Termite FAQ – Control

  • 1. Control
Direct responses to termite hazards
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  • 1. How long will my termite spray last?
     

    There's no simple answer for this one. Probably more than two years. Some older termiticide sprays, like chlorpyrifos, can degrade very quickly. (Apologies for using the chemical names rather than product names - see later. Others such as bifenthrin and fipronil will last longer. Fipronil lasts a disturbingly long time in the environment. Imidacloprid is somewhere in between. Chlorantraniliprole is a bit new but should last at least as long as imidacloprid. The rate at which a poison degrades varies enormously over short distances. The main factors are: the initial dose applied, temperatures, rainfall, soil type, alkalinity, presence of plants, applicator skill and the chemical properties. Then there's disturbance from floods, gardeners and burrowing animals. The chemicals will nearly always last a lot longer under your house than around it. With a chemical, you might get ten years or more service life under the house but find it fails in  two to five years around the outside. Some poisons, like imidacloprid, can be happily sucked up by plant roots so that while you might have no aphids on your roses for a while. There's always a risk the poioned-soil barrier mightn't last as long as you'd hoped.

    --You'll note I used the chemical names rather than product names. There's likely to be some variation between products that rely on the same chemical poison (=termiticide. or 'active') but have slightly different formulations or origins. Even the difference in the size of the tiny particles of poison can make a big difference. You can get your soil tested to see what's there or you can rely on the experience of your pest manager to tell you when another dose is needed. Try not to over do it with applications as more is not necessarily any better but usually carries higher risks.

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  • 2. Is spot treatment really better than fumigation?
     

    In this answer summary,  I've left out the product names. I don't like going to court. "Fumigation" is when they wrap your house and gas it, that is to use a penetrating gas to enter every place that a termite might be. In general, the answer is a simple, no spot treatment as effective as fumigation, regardless of the spot treatment used.. Fumigation means that a lightweight poison gas seeps right through your home and into everything, even right into damaged wood. It is used on drywood termites. Fumigation is generally thought to be bad for the atmosphere and it uses a lot of toxin. It does have the benefit of wiping out every last termite that's exposed. It is the best treatment for drywood termites. It is nearly always useless against subterranean termites because these can retreat to ground when disturbed (but good if they can't get away, such as in a wooden boat). Whole-of-house heating comes close and is perhaps more environmentally responsible (if the plastics in your house can take the heat). Spot treatments can work really well but the technician has to find and treat every bit of infested timber. There may be hundreds of little drywood termite colonies in the one building. Borates and other preservatives do have something over fumigation in that they keep working after the wrappings come off (you wouldn't ever want a gas that hung around) and so these provide some ongoing ('residual') protection. Bottom line is that it depends on the extent and nature of the infestation and that means that you'll probably need to rely on a specialist timber pest inspector to help you decide what's best for you.

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  • 3. Your new home
     

    Hopefully, your home comes with pre-installed termite management and hopefully this will be a least-toxic alternative. A life-of-structure, physical management system that doesn't rely on any poisons is best. If you don’t already know what's been done, please ask the builder or vendor how termite risks have been managed. Simple things can help prevent termite attacks. Without a management system you usually can’t see what termites are attacking. It is very important that you don’t do anything to make life easier for the termites. Make your future life easier instead. If your new home was somebody else's beforehand, you should have had a termite inspection before purchasing but either way, once you are ready to move in, it may be a good idea to get a more thorough inspection than can be done in a house that's dressed-up-for-sale.

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  • 4. How do we keep garden termites away from the house?
     

    In most places, pest termites are native animals, part of the wildlife and while they are allowed to be killed, chances are that there are that will just keep arriving. In parts of the Eastern USA, you can have upwards of 25 separate Reticulitermes colonies working a garden.

    Keeping termites in the garden largely means leaving them alone. Keeping those termites out of you house can be harder. Subterranean pest termites, particularly some species of Coptotermes and Reticulitermes, should not be encouraged near structures. To be sure, you need to know what species you have and how much of a risk they are in your area. Your specialist termite inspector can help you there.

    If your garden has dampwood termites, these are much less likely to enter a well-built, properly drained building than the tunnel-happy subterranean termites. If you live in an area of known drywood termite hazard, then you'll be slightly increasing your risks if you leave known drywood colonies alone.

    Keeping the subterranean termites from finding the house is best done by keeping things dry and inspectable. See my Avoid page.

    Things will be easier if your house has an effective termite management system in place, especially proper long-life physical barrier components (which don't rely on a chemical deterrent). If your house has soil poison ('termiticide'), then the non-repellent poisons (like chlorantraniliprole, fipronil and imidacloprid) may kill the subterranean termites in the garden while the repellent termiticides (such as bifenthrin and other pyrethroids) will usually just drive them away from the poisoned soil, leaving the colonies intact.

    In any case, you'll still need to have a proper inspection done (in most areas that means not less than once a year) to have a good chance of finding any incursion before serious damage can happen.

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  • 5. How long will termite baiting take?
     

    The process of baiting for termites is highly variable. Sometimes termites take a weeks or months to go into a bait. Sometimes they're in by day two.

    Some slow bait toxins may take months to noticeably affect the colony. This is especially true of the hormonal approaches which interfere with moulting. Some toxins will usually kill off a colony within two to three weeks of the first feeding. Three to eighteen months is about right for nearly all jobs and most are done by eight months..

    Some termite species are bait shy and may take weeks or months to return to a disturbed bait. Some termite species don't share very well, so with them the toxin takes much longer to reach all parts of the colony.

    If you are using a commercial bait system, the supplied information should be able to tell you roughly how long things should take. If you don't know, ask. The technician's job is to (i) manage the termites and (ii) communicate the process steps. You should always know how the technician is expected to declare when the termites are 'controlled'.

    In some risk situations, baiting may become a permanent process. While DIY baiting is possible and widely promoted by bait sellers, it is rarely advisable to take on the whole job yourself. At least have a competent person assess the situation and detail the species and risks before you decide what to do.

    Don't assume that because a lot of termites have been killed there won't be other (colonies) ready to move in an take up the attack. Even if you have baits in place, sometimes termites may not find them before beginning an attack. Baits are not anecessarily a reliable prophylactic measure.

    After any baiting program, an ongoing inspection program is necessary.

    The bottom line is that baiting may kill colonies but it is just part of your ongoing termite risk management and so doesn't really have an end date.

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  • 6. Do termites tunnel through concrete/mortar/cement/cinder blocks etc.?
     

