What can environmentalists do when their house is infested with termites?

Some people refuse to be pestered by pests and choose to live with the slow destruction of their home’s wood until they move. A typical dry-wood termite colony consumes one pound of wood per year and often travels more than 12 inches a year, so ignoring termites for too long is not really a green option. At some point, the house must be saved, and a lot of demolition and reconstruction will be required to make up for years of neglect.

The smartest alternative is to practice integrated pest management, or IPM. Methods of IPM start with prevention of infestations, progress to non-toxic control methods, and eventually when necessary, use poisons at the lowest doses of toxicity necessary to complete the job.

In the case of termites, the first line of defense should be prevention. For example, a good pest control company will not simply spray a home’s crawl space for subterranean termites, the technicians will also remove scraps of wood, plant debris and other organic material from under the house. Homeowners should be instructed to use sealed containers if they must store paper products under the house.

Similarly, homeowners should prevent the accumulation of moisture next to wood. Planter boxes next to the house should be constructed in such a way that their wet soil does not directly contact the wood of the home. Irrigation and drainage systems should be adjusted to leave as little moisture next to the home as possible. These precautions reduce the risk not only of termites, but also of dry rot and mold.

Another option is thermal acoustical pest control, or insulation material made of natural fibers and treated with boric acid. Together with other materials, this has multiple benefits. In addition to providing insulation for energy conservation and noise reduction, it controls pests and reduces the risk of fire.

The intersection of prevention and treatment also includes baiting programs. Termites eat poisoned bait and bring it back to their colony, discouraging further infestation. Boric acid is also a preferred low-toxic treatment, and it can be used beyond traps. Borate mineral salt is a natural material, and pest control companies use a water-soluble powder form of it. Applied as a liquid, it can be misted or sprayed directly onto wood. Boric acid forms a long-lasting protective barrier, reducing the risk of further infestation.

For limited areas of infestation, some companies do “spot treatment” through innovative methods of pest control. These include microwaves, heat and freezing. An advantage of heat is that it can target one room at a time. Why go to the expense and inconvenience of treating a whole house if an infestation is limited to one room?

For widespread infestations that cannot be controlled with heat or spot treatment, the only sure way to eliminate dry-wood termites is through tent fumigation. Understandably, homeowners have an aversion to measures requiring them to leave their home for a period of time. With careful application, however, the dangers of fumigation can be reduced.

Companies using tent fumigation usually rely on Vikane as the fumigant. Vikane’s manufacturer, Dow Agrosciences, claims it penetrates structures, then quickly dissipates into the atmosphere.

Before tenting, be sure to remove everything consumable and do not re-enter structures before aeration is complete.

You can keep your eye on the environment through integrated pest management, starting with prevention methods and followed by the least-toxic treatment possible.

View full article at Ventura County Star.

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