Punch Out Those Pests

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Getting rid of termites

Having your house inspected by a structural pest control operator is not just a good investment – it’s a must do home maintenance project. In fact, the few hundred dollars spent on an average inspection can save tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.

An inspection and report can be quite complicated. For this reason we recommend that consumers get two reports and make comparisons. Chances are that while many of the items will be consistent, there might be elements, which require attention, that one inspector or the other misses. The additional cost of a second report is good insurance and often can save money in the long run.

Traditional termite treatment has involved highly toxic chemicals. Most chemicals used by the pest control industry fall into three categories: soil termiticides, fumigants and fungicides.

Soil termiticides are used primarily to treat subterranean termites. They consist of chlorinated hydrocarbons like chlordane and DDT, many of which have been banned due to their high level of toxicity. A less toxic alternative to the chlorinated hydrocarbons is chlorpyrifos or Dursban. Metoprene, an insect juvenile hormone that prevents termite nymphs from maturing into reproductive adults, is a less toxic alternative.

Drywood termites have traditionally been dealt with using highly toxic fumigants like sulfuryl fluoride and methyl bromide. The entire building is tented and the fumigants are introduced throughout. The vapors are so potent that residents are required to vacate for at least two days.

Fungicides are applied to wood to prevent fungus infections. Pressure-treated wood, available at the lumberyard, is soaked in a pesticide (arsenic or creosote products) under pressure to make the material more rot-resistant and hence less attractive to termites.

Because there are health hazards from the toxicity of pressure-treated wood, a better alternative is to treat your own wood by soaking it in a less toxic preservative. Copper naphthenate, copper-8-quinolinate, and zinc naphthenate are a few of the preservative formulas that can be found in commercial products which the U.S. Forest Service lists as less toxic than most others on the market.

An assortment of least-toxic alternatives to traditional forms of toxic pest control have become more popular. While many pest control operators dismiss these alternatives as ineffective, consumer concerns are causing the industry to look at them.

A new approach to killing drywood termites involves a new tool called an “Electrogun.” It electrocutes termites using low current (90 watts), high voltage (90,000 volts) and high frequency (100 kHz).

If using electricity shocks you, freezing the varmints is an alternative. Freezing termites, using liquid nitrogen, has become extremely popular. The termites die when liquid nitrogen, pumped into the affected areas, drops the temperature of the wood framing to about twenty degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The entire process takes a few hours and, unlike fumigants, does not require tenting. While the liquid nitrogen technique is less toxic, there are hazards. This method should be undertaken by a professional.

If freezing gives you the chills, you might consider baking the pests. This method converts the entire structure to an oven. Propane heaters are used to blow hot air into a tented house to create temperatures that are lethal to termites. The ambient temperature of the space is brought up to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit with the specific temperature of the wood framing at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat treatment can be performed in a matter of a few hours. However, it requires the tenting of the house, and can damage fine furniture, electronics and products made from plastics.

There are some biological controls for termites as well. Ants, for example, are among the most important enemies of termites. Argentine ants have been known to kill termites overnight. While you may not want to have ants crawling along your kitchen counters or under your sink, with proper management you can allow them to remain out of the house or in the crawl space for natural termite control.

Where pesticides are routinely applied at the perimeter of foundations to prevent ant invasion into the building, the beneficial effects of ant predation against termites will be lost. Instead of using ant sprays, consider using an insecticidal soap, a spray solution of soap and water or boric acid at the location where ants enter the home. Each of these is non-toxic and will prevent ants from coming into the home, but will allow them to prosper outside it.

Desiccating dusts head the list of least toxic materials to use against drywood termites. These dusts include amorphous diatomaceous earth (not the swimming pool kind) and amorphous silica aerogels. These dusts either abrade or absorb the waxy layer on the outer coat of insect bodies, causing them to dehydrate and die from excessive moisture loss.

Finally, there are nematodes, which are microscopic worms that feed on subterranean termites. Marketed as Spear, the commercial product is a mix of predatory nematodes and is applied to infested wood or soil in a water solution much like a commercial termiticide.

The nematodes seek out termites over short distances at most a few inches enter their bodies and kill them. Since individual termites eat dead and dying termites, and share food and feces, the nematodes spread rapidly throughout a termite colony and destroy part or all of it.

Unlike the long-lived pesticides, the nematodes live a maximum of two years, depending on moisture conditions. Nematodes cannot survive desiccation. Thus, after they have killed the termites, they die relatively quickly.

And that’s all there is to it! For more home improvement tips and information, visit the Web site at www.onthehouse.com or call the listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474 (ext 59).

Keeping ants away with boric acid

Q - I heard that boric acid can be used in the home to keep away carpenter ants. How do I use it? - Melanie, Olympia WA

A - Boric acid does work. In fact it works with all types of ants – and many other pests as well. However, carpenter ants can do structural damage and should be managed by a professional who can apply the right formulation for your problem. Like termites, the carpenter ant can destroy your home. So, don’t take any chances – pay a little now or pay big-time later. By the way, for less dangerous ant problems mix equal parts of boric acid and sugar together. Fill a paper straw with the concoction and place it under the sink or in locations where ants have been a problem in the past. This is an inexpensive and effective way to rid your home of these pesky little protagonists.

TIP - Be a (killer) bee survivor

In summer we’re outdoors a lot – in the yard, on picnics, hiking and camping. Places where it’s easy to accidentally disturb a beehive.

It can be serious when bees attack in numbers. And, a new, tougher bee has evolved. These killer bees are spreading fast. They anger quicker, will chase you farther and sting many more times per incident.

You can spot, avoid and survive killer bees the same way you do less-violent common honeybees.

Fill open cracks with steel wool or caulk. Cover larger holes with window screen. Expect to find bees in holes in trees or in wood or rock piles, under picnic tables, in drain pipes, sheds and water meters.

Watch for bee activity and listen for buzzing that tells a hive is near. Watch children and keep pets on a leash. If you are attacked don’t flail, run or hide in a bush.

Outdoors be careful and be a bee survivor.

And that’s the On The House tip for today.

Editor’s note

In a few weeks the Rim Review will be devoted to the topic of “Fall Home Improvement”.

We are asking our readers to submit ideas for topics they would like covered in this special publication. The plan is to publish this special edition of the Review in mid-September, so suggestions for topics need to be submitted by Tuesday, Sept. 7.

Submissions need to be in writing and include contact information. They may be sent by e-mail to tmcquerrey@payson.com or dropped off at the Roundup office at 708 N. Beeline Hwy., Payson or mailed to the Roundup at P.O. Box 2520, Payson, AZ 85547.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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