    Termites will put a lot of effort into breaking through something that stands between them and the food or water they desire. Just so long as the prize justifies the effort required, they will appear as if to move mountains. Plaster (drywall etc.) is no barrier to termites. Most mortars slow them down, but lime mortars are readily penetrable. Termites will not usually do any damage to quality mortars with a high cement content, but beware of gaps and shrinkage cracks. Good quality concrete cannot be excavated by termites BUT cracks in poor concrete may be opened with ease. Autoclaved aerated concrete (those lightweight bubbly blocks) were readily penetrated in my field tests. Concrete (cinder) blocks sometimes have gaps in them big enough to interest termites (also observed in my field trials). Masonry is often built with lots of continuous gaps that termites can simply walk through, especially with extruded, hollow-core bricks.

    Mud-brick (adobe) can be penetrated but there is most risk between the blocks and at cracks, penetrations and against timber framing.

    In general, termites won't damage concrete if they can't pull out the sand (and small aggregate) particles. If the cement has been properly proportioned and the mix allowed to cure, then the particles tend to be well bound and termites are adequately deterred.

    Termites can walk through cracks in concrete. The cracks need to be uniformly about 10% wider than the termites' head. Concrete that is properly placed, cured and is reinforced ('rebar') generally won't crack wide enough to be at risk. A properly designed and constructed concrete slab can be a building's main defence against subterranean termites.

    Sometimes concrete has big pockets of air (because it was not properly settled), has wooden levelling pegs left in (termite highways) or has been damaged by expanding bolts or following trades cutting to add services. Easy termite paths are commonly found where floor slabs have cut-outs for baths or showers or where there are pipes or conduits passing through from the ground.

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  • 7. My home is being baited for subterranean termites. How will I know when they're all dead?
     

    The technician will assess the activity in the baits over the course of the program and, usually, make a judgement call as to when success has been achieved (the subterranean termites killed). A good tech will almost never tell you that the termites are all gone but will talk about colony elimination or control or the length of time since any of the bait has been eaten. You'll still need ongoing inspections as baiting provides no residual control. Often colony decline can be observed to be happening when the proportion of soldiers increases or when the feeding workers develop white abdomens (uric acid crystals).

    Baiting is used for subterranean termites (not drywoods and rarely for dampwoods). Baits use slow-acting toxins in low doses. The big problem is that there may be more than one colony active in the area Some colonies have fuzzy boundaries so that outside termites may be recruited to replace those affected. A great example of this is from Devon, England where introduced termites turned up in two houses. More than a decade of baiting later, there were still some termites active.

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  • 8. Termites are flying inside my house. What should I do?
     

    Don't Panic

    Termite swarmers inside your home or bedroom may be very scary, but with luck, the risk can be assessed fairly quickly.Firstly, put down that can of fly spray. It really won't help and may make things a deal worse later on. Grab a few termites and put them in a plastic bag or a jar in the freezer. You may want these later for identification. Gather up the rest (vacuum or broom). Maybe feed them to your chickens or fish (if you didn't spray).

    Now for the important bits.

    Were the termites coming in from outside (this often happens if you leave a window open or have an outside light left on)? Termites outside are often just an unavoidable local hazard. Walk around to see if you can see them spilling out of any trees, garden wood etc.. winged termitesChances are it is just a few stragglers from a normal local flight. Order a specialist termite inspection if you haven't had one for a year (or if they were emerging from important timbers like pergolas, fences or out from your house).

    Were the termites coming from inside the house? Sometimes they'll emerge right out of a wall, through the plaster, often near the top of a window or from a door frame or other feature. Look for little holes, often lined with brown or red mud and with termites dropping out or termite heads sticking out. If you have any of these signs, then you do have serious problems. Termites flying from within a house mean that there is a significant termite presence already having fun at your expense. Take some photos. Clean up the mess. Save your sample termites from the kids (or spouse) so that you can get them identified. Get a competent termite inspection. The termites may fly several times over the space of a few weeks.

    Don't be rushed into any control measures. Consider your situation closely and act accordingly. Though it is true that the building may eventually fall down if you do nothing, this is usually years after the first flights and even then it tends to happen during storms.

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  • 9. Do ants kill termites?
     

    Ants kill a lot of termites. Right around the world, and for most termite species, ants are the main predators. When you see termite soldiers, most of the funny-shaped jaws or pointy or blocky heads are really there as effective adaptations against attacking ants. When termites fly, lots get eaten before they can create a safe nest. This makes life very hard for termites, but usually not so hard as to kill them all off.

    The battles between ants and termites have been raging for millions of years, with no clear winner. It's good to have ants around your home as these make things harder for termites, especially those just starting new colonies but because termites are good at surviving ant attacks, the mere presence of lots of ants is no guarantee that you won't get termites. Ants are useful, but not reliable, predators of termites.

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  • 10. Repairs first or termites first?
     

    Should we demolish part of the house that's got termites in it?

    First up, the answer depends on what type of termites are creating the problem. If they are drywood termites, then maybe knocking things down will kill them, but if these are subterranean termites then definitely not. Drywood termites live in small colonies, usually in individual pieces of timber, so a thoughtful demolition may effectively remove active colonies. Subterraneans don't; they like to spread out through the structure and will have several paths to ground (for water). At the first strong vibrations, they will just go to ground and come back up later to resume the attack, perhaps even somewhere a bit further away. Early repairs just makes them harder to control and may cost you a lot more money. Once you open up their workings, the fresh, drying, air will force the termites to retreat.hand rips damaged stud

    With all types of termite, the individual does not matter. You can kill about half the termites in a colony and have it recover. You have to destroy the colony itself. This is often best done with baits, dusts or non-repellent soil poisons. It takes time. At least a month, maybe several months to more than a year.

    To be certain of the right course of action, you need a specialist termite inspection report and that means a competent inspection of the whole site by someone who really knows what they're doing, has the right tools, and uses them. Once you know the which, where and the why, you are ready to make a good decision. But in general, it is almost always best to control the colonies before you undertake and repairs or major changes unless the damage is a safety or security hazard.

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  • 11. How long can a termite live?
     

    What's a termite lifespan?

    There's no simple answer to this one. It depends. The species, life-type, wear and tear, the colony's health--all these things affect the potential for a termite's long life. A worker or soldier termite can live to about three years in my lab, but most probably only live a year or so in the wild. They can also get killed soon after starting work and so, on average, many only last a few months. A reproductive female, the termite queen is something quite different. In some mound-building species queens are reported to last more than 40 years, perhaps several decades more! The reproducing males also last a long time (pdf). This would likely make them the longest-living insects.

    As usual, though, termite reality is stranger than we first thought. Imagine an amoeba, a superbly simple single-celled animal. If one splits (binary fission), producing two individuals, is the original one alive or dead? I think it is still alive. Do we think the same if the animal is multicellular and reproduces less simply? The issue arises with termites. Japanese and American researchers looking at the DNA of countless individual termites in a large number of colonies have shown that the some termites of the genus Reticulitermes, have queens that can reproduce themselves parthenogenetically (without using male input ~ see this pdf). Almost a self-clone. So the queen's genes go marching on. Oddly, their research shows the male genes in the colony to be fairly constant, meaning that they have also likely discovered that kings (male reproductives) individually last longer than females.

