the home described on your web site.  The Sentricon System includes two types of bait delivery methods; Recruit* II for baiting in-ground Sentricon stations and Recruit AG for direct application of bait above-ground to infested structures.  The research publication cited above evaluated the application of Recruit AG to three structures infested by Formosan subterranean termites. In all three structures the termite infestations were eliminated by baiting with Recruit AG.

The home evaluated in this study was located on low-lying, continuously water-saturated soil adjacent to a canal. The foundation was grade-beam construction comprised of an interior grid of load-bearing footings poured beneath the slab. Soil termiticides had been repeatedly applied around the foundation and sub-slab as liquid and foam treatments, respectively.  The water-saturated soil and grade beam construction may have prevented the establishment of a continuous soil barrier beneath the home, because Formosan termites continued to reinfest the home after each termiticide application.  Because of the ongoing termite damage, the homeowner replaced all wood studs in the walls with steel beams and replaced all wood window sills with marble. Nonetheless, the termites continued to damage the remaining wood in the home accessible to them - the door frames. After baiting with Recruit AG eliminated all detectable termite activity, the homeowner replaced the damaged door frames.  No live termites were found when the damaged wood was removed.  The homeowner said for all repairs conducted in his home before baiting with Recruit AG, he always found live termites in the damaged wood he removed.

In conclusion, the Sentricon System can effectively eliminate structural infestations of subterranean termites, including infestations which previously have not been controlled by liquid termiticide treatments.

Why are they testing now?

An independant pest control operator wrote:

    Go to http://pest.ifas.ufl.edu/news.htm [links no longer available]. Look for the termite bait efficacy testing guidelines article. This will really load your guns, and it is EPA screwing up now. Why are we testing now if this was all good? These issues are archived so you can see the July 2002 issue where Dow is working on compound XDE-007*. Why do they need this if Sentricon was the answer to all termite questions as a termiticide?  Syngenta is working on thiamethoxam 25g (good product, very safe environmentally)**. REMEMBER: Univ. of FL will always use weasel words and couch their terms when it comes to Sentricon, they get big residuals from it.

* On June 6, FDACS approved four experimental use permits (EUPs) for Dow AgroSciences’ compound XDE-007 (N-2,6-difluorobenzamide) for evaluation of its efficacy as a termiticide. (FDACS PREC Agenda, 7/11/02).

** On June 12, FDACS approved an EUP for Syngenta’s product thiamethoxam 25WG for evaluation of its efficacy against subterranean termites, carpenter ants in and around structures, and nuisance pests associated with the perimeter of structures. (FDACS PREC Agenda, 7/11/02).

Anti-Sentricon Web Sites

What happens if pest control technicians with in-the-trenches experience disagree and voice their professional opinions? While searching Alta Vista in September 2000 to see if this web page would appear when doing a search for Sentricon, I found the following:

    49.  Sentricon
    Public Apology From Ron Dawson Jr. - The creation of this page on our internet site has received the attention of DowAgrosciences. DowAgrosciences..
    URL: www.dfwpest.com/sentrico.htm

Now, I wonder what would prompt a public apology.  Could it possibly be because of a threat of litigation from another monolithic corporation against the “little guy”?

Will the provider of the site at http://members.tripod.com/tornado2000/simplecon.html be next?

Terminix Employee's Revelations

The following was received via e-mail with a caveat, “As an employee, I cannot take the risk of being identified.  Therefore, post this if you wish.” With that in mind, you must judge for yourself, again, if you believe what is presented.

As an employee of Terminix, I have recently confirmed that the Sentricon Baiting System is a massive fraud being brought upon the consumer by both Dow and Terminix.  When hired, I was given a set of books and videos which were designed to help me get my Branch 2 and 3 licenses. I was given virtually no other training on how to do a proper inspection of one’s home.  Terminix does not expect inspectors to stay with the job for more than a few months as there is not much money to be made.  Terminix will hire any warm body, promise them the moon and stars, and once licensed just throw them out into the field hoping that they will generate revenue before they quit.

Once in my territory, I began to receive complaints about the Sentricon System.  Customers who paid thousands of dollars for it still had active termites after a year. When I brought these complaints back to my branch manager, his attitude was that they had a “hit” in month eleven, therefore, the system was working etc. Later at a regional seminar, the upper management repeatedly told me that I was selling warranties not Sentricon.  Warranties are where the customers pay several hundred dollars per year to insure that their house doesn’t get reinfested by termites.  If it does, Terminix will come out and do a local treat (shoot chemical where the termites are entering the house).  This is very inexpensive to do.

