“Bug Buster!” Using Copper Against Termites

Bug Buster

Imagine a society without copper. At first, you probably think you can live without it, but not without wi-fi, of course. But no. Copper is man’s oldest metal, dating back more than 10,000 years. Just ponder on its many wonders.

Even you have copper inside your body. It is involved in the formation of red blood cells, the absorption and utilization of iron, and the synthesis and release of life-sustaining proteins and enzymes. Woah! You have copper inside your room. It is part of television sets, computers, smartphones, iPods, e-readers and a whole lot more! You have copper inside your home. It is used in water pipes, power lines and surprise, surprise – termite control – all around the world, including Philippines.

Yes, this mighty metal is also a bug buster. Here’s why you can rely on it.

In 1882, a French botanist who goes by the name Pierre-Marie-Alexis Millardet treated vineyard grapes with a blend of copper sulfate and discovered that the mixture killed powdery mildew. Since then, the properties of copper have been explored as an organic biocide.

  • Copper oxidizes enzymes, lipids and proteins. It can change the normal role of fore mentioned agents, making them reactive and toxic.
  • Copper-based pesticides are good treatment for woods, primarily because it has copper as a primary ingredient mixed in a special chemical cocktail. These treatments include chromated copper arsenate, alkaline copper quaternary and copper azole.
  • Alkaline Copper Quaternary is a water based wood preservative method introduced in countries as an alternative to Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA). CCA was found to be highly dangerous; it can break down and leach in the environment. ACQ, on the other hand, is safer and home-friendly, normally containing 66.7% copper oxide.
  • Copper Boron Azole type A contains 49% copper, while Copper Azole type B is composed of 96.1% copper. Woods treated with copper azole are generally greenish-brown with little or no odor.
  • Lumber treated with copper-based solutions tends to be great in outdoor applications, especially if used in direct wood-soil contact like fences.
  • It also has the advantage of being resistant to deterioration from sun and water exposure, and inhibits the growth of microbial agents like fungus that accelerate wood’s decay.

What’s the catch?

However, the downside of using copper-based pesticides is its toxicity. Occupational exposures to this kind of pesticide aggravate allergic reactions, itching and eczema. Not only that, the solution can leach to the soil, and pose hazard to you and your family. That is why only ACQ and copper azole are the lumber-treatment recommended for residential purposes.

Another downside is copper-based solution are not always perfect – no matter how lethal it is. Termites can still go around your treated wood and gnaw the wood in your favorite furniture. Remember how termites work? Termites, especially the subterranean ones, can create a complex network of tunnels underground, reaching hundreds of feet in any direction. Thus, they can resurface anywhere when they find a good food source of wood. Perhaps, that wood pile in your garage or that drift wood in your garden may be the termites’ next delicious happy meal.