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  • 12. Why are some termites called 'drywood'?
     

    'Drywood' is a misnomer. Absolutely all types of termites do need some water to live and none can survive for long in totally dry wood. The drywood termites though, are very good at getting by with surprisingly little moisture and this enables them to live in small colonies in small pieces of just-damp wood. They can thrive, while the wood is good food that stays sufficiently moist and doesn't get too hot or too cold. Mostly drywood termites are found in the tropics, in forests and along coasts and rivers. In fact, anywhere that regularly has enough water in the air so that wood tends to always stay that bit moist.

    Most mature drywood termite colonies number less than 1,000 termites and it may take the colony the best part of a decade to get to that size. Countering this, their habit of living within a piece of wood means that a house, tree, boat or even a door can be home to many separate colonies.

    Drywood termites are cryptic. They don't tunnel in the soil, they don't build shelter tubes, they don't build mounds or other fancy structures which means that drywood termites can be quite hard to find (check the wording on your timber pest inspection--they may be excluded)-- see this pdf). Each colony tends to make one or more holes in the surface of their nest wood. They use these as waste chutes for faeces, blocking them up after use. Drywood termite poo is little hard pellets because they generally need to retain as much water as possible. Often a pile of pellets is a sure sign. I first noticed it as a gentle rain of pepper-like material falling from the roof frame of a rustic hotel restaurant in Carita, West Java. Even sitting 4 metres below the roof, I knew for sure they were there.Carita beach West Java

    Normal termite controls (aimed at subterranean termites) are no use against drywoods. Using baits seems just plain silly. In small timbers (like doors, furniture, wooden legs etc.) it is easy to control the colony. In buildings it is often better to fumigate or 'treat' the whole structure, since you can rarely be 100% sure of finding and killing each individual colony.

    The drywood termites are all placed in the Family Kalotermitidae. The main one around the world is the supertramp West Indian Drywood Termite, Cryptotermes brevis but there are tens of others that regularly worry people. Sometimes some of the dampwood termites (Termopsidae) act as if they were drywood termites, producing faecal pellets instead of wet poo, so they may be thought of as functionally or opportunistically drywood.

    PS. Where I had used orange oil and wiped the excess from surfaces, a year or so later there is staining. Might just be the ones I was using, but be sure to fully clean away any residues.

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  • 13. What about orange oil for drywood termites?
     

    Orange oil is the name given to extracts from the peel of citrus. Mostly this is near pure d-limonene. It is a general solvent. You have probably used it in bathroom or hand cleaner products that have a citrus smell. It kills insects. I specified it as the recommended cleanup solvent for the Blockaid non-toxic termite barrier as it was much less of an OH&S risk than mineral turpentine and is even known to potentially reduce some cancers.

    In the USA it is being used as an injectable treatment against drywood termites, mostly in California as heavily promoted by a bloke who writes for the usually high quality SFGate. In 2007 the Californian Structural Pest Control Board commissioned research on the spot treatment of drywood termites and has available, for free download, excellent reports of the work headed by Drs Vernard Lewis and Mike Rust. If you must do spot treatments for drywoods, then read these reports! An in-depth and not very complimentary review of the orange oil method is available online at http://www.birc.org/JanFeb2008.pdf

    So long as you can get it to soak through the at-risk timber, a good dose of limonene should kill the termites but as for any residue providing long-term deterrence, well don't hold your breath because it evaporates. You'd probably need to seal the holes and put a quality coating system over it (filler and paint or varnish) to get any to stick around. If the timber is more than slightly damaged, replacement may be advisable.

    I've also had great success using d-limonene as a fire starter. A small amount will help even the stubborn logs light. Makes a lot of smoke (good for lighting Hawaiian bbq?). So, while I'm sure the chemical can kill termites, beetles, ants and maybe even some fungi, I'd hesitate to use it myself anywhere that there was a risk of fire but perhaps that's because I live in a high fire risk zone

    The usual proviso with drywoods also applies, depending on your situation. You may never find all the colonies, so fumigating the whole structure may be a safer alternative to spot treatments.

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  • 14. Are straw bale buildings safe from termites?
     

    Very few termites are likely to be interested in eating the straw bales themselves. Even those that normally eat grass. Lots of subterranean termites will happily travel through the bales to reach unprotected framing timbers (such as door frames and window lintels - see photo).

    You won't sit the bales right on the soil anyway (moisture hazard) so all it takes is some attention to design to put a subterranean termite block in the foundation, just as you would with any other house design.

    If you've already built without considering, find a well-skilled termite manager to inspect and advise. Keep in mind that the biggest threat to straw bales (after moisture-caused decay) comes from rodents, especially mice.

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  • 15. Do I have to worry about termites in firewood?
     

    Generally not. You want your firewood dry (so that it burns well). If you cut it, split it and put it outside and up off the ground out of the rain, then it will dry quickly and any termites in it will slowly die. Ants and other predators will help. The only way this doesn't work is if you are in a humid area with a drywood termite risk.fire caused by ignorance of termites Drywoods may persist for a long time as the wood slowly dries. If you do find termites, don't do silly things like this guy who caused a major fire. Cut early, well before the cold weather, and let the sun and the air do the work for you. Unless the wood contains a nest, only a few of the major pest species can rebuild a colony from the workers and soldiers feeding in the wood.

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  • 16. Is product X better than product Y?
     

    Apart from the things that look too-good-to-be-true, like weird ultrasonic and electronic termite repellers, just about any termite product you're offered that has some sort of government approval or label is capable of doing the job.  Trouble is that each product has situations that suit its use and usually also some situations where it isn't the best choice.

    So how do you choose which product to use to keep termites at bay?  The easiest way is to ask your technician.  For termites, nothing beats local knowledge.  Your climate, your species and the way houses are locally built, even land-use history, all have a major impact on what's the best management option.  So, you can spend a lot of time online researching all the options or you can spend a bit of time getting a background and then ask your technician.

    Don't just look at which works best and is cheapest.  Look at safety and environmental toxicity as well. Some chemical products will have off-target impacts. Some termiticides don't last well and others last too long, becoming persistent environmental pollutants.

    It is so easy to make mistakes and think you have control when you really don't, As you explore the options, just remember "Don't do this at home".  DIY management of termite infestations can be very risky but in saying that' there's lots you can do to lower risks and also to monitor for termite activity. You might even put in your own baits and call the technician back when you have activity.

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  • 17. How can i get rid of termites in my house?
     

    I found some in the clothes in my wardrobe.

