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Community and Q&A

I have a question regarding termite treatments.

EJ Palma | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

When protecting a house from termites what is the safest treatment. I am finishing a renovation of my property and am in the process of examining termite prevention. I have owned the property for 21 years and it is 57 years old. When I originally purchased the property there was termite damage under the front door and picture window. As is common practice our mortgage carrier requested a termite treatment before they would accept the purchase of the house. The procedure involved drilling the slab and inserting chemical rods into the ground. The house is built on granite bedrock so there is very little soil under the basement slab. I have not had any problems with termites in the dwelling since then, but we have found termites in some of the trees in the woods that border our property. I removed two Swamp Maples that were dying in the area where I built the deck, and there were active termites in the roots. I was able to do a physical inspection of the house while the siding was off and the sunroom addition was being built and the house resided, and I did not find any active insects of any kind. I have protected the building with termite barriers at the top of the foundation around the sole plates of the new addition. What type of preventative treatment can be used that is not toxic to the environment and living things. We have city supplied water. I have a friend who works for a well know pest control company. He says that the active ingredient in “Termador” is Fipronil, which is also found in Frontline for dogs and cats. I have read ( ) that there are many adverse effects on living things from exposure to Fipronil and its breakdown chemicals, which become more toxic as they are released into the environment. They are advertising this chemical as environmentally friendly. I think that this goes beyond greenwashing, and borders on criminal according to the factsheet. I guess my question is ” are there any truly green ways to prevent termites and carpenter ants”? Borated wood is a possibility but not easy to purchase as most goes to the islands. I have read of some methods such as nematodes, freezing and electrocution, which really starts to make me wonder. I would be interested to hear if someone else has investigated this problem. Thanks

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Here's some termite advice from a September 2000 article in Environmental Building News:
    Checklist for Environmentally Responsible Control of Wood-Destroying Insects
    Building operation checklist

    Keep plants away from contact with building. As a component of ongoing landscaping, make sure that vegetation is kept away from the immediate building perimeter or direct contact with the building.

    Operate building to avoid moisture problems. Exhaust fans should be used regularly; avoid use of humidifiers unless absolutely necessary (dry air is more often an indicator of a leaky building); never store firewood indoors; keep gutters and downspouts clean to prevent clogging; make sure that splash blocks under downspouts slope away from house.

    Avoid bridging the termite barrier . Careless habits can allow termites to bypass even the best termite barrier—as might occur, for example, if boards are left leaning against an outdoor wall. Alert homeowners and commercial building managers to this concern.

    Educate building owners/operators to eliminate food sources. Carpenter ants do not eat wood; they forage for food and organic debris in and around buildings—this can include food scraps and crumbs left by careless building occupants. Keeping a building clean will dramatically reduce the risk of carpenter ant infestations.

    Inspect for infestations. Regularly inspect for termite tubes on exposed foundation walls and other evidence of termite infestations. The presence of many winged carpenter ants inside the building is evidence of a colony, while seeing a few foraging ants is more likely evidence of ants from outdoors getting in. Powderpost beetles can sometimes be heard in wood as a ticking sound.

    Use a bait system for insect control. If evidence of termites is found in a building, employ a bait system, such as Sentricon, for control. The services of a licensed pest control operator are needed for use of most bait systems.

    Use pesticides only when a colony is located so that application can be highly targeted. To minimize risk to building occupants and the environment, use non-bait insecticides only when the actual insect colony can be located.

    Use least-toxic pesticides for targeted treatment. Environmentally benign treatments include borates and boric acid, as well as Bio-Blast.

    Use track-off mats or the “indoor/outdoor” footwear technique. Studies have shown that over two-thirds of the dust in buildings is tracked in on occupants’ footwear; this can provide media for pest growth and can introduce pollutants or toxins.

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