Will Termite Killer Harm Bees?

I sometimes receive queries that represent real dilemmas for people who wish to protect bees - that includes me! 

It's not easy to respond to such emails, because on the one hand, I wish to see bees protected.  On the other, some problems could become very serious for those affected.  I judge each scenario on an individual basis.

One such query involved termites and termite colonies.  Not all countries have termite colonies, but where they are present, I understand they can cause very, very serious damage to a home.  Yes, they are amazing creatures, and a colony is an amazing super-organism, but if I had to look after my family and our home, what would I do about a termite colony that decided to take up residence with us?  What would you do?  Think about it.

The query was regarding the use of Termite killer - actually, the product being considered was a neonicotinoid, and neonicotinoids  are toxic for bees.  This particular lady had already tried a solution not using neonicotinoids. (Now, if you are aware of a solution that definitely works without pesticides, please, please get in touch).

I include information about termites and the pesticide ingredient (neonicotinoids) on my website and it is indeed toxic for bees.  However, the information is not intended to deter anyone from protecting their house.  It is only there to draw attention to the claims Bayer CropScience make with regard to its capacity for killing a colony insect, and the similarity with bees.

I decided this scenario was worth sharing with other readers, to provide a little clarity and guidance.  Here it is:


"I have termites next to my house! Previously, I had termites in the house. Last time I used the bait stations, but companies are recommending a perimeter liquid Termidor or Premise that is put into the ground in a trench.

I am very concerned about the affect on honeybees, but can't have termites destroy my house! I wondered if shooting the liquid deep in the ground helps keep it from direct or indirect contact with bees. Suggestions?  Thank you".

My response:

UPDATE: Please also see my additional notes added at the bottom of this article.

"Many thanks for contacting me, and for your caring concern about the bees.

I firstly,  think it is vital that you protect your house.

There are reportedly some organic methods to be rid of termites, however, I have absolutely no idea whether or not they work.  One example iis this one here,  (copy and paste the video into your browser):


but it may be a method you have tried previously.

With regard to the injection method you mention, or how you should apply the product to deal with termites but avoid harming bees:

  • the chemicals are indeed neonicotinoids and could harm bees by creating a toxic plant, if the plants are grown in the contaminated soil directly around the perimeter of your house.  This is because the poison is taken up from the soil, into the plant, where it can contaminate nectar and pollen, creating a toxic plant for bees. 

  • So what could you do to protect bees, but also protect your home from termites?

    f you must use one of the chemicals you mention, you need to leave a border (of several feet) away from the treated zone, free of flowering plants, because the chemical is known to migrate into untreated areas.  Leaving a few feet of space around the perimeter of your home, free of plants, will help avoid risk of poisoning pollinators.  

    If you are keen to see plants there, grow them in pesticide free compost in hanging baskets and containers.  You could also use plants that deter bees, or that are of no interest to bees, such as grasses, and the shrub Wormwood (Artemisia). But to be very safe, I think the plant boxes are better, because it is also important to protect other beneficial or benign invertebrates that might inhabit or visit the grasses (harmless beetles, butterflies, moths).  
  • Please note, in addition, Bayer Cropscience claim that the product can remain effective (i.e. toxic) for up to 5 years against a colony of termites, so this is worth taking into account, as it suggests soil will remain contaminated for some years.


I hope this helps, and I appreciate your concern for the bees.


[NOTE: Since initially writing this article, I have since discovered that heat treatment may be an acceptable alternative to dealing with termites - please see this link (opens in a new window).

Alternatively, I have heard of another system, which uses an insecticide bating system, called Sentricon.  Please note that despite some claims, it is also an insecticide which contains hexaflumuron, which is toxic for bees and it is moderately persistent to persistent in soil (the bait may be applied to cardboard, for example, but whilst the cardboard will decompose, the chemical itself may remaind for some time).  However, the theory is that by using the baiting system, the termites pass the poison (which is slow acting) around the colony, inhibiting the colony development, thus ultimately killing it.  Thus, unlike soil drenching/injecting systems, this form of treatment should not pose such a high risk to bees.

However, please conduct further research before proceeding with a treatment.]

I realise for some people, my advice might be controversial, but I believe it is very important to be responsible.  I do not like pesticides  - heaven knows I have campaigned on the issue intensively for some years (and actually, I quite like termites, making this page very uncomfortable to write).  But hurting people's lives is also a big no-no for me.

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