    First up, If you don't own the place, termites are a landlord's responsibility. If it is yours, you need to find out which  type of termite they are (dampwood, drywood, subterranean etc) as what to about them varies hugely between the different types.

    Termites found on clothes in the wardrobe are usually subterraneans.   Unfortunately, termites are almost never a do-it-yourself problem. First up is to get a professional to take a look at the whole house and give you a written report.  You pay for this inspection service.  Sometimes you can get a free quote but be wary as these will always be 'free' based on the company's expectation of adding the cost of the free inspections to the cost of the control job. Every company has to earn enough money to cover the cost of the work they do.

    Don't go spraying anything or disturbing the termites before the inspection as this  only makes things worse (= more expensive to control).

    If you are lucky, the problem may be solved cheaply (for now) with a few well-placed puffs of a toxic dust. It may mean a termite baiting program or perhaps termticide placed into the soil but in any case, the aim is likely to be to kill off the attacking colony.

     

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  • 18. What is a fair price to pay to have the termites in my house exterminated?
     

    I'm sorry, but there's no simple answer to your question.  It is like asking 'how much will my next car cost?': There are just too many big variables for any single answer to be useful.

    Price depends very much on what steps need to be taken and this in turn depends on the type of termites, the location, the construction and a whole lot of other factors like how long they've been there, how big is the colony an what colony control method is most suitable..

    Let's assume you live i the USA in a typical (not huge) house. You might be super lucky and get a a small infestation of subterraneans killed for $450 but chances are you are looking at something in the range of $2,000 to $4,000. If they are drywoods, a fumigation may even run to a bit more.

    It may be necessary to put in soil chemicals (termiticide) or to have an ongoing monitoring system as it is unlikely that termites won't try to attack again some time in the future.  There's usually no value in words like "exterminate" or "eradicate" except in the short-term.  If you find termites, you need to control them and to take steps to manage the ongoing risk.

    Only by getting the place properly inspected can you find out what needs to be done.

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  • 19. My house is being 'treated' for termites. Will this affect my two year old?
     

    Young children (and the unborn) tend to be at higher risk from environmental toxins that are adults. The risk you will face depends on both the type of termite and the type of treatment. that's being done. Basically there are three types of treatment.

    The lowest risk are with baits for subterranean termites which use hormone-like chemicals to interrupt insect growth. At the rates they are applied, these are very low risk to people (and anything else that hasn't got its skeleton on the outside).

    Next are the fumigant gases uses when a building is tented for drywood termites, these evaporate away almost entirely and pose little if any risk to you (or any returning termites) if the gas is properly handled and vented. Make sure that everything has enough time to out-gas. Some furnishing (like rubber cushions) may need a longer time.  Your technician will advise.

    Last are the straight poisons (termiticides) which are usually applied to the soil but are increasingly used indoors as well. These always pose some risk, especially if poorly applied. You need to find out the identity of the toxin and look it up on the next. Search on 'toxicity of" and then the chemical name (not just the product name). Termiticides are not all the same, and  some termiticides are best avoided because of their risk profiles (such as organophosphates and still in some countries, organochlorines).  Nearly all will persist for quite some time, and this is where exposure is likely. Make sure you are away when the chemical is placed and don't return until after the recommended period. You will need to do your own research, but from manufacturer claims, it looks like the current least-toxic soil termiticide is chlorantraniliprole, closely followed by imidacloprid. Many will dispute this. The biggest risk is chemicals sprayed on the soil around the building where your child plays and will inevitably pick up and ingest some (kids eat a lot of soil). Sometimes, chemicals are applied as dusts or foams into wood or wall cavities. As long as any excess is cleaned up (and you don't open the cavity), the risks are considered low.  In a few backward countries, like Australia, the government allows for arsenic dust to be used. Arsenic dust is highly toxic, doesn't break down and isn't not more effective than the modern alternatives. It should never be used. If you find unexplained red, blue or white dust in termite-eaten wood or their old shelter tubes, please consider it dangerous until proven otherwise.

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  • 20. Should I buy a house that has termites?
     

    They say it will be quick and cheap to get rid of them.

    In real estate trading, if a deal seems unbelievably good, then it probably isn't to be believed. A house with an unknown level of termite damage poses and unknown financial risk.

    A house that has been attacked by termites has lost some value.  It the attack has been severe or ongoing, then the value of the house is way down. A big problem is that the inspector has no way to assess the extent of past damage without ripping open a few walls and other surfaces. Remember that buildings weakened by termites are more likely to fail during severe storms or earthquakes.

    Termites hide.  The damage they do is nearly all concealed and can only be seen by ripping things apart.  We can guess the extent of the damage, but we have to really mess things up to be certain and that means a lot of costly repairs even if nothing much is found Vendors don't like that and only allow an inspector to perform a visual inspection, usually without even being able to move furniture to look behind. Some vendors will try hard to conceal defects that might make the house look bad.

    To determine likely repair costs, you would need what is called an invasive inspection by both the termite inspector and a building professional. This gets tricky. If the vendor will agree (in writing) to let your inspectors conduct an invasive inspection without either them or you having to make good any surfaces they choose to open, then it may be worth considering the purchase. Normally you would make an offer subject to the inspection works providing a repair cost estimate below an agreed figure (which you don't tell the inspector!). That gives you room to get out if the place really isn't worth it. You would want a good lawyer to draw up the contracts. Mostly the vendor will say no.

    Chances are that a few more things needing fixing will be found during the partial demolition before repairs begin.  You could also be up for works to prevent immediate reinfestation.  All this adds up.

    Bottom line is that it would have to be an extremely desirable house and a very appealing sale price.  Is this particular house really worth the risk?

    Pest managers seem to be good at buying discounted termite-damaged houses and fixing them up to live in. If you can get a good estimate of the damage, are willing to take the chance, you can ask the vendor to drop the price by a sum that's larger than the expected control, repair and risk-reduction costs. Most people will keep looking.

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  • 21. My grandfather's house is being fumigated. When will it be safe for him to go back inside?
     

    He thinks he can go straight back in, but I'm worried that the poison will hurt him.

    The fumigant used for drywood termites is a very thin gas. It is supposed to penetrate deeply and be all gone before anyone considers re-entry. Perhaps some gas might remain for a while in things like the sponge-rubber of furniture but it will dissipate fairly quickly. I wouldn't worry about washing utensils but I'd probably go through his pantry and dump some food that worried me.

    It is much easier to go in before the application and double-bag (Ziplocs or similar) anything that might be a concern.

    Bottom line is to ask the company that did the work. Make sure they have allocated the right venting period and have properly cleared the house. If the job has been done according to the rules, he probably can move back in with no worries. To be super-safe, keep him out for another day or two.

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  • 22. I knocked down some termite shelter tubes. They were under my house. Where have the termites gone? Will they come back?
     

