|Does an inspection guaranty
there are no termites in the house?
An inspection, property done, should
be able to give a strong assurance there are no termites but can not
guaranty there are not termites that have recently infested in some
area that is not accessible. Ground termites that have entered through
a plumbing access in the slab may stay confined inside the wall for
months. Drywood termites that have recently infested a piece of wood
may not push out droppings for several months and leave no other clue
they are there.
is the Termite Inspection Report good for?
The report states that it should
be “considered reliable for fifteen days”. This is due
to the fact that termites are living creatures and capable of infesting
a house in a short period of time. Ground termites can build their
mud tubes at the rate of about six inches an hour.
How can you tell
the difference between ground termites and drywood termites?
The termites are somewhat similar in appearance. They are
a cream color and ¼ to 3/8 inches.
Ground termite colonies have large numbers of soldiers who have
dark mandibles on their heads. When the colony is disturbed they
will rush to defend against any attackers. Ground termites need
a lot of moisture and will build with mud to seal in the humidity
and keep out predators such as ants. This mud is quite apparent
and is often the first thing visible. They are capable of a lot
of damage and will eat the wood all the way to it’s center.
Drywood termites have relatively small colonies
and live in the wood. They have no source of water other than moisture
in the wood they eat, typically 11% in Hawaii, so they need to recover
that moisture. Therefore, moisture is recovered from their fecal
droppings before they are excreted. It is these hard, somewhat round
droppings that is usually the first sign of termites.
Do dark colored droppings indicate
No. The color of the droppings
has nothing to do with their age although newer droppings have a
little bit of a shine and are not covered with dust as older droppings
may be. Color is dependent not only on the type of wood being consumed
but also the part of the wood. Droppings from oak floors or furniture
is generally blonde like the wood. Droppings from Douglas fir, our
most common building material, can vary from reddish brown to dark
If the inspector
doesn’t find live termites does that indicate there are no
termites in the structure?
The inspector is looking for “visible evidence” of active
infestation. We usually try to find a live termite but that is not
always possible. If there are droppings coming from a high ceiling
or other area difficult to reach it can be assumed there are live
termites. Drywood termites can be very elusive and sometimes the
inspector would do more damage trying to locate one than is done
by the termites. Conversely, if there is an active ground termite
infestation there are usually lots of termites and extensive damage.
Who decides how
to treat the termites?
The inspector will recommend the type of treatment he considers
most effective. If there are drywood termites in a single family
dwelling this will usually be tent fumigation. If there are termites
in one area it can be assumed there are other infestations that
are not visible. Fumigation is the most effective method of control
for drywood termites as the fumigant will penetrate the walls, attic,
floors and sub-floor space and kill all the termites. In a condominium
or townhouse this may not be possible so the infestation can be
spot treated by injecting liquid insecticide into the termite galleries.
This is not as effective as a fumigant but under the circumstances
it may be the only remedy.
Ground termites can be treated by treating
the structure with one of several termiticides or installing the
SENTRICON baiting system.
Every situation is different and the inspector
will use his best judgement.
How does SENTRICON work?
SENTRICON represents the newest generation of pest control techniques.
For centuries people have relied on toxic pesticides to control
insects. Probably the first was arsenic and it was used up until
about thirty years ago. It is an element and worked in its basic
form. Another was pyrethrum which is derived from a type of chrysanthemum
flower, Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium. Another is nicotine from
tobacco. During the Second World War and the following years there
were a number of pesticides developed most of which fell into three
chemical families. Chlorinated hydrocarbons such as chlordane, and
heptachlor. Carbamates such as sevin and Baygon and organophosphates
such as Diazinon and Dursban. All of these insecticides worked because
they were toxic to insects, usually affecting the nervous system.
They were also toxic to fish birds and mammals. The idea behind
SENTRICON is to feed the termites a hormone that will disrupt their
life cycle. SENTRICON works because it prevents the young termites
from molting. If they can not shed their skin they can not grow
and will remain in their juvenile form. As the mature termites die
there are no workers to replace them. Consequently, the colony will
perish as there are no termites bringing in food. SENTRICON is for
ground termites only, not drywood termites.
Are there still
liquid insecticides for controlling and preventing ground termites?
Yes, there are several. One of the first replacements for Chlordane
after it was discontinued were the synthetic pyrethroids. They are
applied to and bind with the soil around and under the house. They
work primarily by repelling the termites.
Newer termiticides such as Termador and Premise
do not repel the termites but kills them as they travel through
the treated soil.
How often should
a house be treated to prevent ground termites?
This depends on the type of construction, the termiticide used and
how wet the area is. The pesticides will break down if exposed to
water so it stands to reason they will last longer on the dry Waianae
Coast as opposed to the wet areas of Kaneohe. You should consult
with a representative of a pest control company for recommendations
of your house but usually it is every three to five years.
What are some
of the most common conducive conditions?
Soil-to-wood contact. Ground termites are constantly foraging underground
for food and if soil has accumulated against a post or the wood
siding they will eat it then use it as a bridge into the house.
Fence posts attached to the house is a classic example. A four-by-four
fence or gatepost is put into the ground adjacent to the house then
nailed to the house for support. Ground termites enter through the
bottom of the post travel up through the center then move into the
house completely undetected.
Water. They need a source of moisture and if
there is plumbing leaking under the house, downspouts draining against
the house or sprinklers keeping the soil adjacent to the house wet
the termites will be drawn to the house and will eventually find
their way in. Water will also deplete any pesticide that has been
applied to the soil to keep the termites out.
Cold joints. This is where two concrete slabs
join, usually where there is an addition put on after the original
construction. Frequently this cold joint is covered with a wall
and it is not visible so the termites can enter undetected. A similar
situation exists where a concrete slab-on grade addition has been
made against a house with post and beam construction. Too often
the concrete is poured up against the wood posts. The ground termites
build a trail over the slab, onto the post and in only a few days
can infest the rim beam under the house. Few people ever crawl under
their house so the infestation goes on for months with serious damage
to posts, beams and floor joists.
Hollow tile walls, especially retaining walls.
Hollow tile walls generally sit on a concrete footing below the
soil. Ground termites can enter at the bottom and travel up until
they find wood that may be in the attic or a beam supporting the
walls. Houses built into a hillside often have soil back-filled
against the hollow tile foundations. Ground termites are capable
of secreting an acid that dissolves the mortar used to set the block.
Untreated wood. Most older homes were made
with wood that did not have an insecticide/fungicide applied to
it and this allows termites to easily infest it. Only on rare occasions
will drywood termites infest pressure treated lumber.
What does the
term ‘treated lumber’ mean?
Lumber is pressure treated by placing it in a large tank called
a retort. A chemical solution is introduced to the retort, usually
it is hot and the tank is pressurized to force the solution into
the wood. Sometimes the wood may be serrated with hundreds of small
cuts to aid in the process. The solution often contains a combination
of copper and arsenic or a newer process uses borax. All three are
elements and therefore will not breakdown over time thereby providing
a long-term preventative against termites. Usually the solution
does not penetrate all the way to the center of the wood so if the
wood is cut or drilled its efficacy has been compromised and the
cut end should be treated.
It is very rare that drywood termites infest
treated lumber and when it does happen it is because the wood was
cut and not painted with a treatment solution.
Ground termites are capable of eating through
the treated exterior to get to the center although they will usually
enter through the cut end.