Are Termite Treatments Poisonous to Plants & Gardens?

While insecticides are designed to target insects, some can impact plants, as well. This page discusses common active ingredients in termiticides (pesticides targeting termites) and their effects on plants. Since termite treatment products also have inert ingredients, you should discuss any concerns with your pest management professional before selecting a termiticide-based program around landscape plants and edible gardens.

It is important to work with a licensed pest control expert who understands your home’s unique conditions, your termite control objectives and the impact of available products on termites and plants. Experts in integrated pest management are trained to identify products with the least possible impact on non-target insects, plants and the environment, and apply materials according to label instructions.

Do Termite Treatments Kill Plants?
Termite control products are designed to target termites based on termites’ common behavior in soil and wood. Treatment materials used for one application are not necessarily suitable for other applications. For example, sulfuryl fluoride, the most common fumigant used to control termite infestations, will kill plants. Before fumigation, you should remove any indoor plants and plants on porches that will be covered by the fumigation tent.

Borates, including boric acid and disodium octaborate tetrahydrate (DOT), typically are not recommended for soil treatments since the proper treatment concentration can be diluted by rain or watering. Borate-based products also disrupt photosynthesis and cause plants to dry out.

Plant-safe Termite Treatment
Permethrin, cypermethrin, fenvalerate, bifenthrin, imidacloprid, chlorfenapyr and fipronil are all active ingredients in pesticides. These products can be applied on and near various plants without negative effect.

Pyrethroids (including permethrin, cypermethrin, fenvalerate and bifenthrin) can be found in home and garden pesticides. There are more than a dozen pyrethroids currently used in various types of insecticides. These products can be used on ornamental plants, and many pyrethroids can be used on or around edible plants.

Imidacloprid is an insecticide used on crops, including rice, cereal, corn and vegetable crops. This particular insecticide also may protect plants from heat and drought. Imidacloprid is fatal to honeybees, so homeowners who are concerned about garden pollination may wish to use another insecticide.

Chlorfenapyr is an insecticide used on ornamental flowers and non-food crops. It is widely used in commercial greenhouses.

Fipronil is used on some crops, such as corn and rice. Plants do not absorb fipronil well. When the chemical lands on leaves and stems, it breaks down in the sunlight.