    Sorry, but you've probably done the wrong thing. These tubes are produced by subterranean termites and provide cover for them to traverse over things they don't want to eat in order to reach the things they do want to eat. If upset by the disturbance, the termites can easily switch to another path into the house--often one that you can't find. Trouble is, you termite inspector may not be able to find it either. It is almost always better not to disturb them until you have a proper inspection done and decided on the right response strategy. Instead of slowing them down, you have likely slowed yourself and the likely result is that it may end up costing you a bit more to be rid of them.  Sometimes the termites will quickly repair a damaged tube but some species will stay away for a long time and a few may not ever come back.

    One thing that's sure is that breaking their tubes is not a safe way to control the colony. On the other hand, if your house sits up on stilts or stumps, then having a few trained chickens underneath to regularly break the tubes may actually give good control (used in some Pacific islands) but only if the termites have no alternative concealed entry paths.

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  • 23. How long after termite barrier treatment can I plant my herb garden?
     

    They sprayed all around the outside of the house about four years ago.

    You can do it right now, but should keep your garden far from the house. Something over 6 feet or 2 metres is good. The water you add to the soil will be attractive to termites, so the further out the better (but not so far you can't nip out for a herb). If this doesn't work for you, grow your garden in raised tubs that you can see underneath.

    Make sure that you don't dig up the termtiicide-soaked soil. If you dilute, damage or remove the volume of poisoned soil, you may enable termites to enter.  This is a bigger risk if your termiticide was a repellent one, like Bifenthrin, as the trmites can easily detect where there are gaps.
    Leafy greens will often take up toxins from the soil and some termiticide sprays (like imidacloprid) are taken up by plants. That's good if you have aphids, but but maybe not so much if you have termites.
    Most perimeter sprays aren't much good after 5 years, but it is still best to leave them until your regular inspector says you need more work done.

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  • 24. Will garden mulch attract termites?
     

    I live in the deep south of the USA. Termites are a problem here but gardens need mulch. What should I do?

    The risk from mulches depends a lot on where you live and what types of mulch are used, but yes, generally mulch will be attractive to termites.

    The termites like mulch because it gives them much better ways to travel. Think of it, a whole new loose layer over the soil.  No more tunneling.  The mulch creates a dark, damp and safe set of ready-made roadways which they just love to exploit.

    Some mulches are made from types of wood or bark that they don't like.  Termites won't use these very much or at all for at least the first season (until they rot and the repellent is lost).   Others have boron salt added.  This is a great repellent and slows down decay unless the poisoned mulch gets wet, then the boron salt washes into the soil where it can upset your plants.  I think your mulch will get wet.

    The mulch will only become a problem if it either provides the termites with a hidden path into the house or if it helps their population grow.  The best way is to keep it (and the garden beds) away from the exterior walls.  If you have a 30 cm to 1 mt wide band of paving or gravel around the house, this will make it harder for them to sneak in unseen.  Just don't bury or wreck any perimeter termite work when you put it in.

    There's a very small chance that termites my be delivered with mulch, causing a new infestation. Even if you find a few live ones, they are unlikely to re-group and survive. However, it is still theoretically possible for some species in some locations where the mulch has sat for a long time before delivery and then hasn't been mixed around as it was placed. Theoretically possible, but very unlikely to occur.

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  • 25. How can I stop termites eating the seedlings/ trees/ herbs I have planted?
     

    Not long after planting, they're nearly dead from termites eating the roots.

    In some parts of the world, particularly parts of Africa and Asia, termites will quickly attack and kill transplanted trees and plants.  They attack the roots.  In the past, some very heavy doses of scary pesticides have been used to help the plants get established.  The attacks seem to drop off once the plants have been in for a few months. Keeping the plants well-watered all the time can make a big difference as water-stressed plants are more readily attacked. If you do decide to use a termiticide at planting, make sure the product label covers this application. Opinion as to whether to use a repellent or non-repellent termticide seems to vary with locations and species and some find value in a systemic (such as imidacloprid) that makes the whole of the plant toxic for a while (even the pollen, so don't use on plants that are close to flowering).

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  • 26. What is termite baiting?
     

    Baiting for termites has a long history.  I first used it in 1979 to survey a park, but others had used baiting way before then.  Basically, a bait is something that termites will happily eat.  Often it is placed in a fancy (=expensive) container.  When the termites are feeding on the bait you (i) know they are there, (ii) can identify them and (iii)  you can exploit them.  The original bait box method had the termites collected and dusted with toxin before being allowed to sulk home.  Other methods replace the actual bait with one containing a slow-acting toxin.  If done well, the toxins applied can spread through the colony before any individual termite is affected and so, with luck, the whole colony will die.

    Baiting is good for colony control and sometimes for monitoring but it typically does not provide any residual protection and baits don't equal a barrier. There's lots more information here.

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  • 27. How do drywood termites get to my house?
     

    . . if they don't tunnel in like the subterraneans did.

    There are two ways that drywood termites can begin infesting a house.  By far the most common is by when they fly in and find a good place to live (in an exposed piece of timber) and start a new colony.  The second way is for a colony to hitch a ride.  Often this happens when they come in with furniture, even in new furniture, but just about any lump of wood can do it- such as a bread board, ornament or violin.  I've had reports of new hollow-core internal doors being installed with drywood termites already in them.

    Inspection is the only way to know that you have them.

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  • 28. I found termites in the garden. What should I do?
     

    Should I get the house sprayed?

    Depending on where you live, it may well be that the termites in your garden are no threat to anything.  There are lots of species that never, well mostly never, behave as pests.  In my garden a Nasutitermes and a Porotermes pose no threat to my home. I keep them as pets (and samples for teaching).  But you're not me.  Before doing any control measure, you really should have the termites identified AND inspect your house.  This will allow you to decide what to do from a position of power.  Only when you know the extent of the problem, will you be in a good position to choose between management options.

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  • 29. My neighbor has termites. What should I do?
     

    They say I need a treatment too.

    This is a tricky one, and this answer is only for subterranean termites (not for drywoods and not for dampwoods).

    Let's say the termites are in your neighbor's house. A nearby infestation means that local conditions are suitable for the termites and so it tells you that your place is also at some risk. If baits or another colony-killing method is used, then that immediate risk to your house is gone as that colony will be controlled. But there may well be many nearby colonies. If they just repair the damage or poison the ground with a repellent chemical (like bifenthrin), then the termites may be 'pushed' towards feeding at your place. That isn't good.

    On the other hand, the termites may be living in your house and have spread to your neighbor's. Or they may be nesting in your yard.

    In any case, this is not the time to sign up for a treatment. You should get a proper timber pest inspection done so that you can assess your options. Then talk to your neighbor about the best way to do things.

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  • 30. Why are the termites attacking MY home?
     

    My house looks just like the ones that don't have termites.

