About Borates

All About Borates, Naturally!


Borates Boast a Legendary Track Record

For many, the word "borates evokes fond memories of 20 mule teams and 1950's TV nostalgia. But borates have been around much longer than that.

Part of nature since Earth's formation, borates have been useful for thousands of years, valued as natural fertilizers and for their preservative, desiccant and pesticidal properties. (Adding an exterior application only service)


Background On Borates

Although the first verifiable use of borates dates back to the 8th century A.D., mankind has relied on them unknowingly since the advent of agriculture, nearly 10,000 years ago. Borates were used by the Egyptians during the mummification process, and later were utilized by artisans such as gold workers, glassmakers, potters and ceramic makers.

The key component in borates is boron, an element found all around us. Present naturally in the soil, boron serves as an essential micronutrient for the healthy growth of many plants and crops. It doesn't exist by itself in nature but occurs in combination with oxygen and other elements, thus resulting in borates.

Borate-based pesticides have virtually no odor, contain no harsh chemicals and can be applied right where they're needed, thus addressing concerns about toxicity and leaching.

Before the 19th century, concentrated borates were a rare treasure, transported from mines in the Far East into Europe. The first major U.S. deposit of borate minerals was discovered around 1872 in California by Francis Marion Smith, a.k.a. "Borax" Smith, one of the earliest producers of borates.

Today, industries worldwide use boron compounds to manufacture countless household items. Found naturally in fruits and vegetables, borates are a key ingredient in such products as construction materials, soaps, fertilizers and detergents, among many other things.


Controlling Pests

For decades borates have also been a powerful tool for controlling pests, although there's no record of who discovered their pesticidal properties. It could have been that those who worked around the borax mines noticed that there weren't many bugs present nearby, unusual at a time when fleas and body lice were constant companions. By the late 19th century, borate producers were promoting its use for preventing and eliminating roaches and moths.

Borates are unique among pesticides in that they were used by consumers for many years before pest management professionals picked up on them. One of the first borate- based baits was P.P. Harris Roach Tablets, developed in 1922 in Baltimore, Md. The product is the oldest continually registered pesticide in the U.S.

By the 1930s and '40s, powdered boric acid was commonly used for cockroach control. Its use diminished when the faster-acting chlorinated hydrocarbons (i.e., DDT, chlordane) and organophosphates came along, but experienced a resurgence years later when entomologists found that insects did not build up resistance to them, as they did to many of the "newer" pesticides.


Borates Today

Based on their excellent track record in research and in the field, borates are being used more than ever as dusts and as the active ingredient in an assortment of formulations for controlling many insect species, including termites, cockroaches ants and beetles.

Borates are a natural solution to pest control, making them particularly appealing to PMPs and homeowners alike, especially at a time when more and more people are concerned about the use of pesticides in and around their home. Matt Baillargeon, builder sales representative of Centex HomeTeam Services in Ocala, Fla., says he especially values the natural aspects of borates. "I like the fact that we're using something that's been around for a long time," said Baillargeon. "Boron has been available to us for hundreds of years and is in just about everything we use," he observed.

What's more, borate-based insecticides are virtually odorless and don't contain harsh chemicals, and they can be applied directly to specific areas where insects nest, rather than being pumped into the ground around a home. As such, there's no concern about the product leaching into nearby water sources.