I finally decided that I had to know the truth.  I called a very experienced and respected member of the structural pest control board. He told not to use his name and then stated that Sentricon has never worked.  It is simply a very profitable way for Dow and Terminix to make money.  I then called Dow and explained that I need references to close a major account.  I was told to go to my regional Terminix office who would have them.  There, I was told to go to my branch office who would have then. My branch manager then sent me back to Dow.  There are no references for Sentricon. Finally, I went to two Sentricon customers who were complaining of active infestations a year after installation. In both cases, I checked all the stations including the ones that had hits.  I found no activity at any of the stations.  The ones that the technicians had said were active either had no sign of activity or in one case had one dead (crushed) termite in it. At one house while I was doing this, swarmers were flying all over the place. Several of the bait tubes were empty.  I will be leaving Terminix shortly.  If you are tempted to purchase a Sentricon System, DEMAND REFERENCES FROM YOUR AREA first.

Letter from Experienced PCO

HAROLD SCHEER TERMITE CO., INC.
5730 NW 39th Expressway
Oklahoma City, OK  73122-2111
(405) 722-0007 Fax (405) 491-1042

August 10, 2000

To Whom It May Concern:

The purpose of this letter is to inform the homeowners of our State that the termite bait stations currently being sold here (Sentricon, Exterra, and First Line) are, in my opinion, designed to take your money and are very unlikely to eliminate termites from your home. I am not an entomologist.  I am not a pesticide regulator.  I am not a voice of authority.  I am, however, a voice of experience. I have been providing termite control to homes and businesses in Oklahoma City for nearly thirty years, and I inspect over 1500 homes for termites every year.  I have seen many “miracle chemicals” in that time and have tried most of them. None have been nearly as impressive as their ad campaigns.

I have read the data and the labels for all the termite bait stations. I have read the instructions.  I have studied the purported results.  I have seen the instructional videos. I have physically inspected some of the stations that have been installed around homes in metro Oklahoma City. I’m not impressed! Nearly every bait station I have checked is either full of water or full of ants.  The termite control companies who are claiming “Termite Colony Elimination” with the use of these in-ground bait stations sometimes fail to tell you that the label on these products state that they will not eliminate the colony if certain conditions exist; namely:

  1. If the weather is too hot, they won’t work!
  2. If the weather is too cold, they don’t work!
  3. If the soil is too dry, they don’t work!
  4. If the soil is too wet, they don’t work!
  5. If every termite in the colony doesn’t eat it, they don’t work!
  6. Or, if the termites have an alternative food source (such as your house), they don’t work!!!

The termite control industry has seen many changes since 1986 when the termiticide chlordane was taken away by the E.P.A. Even though the replacement termiticides used today are less effective, in terms of both longevity and strength, they still provide homeowners the best opportunity to protect structures from termites.  In October of 1999 the Federal Trade Commission and eight Attorney’s General sought an injunction to require the marketer of one of the bait stations to modify the claims made in its advertisements and promotional materials.  The federal and state officials alleged the company’s claims about the use and effectiveness of the product lack adequate substantiation.

In particular, the officials allege that the advertisements imply, without substantiation, that the use of the product alone is effective in preventing termite infestations and damage in homes; that it is effective in eliminating active termite infestations in homes; and, that it is as effective or more effective than chemical treatment! The eight states that joined the FTC did not include our state.  I have met with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture on several occasions to discuss the limitations of the bait stations that I, and many of my competitors, find alarming.  Although the regulators may agree, they don’t evaluate results, or help you decide whether to buy them or not.  They just do their job and enforce the “Law.”  They say, read the label. It is the law! Termites are social insects, work as a team, and must construct above-ground earthen tunnels to reach the wood in your home.  The building of these tubes or tunnels is a tedious, time-consuming process by an insect only a quarter of an inch long. To think that the colony would wake up one morning and decide to leave the studs in your wall and construct a new tunnel system to get to an outdoor stick in the ground is beyond comprehension to me.  In thirty years, I have never seen termites leave a food source voluntarily!

Our objections to the baiting systems are primarily that they are allowed to be used as a stand-alone process to control termites. Basic logic, knowledge of termite behavior, and the printed label limitations are cause for great concern for everyone.