    Termites have no capacity for malice, so it is definitely nothing personal. Their needs are simple. Food and shelter are almost always freely available for them in what we build. Water is the big issue and often we can build termites out by making it harder for them to get the water they need so that they can eat.

    The best thing you can do is to get a professional inspection report done and read the report carefully. Next best is to keep reading and try and work it out for yourself. What has changed? In what subtle ways is my house differently exposed? Did anything make it easy for them? How are they getting in? Why is water available? If you can answer these, you're most of the way to selecting a solution.

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  • 31. Will a baiting system ensure that my home is not attacked?
     

    It might, but don't count on it. Baits are not prophylactic. Baits are good at grabbing termites' attention and can be used to slowly poison their colony BUT baits are not barriers and it is possible for termites to ignore them and eat your home anyway. The baits don't make a continuous wall around the house, so termites may just walk between them. The termites mightn't find the baits, the baits might be poorly placed, they mightn't suit your termites, they might be too often disturbed or left too long, too wet or too dry, they might have the wrong food or they might have gone mouldy. Baits are great at cutting populations and even killing colonies, but it is probably best that you add other ways to keep termites out of your home, just to be sure. Of course if the service company is offering you a contract with a strong warranty, maybe you can take the risk. Just make sure that all the checks and inspections are done, that you keep all the records and that the company is well insured.

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  • 32. We've had flooding rain. How will that affect the termites?
     

    A flood or heavy rain can seriously upset your termite defenses.

    If you rely on soil chemical chemicals around or under your home, these can be buried by silt and debris making a bridge for the termites. The chemicals can also be washed out, so when the water goes away, check and organise a termite inspection a few weeks later.

    Water that gets into your house (but not out again) tends to soak into timbers. Termites love to eat timber that's damp. Fungi (rot) also has a better time and wood that's partly rotted by fungi is often tastier for termites.

    Subterranean termites have trouble getting around when their tunnels are full of water. If you scale it up, it is a bit like you or me trying to walk through honey. So they stay home or move to wherever is high and dry(ish). When the water drains away some of their tunnels will need repair and may be abandoned. They'll move quickly to patch up access to their best food resources. Scary thing is that all that moisture in the soil makes their tunneling so much easier as they no longer need to carry in water to work. So, once re-established, subterraneans will go exploring and your barriers will be tested. After a flood or after drought-breaking rains, you should schedule an inspection the next Spring or Fall (Autumn), certainly before six months are up.

    Floods can also move big bits of wood around. Sometimes these bits arrive with termite colonies inside. Sometimes floods cause timbers to be buried or mostly buried. Timbers that are in the soil are much nicer for termites as they don't dry out quickly and the soil buffers temperature changes. Floods change things.

    If flood waters sit around for extended periods, weeks or months, then termites populations may be reduced for a time.

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  • 33. How do we design structures to manage the risks of termite attack?
     

    Every building should be designed to reduce the chances of problems with all the local pests, not just pest termites. Here's a basic scheme:

    Much can be done to reduce the pest pressure and maintenance costs by including a few simple design features. While my main interest is the exclusion of subterranean termites, design should take account of all likely pests. The following guidelines are intended for architects, designers and managers of large facilities (schools, nursing homes, hospitals, offices etc.) but may be adapted to any construction.
    Most pests will take advantage of concealed entry paths. Accordingly, the perimeter of a building should be designed and constructed so that:
    1. Pests are discouraged from gaining easy entrance.
      1. Door should fit snugly with weather stripping and sweeps that close tightly.
      2. All opening windows shall have metal screens which are fixed taught and seal to the frame with a gasket.
      3. All metal window and door frames shall have joints sealed with a suitable elastomeric sealant.
      4. Cracks, crevices, holes and thermal gaps shall be suitable sealed with a caulk or compressible foam product.
      5. Large holes such as for added or removed pipe openings shall be sealed. Stainless steel wool (pot scrubbers) covered with a mortar or grout is usually sufficient.
      6. Exterior lighting for doors must be far enough away that flying pests attracted to the lights can gain casual entry. Entrance ways should use reflected rather than direct light and light sources should be at the orange end of the spectrum so as to reduce attraction to nigh-flying insects.
      7. Entrance ways, alcoves and attached plant should be designed so as to minimise wind-blown debris accumulation.
    All pests need somewhere to live and somewhere to rest.
    1. Pests should not find easy hiding places inside.
      1. Interior wall joints, gaps in panels, window frames, gaps around cupboards and electrical fixtures shall be filled or sealed.
      2. Skirting boards, and floor coverings shall provide no open cavities.
      3. Skirting boards and sheet floor coverings shall be designed and placed so as to be readily cleaned with electrical rotating brush devices. There should not be internal 90 degree corners, rather corners should be radiused to match cleaning capability.
      4. All supply pipes, cables and conduits to be sealed where they pass through walls and panels and, all conduits and ducts to be sealed or meshed to prevent pest entry.
      5. In kitchen, bathrooms and other wet areas, cabinets, sinks, toilets and counter tops which meet walls shall be sealed against water entry so as to prevent pest harbourage.
      6. Air vents/inlets shall be screened with metal mesh of 1 mm aperture size (small enough to block termites) which is fabricated and installed so as to be readily removable for cleaning.
      7. Floor drains require removable coarse mesh screens or similar devices to prevent cockroach passage.
      8. In kitchen, bathrooms and other wet areas, floor-mounted fixtures should, as far as practicable, be either on raised legs (100 mm high) set as to provide easy access for cleaning and inspection or shall be provided with sufficient space for easy access and cleaning ( e.g. toilet cubicles).
      9. In kitchen, bathrooms and other wet areas, drains shall not be concealed under equipment or fixtures.
      10. Storage areas should be designed to permit both inspection and drying air flows. Storage units should be mounted at least 100 mm off the floor. Racks, cupboards or compactus units for long-term storage shall mounted be at least 600 mm from walls. 
    2. Pests should not find easy resting places outside.
      1. Ledges and fixtures should not provide roosting places for birds as faecal accumulations pose a health hazard.
      2. Plant and equipment whether at the perimeter or roof-mounted, should be designed to exclude rodents and bids and to be readily inspected.
      3. Roof should be designed to shed booth water and litter.

