Fact vs. Fiction: Termites


May 15, 2014

Fiction: Subterranean termites only eat wood.
Fact: The bulk of their diet is cellulose, but they get it from eating plant materials and fungi as well as wood. To break this down in their gut, they need microorganisms, which they get mostly from eating one another’s poop.

Fiction: Swarmers are a sure sign the structure is infested.
Fact: Swarmers are an indication a large, mature nest is in the vicinity. Their origination is usually in nearby trees, timber structures or freestanding poles. The swarmers will take a while to reproduce and cause damage. There’s time enough to professionally evaluate their activity.

Fiction: The only way to deal with swarmers is fog them as soon as you see them.
Fact: Alates can be eliminated quickly and effectively without chemicals with a thorough vacuuming.

Fiction: A house doesn’t need termite treatment because it was treated once with chlordane less than 40 years ago.
Fact: Chlordane has a long half-life and can persist in treated soil and timbers for as long as 40 years after application. (It was banned for all uses in the United States in 1988.) Despite this fact, chlordane’s effectiveness as a termite treatment diminishes over time and is gone after 20 years.

Fiction: My granddad swore by treating the soil around the foundation with used motor oil to treat subterranean termites.
Fact: Believe it or not, there are sites on the Internet, which recommend this highly illegal technique. The soil and water contamination from this shouldn’t be brushed aside lightly.

Considering the runoff from roads and commercial and industrial activities, do you think you should contribute to the contamination of drinking water and the destruction of property? You also risk killing local wildlife (especially aquatic species) with this needless practice. Proper treatment with approved termiticides is far more cost effective in the long run.

You can reach the McGoverns at jeffreymcgovern@mindspring.com.

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