To the Department of Agriculture and the EPA, I say: If it is your job to protect the public, then take a stand against allowing bait stations to be used without some chemical treatment to an already-infested home. To the “giants” of our industry, I say:  I know why you are switching from State and EPA regulated liquid termiticide applications, and it has nothing to do with a more effective fight against termites.  It has everything to do with decreased liability. To the homeowners of Oklahoma, I say:  Read The Label – don’t listen to the hype!  Did you know that your only warranty for the failure of these bait stations to rid your home of termites is, at the discretion of the manufacturer, either:

  1. The return of monies spent for the cost of the stations. (Considerably less than the actual price you paid for installation and monitoring.)
  2. Some more bait stations – FREE!!!

If and when termite bait stations become more than just another tool in the fight against termites, I will write another letter. In the meantime, I wouldn’t bet my house or yours that they do anything more than kill a few of the dumb ones!

Respectfully,
Harold Scheer
Scheer Termite Co.

Warning -- Terminix's Baiting System Contract

If you are about to contract or have already contracted with Terminix for the Sentricon system, carefully read the Terminix Termite Baiting System Protection Plan.

Read the fine print in your agreement, and you will be scared to death.
Ask an attorney to read it, and you’ll wonder what you paid for.
                                                             Licensed Pest Control Operator

Pay special attention to Item 4, Damage Repair Commitment, and Item 6.C.(6), Disclaimer (under Terms and Conditions), which state:

    4. Damage Repair Commitment
    This Plan provides protection against new subterranean termite damage to Structures and contents effective 180 days from the date of initial installation, such effective date hereinafter called the “Repair Effective Date.”  The Repair Effective Date does not denote colony elimination or control.  If new damage occurs after the Repair Effective Date, Terminix will, upon notification, inspect and arrange for the necessary repairs or replacement by a contractor of its choice and pay the entire cost of labor and materials as specified herein. New damage is defined as damage done by subterranean termites subsequent to the Repair Effective Date:  the definition excludes damage existing on or before the Repair Effective Date.  Unless live termites are found in the damaged area, the damage discovered is old damage and is not covered under this Plan....

    6. Disclaimer

      C. This Agreement does not cover and Terminix will not be responsible for damage resulting from or services required for:

        (4)  inherent structural problems including but not limited to wood to ground contacts

        (5)  termites entering any rigid foam, wooden or cellulose containing components in contact with the earth and the Structures regardless of whether the component is a part of the Structures

        (6)  the failure of Purchaser upon notice from Terminix to promptly cure at Purchaser’s expense any condition which prevents proper treatment or inspection or is conducive to termite infestation. [Emphasis added]

Combine Item 6.C.(6) above with the “Conditions Conducive to Termite Infestation” on the “Terminix Subterranean Termite Hazard Survey,” and if even one of the items is checked, it appears Terminix has another perfect protection -- for them!

According to the contract, “Colony elimination or control is anticipated to occur within 6 to 24 months from commencement of the program;” but the Repair Effective Date does not become effective for six months.  So, you have subterranean termites, you opt to have the Sentricon system installed, and the termites have six months to feed and destroy -- at your expense -- before the “protection” provided by this contract even begins!  But then, as stated in the first paragraph, “This plan does not control or protect against aerial (above ground) infestation of any kind, drywood termites..., or other wood destroying organisms such as carpenter ants, powder-post beetles, wood decay fungi, etc.”; and Item 3, Service Commitment, states “if a fumigation or spot termiticide treatment is deemed by Terminix to be necessary to control an aerial (above ground) infestation, Purchaser shall first agree to make access to such aerial infestation and to pay the additional charge involved.” It appears to me, then, that any termite infestation within the structure is considered “aerial” and not covered, therefore, any “aerial” termites must be completely exterminated before installing the Sentricon system; and if the Sentricon system is not effective and the termites leave the ground and enter the structure, the Purchaser must then pay more to eliminate the termites the Sentricon system didn’t get. That’s some “protection”!!!

Then, of course, is Item 10 of the Terms and Conditions, the good-old Arbitration Clause.  By signing this contract, you voluntarily give up your Seventh-Amendment rights to a court trial -- even if the system is totally useless and your house falls down around you.

*Trademark Dow AgroSciences LLC

Sentricon Complaints

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