    All pests need a suitable environment in which to live. A building's immediate surrounds should not be particularly amenable to the pests' needs.
    1. Exterior landscaping can create ideal pest environments.
      1. Gardens must not be adjacent to exterior walls such that, at any time, plants will be in direct contact. Plants provide bridges for pests.
      2. Paving at least 600 mm wide should surround the building. In low-traffic areas, paving can be replaced by compacted gravel. Paving is less hospitable than garden beds.
      3. Plants, including grasses, should not encroach on perimeter paving.
      4. No tree,shrub or plant that is known to have extensive or invasive roots (e.g. Bamboo) shall be planted within 3 metres of the exterior walls. Where such plantings are identified, foundations and perimeter paving shall be protected with a root barrier system.
      5. Trees, shrubs and other large ornamental plants shall be spaced to have a free-air gap of at least 600 mm between them at maturity (or to be trimmed to maintain such gaps). Air gaps are important to reduce humidity at the exterior of the building.
      6. Soil levels, paving, features and garden beds shall not interrupt the fall so that rain and other water drains well away (at least 2 m) from the base of perimeter walls.
      7. Garbage and recycling containers for litter shall be mounted on concrete pads which extend not less that 150 mm from the container. Containers shall be mounted not less that 400 mm from walls and shall be positioned on legs to provide at least 100 mm clearance from the pad. Containers shall have self-closing lids.Termites in particular can be encouraged by having concealed access points to the building fabric and by having water and potential food in close proximity.
    2. Buildings should be intrinsically termite resistant.
      1. Physical termite barriers that do not rely on any toxin should be used wherever possible as these generally provide the longest service life.
      2. Footings, retaining walls and any section of wall that might be concealed by soil of accumulations from garden beds etc. should be solid rather than hollow and should have all joints and expansion gaps fitted with a suitable termite barrier.
      3. Moisture and water must not be allowed to accumulate either under the building or against exterior walls. Service life is extended where the perimeter and footing earth stays close to uniform moisture content. Pests problems are reduced where this moisture content remains low.
      4. The roof should be pitched and drain to the exterior. Valleys should be steep to rapidly shed water and litter. Flat roof designs that permit either water ponding or wind-blown litter and bird wastes to accumulate are to be avoided. Subterranean termites will attack a building from the top where there is permanent moisture.
      5. Timbers in soil contact shall be kept to an absolute minimum and where required only known naturally resistant or suitably preserved timbers should be used. Landscaping timbers decay to become major harbourages for pests. Preserved timbers weather and degrade over time and may provide cover for pests. Where preservative penetration is insufficient, pests may be concealed within apparently preserved timbers.

     

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  • 34. How do I choose the right pest manager?
     

    Trust and confidence need to be established. Will this pest manager do a good, competent job at a fair price? There are some slick and very shonky sales people out there ready to rip you off. There are honest pest managers who just want to give you a good job at a fair price. There are big companies and small companies, caring companies and careless companies. How can you decide who to employ?
    Here's a few simple pointers. I hope they help.

    1. The Need: Don't be rushed. Chances are you have plenty of time to consider your options.  Termites work slowly and so may you. Take your time and make the right choices.  Consider how you know what you know.  Keep notes of all conversations and keep your paper trail.
    2. The Business: The preferred way to find the right business is by talking with your friends and finding out who they have used successfully.  Word-of-mouth keeps many successful businesses thriving.

      How secure is the business?

      Does it have a bad name?

      Are they afraid to answer your questions?

      Does the mention of their name ring alarm bells at your local consumer advocacy/complaints group?

      Can they provide the names of satisfied customers as referees?

      Don't necessarily feel that big is better; an apparently large company may turn out to be just loosely controlled franchises, offering at best no better service than their smaller competition.

      The quality of the job will only be as good as the person who carries it out. Will the person actually doing the work be well trained and knowledgeable and able to talk with you or are you dealing with a salesperson who can only provide the quotation?

    3. Face to Face: Meet them on your own turf, not their's. Depending on the nature of the problem, many pest controllers will provide a quotation either at no cost or fairly inexpensively. They may be prepared to just turn up and talk with you while requiring a fee before they'll do any inspection. This is fair, as any information they provide on the basis of inspection whether free or at cost, implies at least some professional responsibility and hence potential liability on their part. Beware the "free" inspection. Everything has to be paid for eventually, by somebody, sometime.   Separate the inspection from the control proposal.  Make sure that you get a proper (on paper) timber pest inspection (WDO, or 'Wood Destroying Organism") report and make sure that it identifies the pests as far as possible.
    4. Safety in Numbers: Approach at least two or three businesses. Compare their advice and quotations. Decide whom you would best trust with your assets. Then compare prices. Beware the surprisingly cheap quotation. It is easy to do a cursory inspection and to excessively dilute any expensive chemicals, or just not apply them where they should go. Remember the value of a good warranty. Read Claire's experience. Know the different ways termites can be managed and why the one proposed is thought best for you.
    5. The Fine Print: What does the paperwork look like?Ask to see it up front.  After an inspection, you should be handed a written report, usually with a site diagram and the problem areas at least approximately mapped. The information should be clear. If it is presented on a preprinted form, the notations should be informative and quite clear. Look over the warranty. How small is the fine print? Do they mind you reading the contract? Is the scope of work made fully clear and is sufficient detail present to enable you to compare and contrast the quotes? Ideally, you will be asked to sign an agreement before any work occurs.  That's a good way to ensure you have matching expectations.
    6. A Relationship?: What about contracts? Are you just getting them to fix today's problem or are you signing up for a never-ending dependency? What if you sign and you don't want them back again? What if termites come back in one, two or three years? What will they do then? If they've done good work, should you pay a maintenance fee for the year on top of the other costs? It is always important to check value for money. Maybe that service contract is aimed more at maximising income rather than minimising termites? You have to work it all out. There's often comfort in a trusted name, but you should put at least as much weight on local people's experiences as you do on brand recognition. Don't get me wrong, sometimes service contracts are the way to go, especially with a baiting program where you want it all planned out and costed in advance.
    7. Deciding: Take some time to think over the information you have gathered.  One of the best ways is to get out of the house/office and go for a walk.  You'll think much more clearly.

    Vic Health has some good ideas and in Illinois, so does the Department of Public Health.  Hope this helps. Please feel free to email me with your experiences.

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  • 35. How are termites controlled?
     

    Actions to stop or control termites need not be scary.

    Termite control comes in four forms: cultural, physical, biological and chemical.

    Well, at least those are the headings used in most text books.

    Chemical control is the least desirable, but is sometimes the only option.

    Typical Queensland High Set House - termite avoiding architecture
    No easy paths

    Cultural control relates to what we do and the way that we do it. It pays to avoid the simple traps that make things inviting for termites. In tropical North Queensland, where life is excellent for pest termites, the old traditional wooden housing style sits up very high. The tall stumps and metal termite caps (inverted pie plates) provide excellent protection against sneaky termites.  They can still come in from the ground, but it is far from inviting and they have to build shelter tubes over the pie plates.  Not a great option for them and one which makes them very easy to spot. If you follow the "guide to avoiding termite problems" you are instituting a cultural control by reducing the termites' chances of getting a foothold. Nomadism is another cultural technique--it sort of parallels with disposable coffee cups, only this way it's your home that is short-lived. Some speculative builders seem to prefer this approach. Beware the short warranty. Keeping a horde of animals to eat swarming termites has to be helpful. Geckoes on the walls will eat many termites. Ants are perhaps the best and most persistent predators, cleaning up the bulk of each alate flight. Even chickens will make short work of termites as they try to extend their shelter tubes.

