|Drywood Termite Evidence Under Subflooring
Are termites beneficial insects? Yes. The termites in our forests are very beneficial. They help reduce fallen and decaying wood into organic material. They enrich soil and contribute to the natural nitrogen cycle. Ants love them for dinner and some humans consider them a delicacy. By the way, they taste a bit like Brazil nuts. It has been said that termites produce more methane than man or all the other animals on this planet.
Here’s the bad part: We build most of our structures out of termite food – wood! If you live or work in a wood framed structure, the odds are, it will be attached by termites or other wood destroying organisms (fungus caused dry rot and wood boring beetles). In Western Los Angeles, it’s about as sure a thing as death and taxes.
Drywood termite complaints in our area appear to make up the bulk of our termite calls. Most people will notice scattered or piles of saw dust like material (fecal pellets) in areas of their structure that are not cleaned or vacuumed on a regular basis. This evidence may be filtering down internal walls and may be found on window sills, behind furniture, in attic spaces, unfinished garages, wooden flooring, meter boxes, around sub area vents, and sometime at outside perimeters of structures where they have fallen from eaves or rafter tails.
The real kicker is when the winged form (alates) start swarming all over the interiors of your building. These are the reproductive caste of drywood termite colonies that get kicked out to “Go Forth and Replenish the Earth”, etc. etc. You know the rest of this passage. So do the termites.
Although an occupant may see evidence of drywood termites, at an area, or areas, at the interior of their structure, the chances are that other hidden infestations may exist in areas that we consider inaccessible. These colonies may be hidden in ceiling joists buried under attic insulation, insulated exterior wall voids, interior walls, sub flooring, headers, rafters, and other support members.
If we had x-ray eyes, we could see the thousands of board feet of lumber it takes to construct a framed structure. It’s also important to know that most framed structures have been built with “green” lumber for probably over the last third of the century. This means non-kiln dried wood, full of moisture, and sometimes infested with drywood termites before it even arrives at a construction site. It’s no surprise that drywood termites are our major termite invader here in Southern California.
Most licensed pest and termite control companies will, at the request of an owner, perform localized treatment for visible and accessible infestations of drywood termites. However, there are companies in the market place that will tell you that their localized treatments are really total structure treatments because they possess a magic, state-of-the art, revolutionary technique that will convince you that you will avoid any inconvenience posed by legitimate whole structure termite elimination.
- Localized Treatment – Snake Oil?
Bear in mind though that if drywood termites are present in an area of a structure that is totally accessible, such as an unfinished garage, or an open beam ceiling, localized treatment may be very effective. We can eliminate that local infestation.
For centuries, man has been trying to invent a better mouse trap. We are still waiting.
Well, some have tried to come up with a better product or method of eliminating drywood termites in structures. Let’s see . . . . ., we have nitrogen, desiccant dusts pumped into your walls, electric devices, micro wave machines (watch the metal nails and brackets) and orange oil, to name a few.
There really is nothing wrong with these treatments when sold and applied within their limitations. However, some companies foist their treatments as being “all structure” treatments. That’s why they like to sell you an (insurance-guarantee) plan for ongoing inspections and treatment. Cha-ching $$.
The University of California, Riverside, Dept. of Entomology, Cal Berkley, Dept. of Entomology, and our licensing agency, the Structural Pest Control Board (Dept. of Consumer Affairs) only recognizes two methods for total structure treatment for the complete elimination of drywood termites: gas fumigation and heat treatment.
Every year we seal and fumigate structures, both large and small, with a gas called Vikane (Sulfuryl Fluoride) which was originally registered for this use in 1958. (See some of our local fumigations on our picture page.) This process eliminates 100% of the drywood termite infestations. However, this process, as thorough as it is, does pose some inconvenience to the occupants. It is necessary that the structures be vacated for usually two days and nights. House plants must be taken outside and pets removed. Internal preparation requires the removal or special bagging of certain food items. The good news is that along with the total target elimination, Vikane leaves no residue, so dishes, utensils, clothes, or bedding, do not have to be washed before use. Occupants are never exposed to Vikane gas at any time.
We partner with Dow Agroscience LLC (manufacturer of Vikane) in their Commitment to Excellence Program (C.T.E.) to assure the highest quality and stewardship before, during, and after the fumigation process. No structure is too small or too large for us to provide excellence and satisfaction.
The prices for fumigation are based on the total volume (cubic footage) of a structure(s). We are always reasonable and most often chosen over others.
We are a licensee of Thermo-Pure Heat Treatment. Whole structures can be treated in this manner up to a certain size (about 30,000 c.f.). Portions of structures can be treated also. How does this work? Using propane heat generators and ducts, we pump the hot air into the structure. While the ambient temperature may be 160 degrees inside, it takes several hours to heat the core of the wooden members to 125 degrees, which we maintain for about 30-40 minutes, then, “poof”, dead drywood termites.
In addition to dead termites, if the structure contains any other casual invaders, they perish also.
The plus factor of heat treatment is that occupants don’t have to check out for a couple of nights. No chemicals are used, so there is no aeration process. It is a one day procedure.
Heat treatment is more expensive than fumigation because of the cost of fuel and extensive labor costs, as crews have to monitor jobs on the site continually during the process.
REMEMBER: “WE TAKE NO PRISONERS”
Our native subterranean termite is called the Western Subterranean Termite. They nest underground and forage randomly in search of cellulos (wood). Their colonies contain large numbers of individuals and if they gain entrance into your structure, considerable damage can occur, particularly in inaccessible areas such as finished walls, ceilings, and flooring.
Their mode of travel in search of food is quite fascinating. From their underground nest they construct shelter tubes (mud tunnels) made out of feces and fluids and use them as highways. Their point of entry into a structure may not be visible. For example, they can tunnel through the tiniest crack in concrete. But, their presence within a structure may be announced by swarms of alates (swarmers), usually during post rain sunshine during late winter, or early spring, in our area.
A professional inspection often can detect shelter tubes at foundation walls and unfinished garage studs and connected wood members.
Keep in mind, subterranean termites require sufficient moisture. If there are undetected leaks, and the presence of damp wood, you could be sending an invitation to a wood munch party.
- Subterranean Termite Treatments
Most treatments are made at the ground level through which the termites must pass in order to reach the wooden members. We no longer have termiticides of the past (Chlordane, Heptador, Aldrin, Deildrin, or Endrin) as their EPA registrations were cancelled in the late 70s to the early to mid 80s. As effective in erecting an inpenetratable barrier that would last in soil for sometimes up to 30 years, and being chlorinated hydrocarbons, the EPA was required to phase out their use.
Today, we have termiticides at our disposal that are much more environmentally friendly. In addition to the conventional methods of trenching soil and treating, slab drilling and injection, we have in ground bait stations and non-repellant liquids, gels, and granules.
When you call us, Carl will explain in detail (but plain English) what treatment should be tailored for your property.
Of course, our initial inspection is free to residential and commercial owners.
Questions? Carl will respond personally. Remember, 50+ years of hands-on experience in pest elimination is a background few in our industry have.
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PH: (310) 822-1805