Once upon a time…. if termites started eating your house, you repaired it, removed all traces of them — and sold it. Then in 1915, Bill Flick worked out how to get termite workers to take a slow acting poison (arsenic) back to the nest so the entire colony died. This big secret and all the other secret brews and potions to control all manner of pests was kept from homeowners. You no longer had to sell your house, but you had to pay so you could stay.
In 1957, a young Ion Staunton started working as a Flickman. He learned the secrets. He kept them from homeowners too because he became the Secretary of the national pest managers association and their job was to provide service to customers, not tell them how they might do it themselves. He was so good at this gig, they made him a Life Member as he rode off into the sunset with his clock
Homeowners could always get poisons to kill rodents. Along came Baygon to kill cockroaches then a whole supermarket shelf full of pesticides for the DIYers — but nothing for homeowners to kill termites. One day in 2001 Ion’s friend Bill asked how he could find and kill termites that might be marauding through his backyard. Ion worked out an answer and became a traitor within a day.
Getting thousands of termites into a trap eating food they liked was the easy bit. But how was Bill going to know they had arrived? Ion decided to put a window in the Trap so Bill could look in, but, if termites were in residence, they instinctively wanted to block out the light and Bill would only see termite mud. Bingo!
Ion realised there were millions of ‘Bills.’
The first TermiteTraps were handmade and sold mostly through adverts in Burkes Backyard Magazine until Ion couldn’t keep up with demand. He approached Hills Industries (the Hills Hoist people) and they made them but didn’t sell many. Ion took the product back to sell them the new fangled way: on-line.
A year went by. Ion enlisted a neighbour, Caroline, to run the office and he got busy on the major problem to real success. The Traps worked well but the customer still had to call in a professional for the treatment because, although the bait is non toxic and safe to handle, all the registered products have the words “ to be used only by a licenced pest professional” on the label. And, the label is THE LAW — big fines if you don’t follow the label. Ion finally got his label registered without those words and business kicked to another level.
More years go by and Ion is pondering what sort of Trap or monitor he would build if he was to try to enter the market in competition to his own product. He stayed with the premise that to beat termites, you have to use their instincts against them. The Eureka light went on when he considered that all termite damage of significance happens because termites come up out of the ground to eat timber. If you turn over a piece of wood that has been laying on the ground for a month or so, chances are termites are busy in it. Why, he reasoned have we been putting monitors in the soil hoping termites will bump into them when, they always come up from the soil to find timber? Trials showed his on-ground monitors were found sooner than those buried in gardens and lawns.
His new monitor was released in September 2012 in the shape of a brick. They were cheaper to make and the homeowner could afford to put more of them around.
Ion had long realised that it wasn’t light that termites avoided; it was what light represented. If light was getting in through a split or a gap, termites closed it to prevent the invasion of ants and to control humidity. Termites want security; they need to seal themselves in. In designing the new TermiTrap brick, Ion purposely left a hole in the top lid so termites would instinctively close it. This would be their very easy-to-see “we’ve arrived” signal to a passing homeowner. To complete the job, all a DIYer needed to do was push in the mud in the hole and place a pot of bait over it, then, termites without any threat or disturbance, could begin taking it back to their nest.
Once upon a time, Bill asked a question and Ion saw the possibilities for homeowners to live more happily ever after (well, with reduced anxiety and threat from termites).