Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nontoxic Termite Treatment

When you’ve given up trying to deal with termites by yourself, then it’s time to call the professionals.

The traditional termite treatment, as mentioned in an earlier termite post, is to have your jungalow tented. Yes, as silly as it looks, some pest control company will put a huge tent over your jungalow and pump it full of poisonous gas, let it sit overnight, and then remove it the next day.  Even Charley's restaurant in Paia was covered with a big termite tent in August.

Yes, a big silly striped termite tent. This photo was taken of a house in Pukalani.
Tenting is definitely bad for termites, and as for humans, well, the verdict is out. Termite treatment folks will say that it’s safe for humans as long as you let your house air out the next day and wash all your dishes, pots and pans, and anything related to food use. I also seem to recall having to remove all food items out of the kitchen – pasta, cereal, fruit on the table, opened items.  I think we did leave sealed jars in the house, like unopened bottles of pasta sauce. Anyhow, it’s a big effort since you also have to find a place to stay overnight, like with friends or at a hotel, and there’s a lot of cleaning and washing the next day.  There are not just dead termites but also all sorts of other dead bugs on your floor, and in your closets, and under your bed…all the usual bug hang-outs.

Termite tenting is also terrible if a cat accidentally gets in your house.  One of my saddest childhood moments is when our little house on Oahu was tented and we found the three kittens we had been taking care of, dead. They weren’t tame yet, and had hidden in the roof rafters.

Also termite tenting doesn’t work if your jungalow is situated over a gulch. There is no way to seal it completely, so it’s a pointless exercise.

We ended up contacting the people who made the Termiticide and it turns out, they are based in Paia!  And they also do nontoxic termite treatment.  Green Mountain Resources came over for an estimate and explained their process: they spray wood with their signature cedar-oil based spray. This spray also has hydrated silica which helps to dry out the wood and make it less inviting to insects.  The estimator was very convinced of his product.

I also got a referral from a friend of mine who just had her kitchen treated. We then contacted Akamai Pest Solutions for another estimate. This company uses a citrus oil concentrate which they inject into the wood.  For plantation-style wood beams and ceilings, they poke a tiny hole at every foot and inject it with the citrus oil. The holes are very small and not visible. For furniture or fine wood, they spray the citrus oil instead.

Then we contacted the Better Business Bureau to see if there had been any complaints about either company, and as I recall, there had been one issue with the first company, but it had been resolved satisfactorily. The remaining issues were price and warranty. The cedar-based company was about $2000, for a roughly 900 square foot area, much of which was the outside deck. The second company was about $1200 and they included a one (or was it a two?) year warranty during which time they re-treat any areas that show more activity (meaning termite droppings). The first company was convinced of their work and didn’t believe a warranty was needed.

Well, simply put, money was the determining factor. Since we were not paying, but our Canadian landlord was… we went with Akamai Pest Solutions.  A team of termite treaters came out with their truck, ladders, buckets, citrus oil, and a little gadget that made clicking noises based on the level of termites around.  According to them, our jungalow was not so bad, and they had treated worse places. Or maybe they just said that to make us feel better.


Termites in my nightstand, erg.

Our house smelled like oranges for a couple of days, and one of the guys says he can no longer eat oranges. While they worked that morning, there were termite droppings falling down as they tapped beam after beam, and the ceiling boards between the beams, and tapped walls and window frames, door trim and closet doors. Also, among the termite debris, there were lots of dead ants.  One of the guys explained that the ants can live in old rotted wood along with the termites.  They also went outside and treated all the outside storage cabinets and exposed roof beams and outer house walls.


Yes, I've used this picture before..but it's so picturesque.
These are all termite droppings. and dead ants, and bits of wood.

Since then, we’ve used our warranty several times. The citrus oil doesn’t last forever, but neither does termite tenting, and when there is enough new termite activity, I call them to come back to do some more treatment. We have noticed a lot less ants. We’ve also noticed termite activity in places that were also not originally treated – like the storage trunk that holds our beach towels and a saw table. Since termites can swarm and fly around, our jungalow is still prone to wandering termites from outside or the remaining termite survivors.





I’m sure the other company has its followers and it’d be interesting to hear other people’s experiences with the various nontoxic pest companies, so feel free to comment below. Anyhow, short of moving our jungalow to Alaska, there will always be termites. It's just part of the fun of living here.

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