    Physical control separates the food from the termite. Strip shielding, pie plates, posts on stirrups, and physical barrier systems such as Granitgard and exposed slab edges are examples of physical controls. Termites can also be controlled by taking their environment beyond the normal limits that their bodies can take. To this end, both sustained heat (over about 45 degrees C for an hour or so) or sustained cold (subzero--it is the ice-crystals that kill) can been used. Some services also use microwave energy--waves cook things well inside a tightly shielded oven, but it is fairly difficult to control such energy in a structure, where reflection is hard to predict, so be careful out there! These methods are not always a DIY option. Other proposed physical controls include eletrocution (in timber and soil) and bizarre electronic and sound repellents. Be wary of techniques that appear dangerous or hard to believe. If scary sounds did repel termites, they probably wouldn't ever eat grade schools.

    Biological control is practised for many other insect pests, but has had little success with termites. Well, little success in the commercial sense. As with the ants and geckoes mentioned above, many societies have used termites' natural enemies to keep them in check. Birds and ants can clean up an amazing quantity of termites. Business has tried nematodes and fungi. The nematodes are tiny worms which parasitise termites and the fungi are disease organisms, perhaps best thought of as terminal tinea. While these work extremely well in controlled laboratory experiments, they have yet to make a significant splash in the market. Still, we're all eagerly waiting and at the moment it looks like nematodes are slightly ahead of the fungi. Flies, beetles and killer viruses also kill termites, so who knows what will happen

    Fumigation to kill drywood termites in a house in Waikiki
    Fumigation

    Chemical control was once the sum total of pest controllers' responses to termite problems. Now the consequences of poisoning soils and surfaces are becoming apparent as the old termiticides are withdrawn and the newer ones come under increasing scrutiny. As most commonly practised, chemical control for termites involves either soil treatment to provide a barrier of toxic residues or (for drywoods) tenting of the structure and flooding it with toxic gas (some such fumigants may damage the ozone layer). To be effective, a chemical applied to form a toxic barrier in the soil must penetrate evenly and then bind securely to the soil particles. It has to be persistent. It must not break down through the action of normal soil microbes. Another way to use chemicals is (in much smaller doses) to apply them directly to the termites such as in the bait box technique, either as topical dust, or as bait toxicants. There is a world of difference between surrounding a structure with several kilos of toxin applied in hundreds of litres of emulsion and the at most, few grams of a slow-acting toxin which may be used in a baiting system (the bulk of which may be removed after control is achieved). Other than poisoning the soil and timber, chemicals are also used against drywood termites, but as a whole-structure fumigation or a spot treatment. Spot treatments are only for where you can be 100% sure that you can find and reach each and every drywood colony.

    Integrated termite management is a fancy term for putting it all together. For integrated control, you must plan, act as required, monitor, adapt and review. Take the long-term view and you can save a lot of money. Particularly if you build well (with physical barriers) in the first place.

    What to do first is usually straightforward. If you have drywood termites, the infestation is usually limited (sometimes to a single piece of furniture, sometimes to the whole house). For subterranean termites, management should first aim to either exclude the termites (such as by repairing a physical barrier) or kill off the offending colony. Colonies can most often be killed by nest destruction, nest poisoning, by baiting or by judicial use of a non-repellent termiticide into the soil where they are active. Repellent soil poisons are best (not used, or) saved for new construction when you can be sure of a complete barrier. In the ideal world, your pest management technician will do a full timber pest inspection of the building and grounds and present you with a written report and (separately) a management plan (hopefully with a range of options). Again, ideally, remedial soil poison barriers would not be used (i) unless necessary and (ii) until the offending colony had been controlled. Repairs (unless for safety) should not be made until the colony is controlled as early disturbance can make management difficult by breaking up or concealing the termite activity. If baiting or using a non-repellent termiticide for colony control, you want to keep them feeding at full tilt until they have consumed enough poison to kill the whole colony.

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  • 36. Can you give me a quick summary of ways to control termites?
     

    Here's a quick list of the main ways to kill or control termites

    For Dampwood termites

    • Take the moisture away so that they can't live.
    • Replace old, rotted wood with fresh timbers.
    • Apply poisons or preservatives into the wood.
    • Open up the wood and let the ants eat them.

    For Drywood termites

    • Fumigation will kill all the termites.
    • Tenting and heatng will kill them if everything gets hot enough.
    • Extreme cold will also kill them.  For example, an infested yacht can be taken to very cold waters for the winter and furniture and artefacts (if dry) can spend a while in a freezer.
    • Spot-treatments with poisons can kill them, but you have to be sure to find, and adequately reach, each and every piece of infested timber.  The risk of error is high.

    For subterranean termites

    • Killing the colony with direct applications of poisons is the surest approach if you can find the main nest(s).
    • If you can't find nests, but have located leads (shelter tubes) and areas of high activity then applying a very slow-acting non-detectable poison (by dust, foam or liquid) cause it to be shared widely before any individuals die, thus having a good chance of killing the whole colony.
    • If you know they're there but can't find good numbers, then baits can be used to aggregate large numbers for poisoning.  Commercial bait systems often use very slow acting hormones and it may take weeks or months to see a result.
    • Soil poisons to isolate a structure are best left to mopping-up or remedial barrier work but sprays of a non-repellent toxin (like chlorantraniliprole,  fipronil or imidacloprid) can help reduce termite populations and may kill the colony (if you are lucky).
    • Very rarely, a nest that is big, obvious and isolated can be physically removed, taking enough of the termites to cause colony collapse.

    So, the bottom line is try to get rid of the whole colony as killing a few termites may not make much difference.  Once you have achieved control, it is important to prevent future infestations from the same causes.  For more details, check out the termite FAQs.

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  • 37. I've found termites, what should I do?
     

    OK, so you've found termites.  Here's a quick step guide of what to do.

    1. Don't spray anything.  Spraying just makes the rest of  them go to where they're hard to find.
    2. Don't disturb them.  Often it is cheaper to control them if they are undisturbed.
    3. Don't panic.  Termites tend to work slowly, so you usually have time to act before things get noticeably worse.
    4. Read through these FAQ files so you have a good background knowledge.
    5. Don't call the first company you find in the phone book.  Take your time, find a good inspector get a written report, then work out what to do.
    6. Do fix up the things that attracted the termites in the first place.
    7. Do remember to have another inspection scheduled to make sure that things are really fixed.
    8. Do consider regular inspections so you can catch any new attacks early.
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