Friday, April 25, 2014

CARPENTER BEES AND HORNTAIL WASPS



Carpenter Bees:
 It is Carpenter Bee season and this year more than often than last year, they are spotted buzzing around homes and back yards worrying many. But fear not, as Carpenter Bees are more a friend than a foe.



There are over 500 species of Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa) that can be found throughout the world. In California and Marin the California Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa Californica) nest in trees and wooden structures. Carpenter Bees do not feed on wood like termites but forage on pollen like their common honeybee counterparts. They are easily recognized by their dark shiny charcoal black color with a beautiful well-rounded body. They are often noticed during the warm season from early spring to late fall when we see them flying around our structures and back yards busy preparing their nest for winter. Males are the same color and shape but do not have a stinger and never attack, while female carpenter bees do have a stinger but will only defend themselves and their nest when provoked.



Nesting and Infestations:

Carpenter Bees carve a large hole opening that leads to one main channel with several small alcove chambers each housing one egg. Six to 8 eggs are laid in the fall where they remain dormant all winter. The eggs will hatch and the bees will exit the wood the following spring. The eggs closest to the surface will exist first allowing the deepest laid eggs to hatch and exit last. To this day, it remains a great mystery to entomologists how the first eggs laid in the rear chambers are the last ones to hatch, while the last eggs laid will hatch first. Most homeowners will notice pencil like fine shavings (or frass) below the holes where the bees carve the wood to create their galleries and chambers within wood members. We often see them in trim boards, rafter tails, roof fascias, arbors, pergolas and other exposed wood members. Carpenter bees will infest any type of softwood including redwood and cedar wood members,



Carpenter Bees are pollinators and contribute greatly to the local ecosystem. They are not considered a major structural pest like termites or wood boring beetles as homeowner usually find them annoying and will try to get rid of them before wood members can be severally damaged. They can also be often found in dead trees and woodpiles, fences, sheds, balconies and decks. Carpenter Bees are mostly solitary insects, sometimes living in small groups with mothers, daughters or related siblings living nearby but not sharing the same nest holes. Left alone they will not be aggressive and can become a fun or annoying distraction.



Preventing and Eliminating Carpentar Bee Infestations: 
Carpenter Bees being indigenous to California, the best is to prevent infestations through preventative maintenance and treat when necessary.


1)   Patch, caulk and paint or stain all exposed outside wood members (eaves, arbors, pergola, decks, balconies, etc.) to prevent infestation and deter re-infestation..

2)      Avoid stacking woodpiles against the siding of a home or even close to entry/exit ways.

3)      Keep limbs, vines, bushes and vegetation away from roof, decks, fences, arbors and siding.

4)      Seal cracks and openings in the eaves and siding, especially at pipes, cables and other protrusions.
5)  Call a beekeeper to remove and relocate the infested wood member if possible, thereby allow bees to continue pollinating somewhere else.
6)  Otherwise call us for a treatment to the galleries and plugging the holes with epoxy wood filler. We use epoxy over bondo type material that bees can remove to continue their business.




Horntail Wasps

The horntail wasps are rare in structures and at 1 to 1.5” inch long with an additional ¾” long stout ovipositor (egg-laying device) Horntail Wasps appear more ominous than they really are.



There is about 20 species of Horntail Wasps form the Siricdae family and while adults do not eat wood, their larvae do. Some species have beautiful colors ranging from brightly color metallic blue to yellow, red and black. Some lay eggs into hardwood but most favor softwood such as pine. The infestation starts in dead and burned trees after a forest fire where the female likes to lay her eggs. Once the tree is harvested, cut into lumber and used in construction, the dormant eggs can hatch if the wood is not kiln dried to kill the eggs and larvae. The larvae will molt and the adults emerge several years later sometimes scaring occupants of a structure. Fortunately these insects don’t re-infest structures and no treatment is needed. When Horntail Wasps emerge they seek to go outside and homeowners should simply let them go out and caulk and paint the exit hole left behind.



Call us at (415) 456-9620 and check our website at www.marintermite.com for additional information.


Friday, March 28, 2014

THE BEST TERMITE TREATMENTS FOR YOU AND THE ENVIRONMENT


Marin Termite Control aims to be at the forefront of environmentally safer and the most effective termite solutions. Years of experience, communication with the entomology departments of UC Berkeley and UC Riverside, customer feedback and record tracking help us to provide our customers with the most reliable treatments and the lowest impact on the environment.

 


Termidor-SC has been used in California for both subterranean and drywood termites over 15 years, in the US, Canada and Europe for over 20 years and has a proven record as a reliable low-risk termiticide. Termidor is not systemic and does not affect plant life around your home.  The active ingredient “Fipronil” is found in Frontline and Fiproguard pet products for flea control. Termidor is a non-repellent termiticide (no odor, fumes, color or taste) approved for both subterranean and drywood termites and has a transfer effect between termites through grooming and feeding (trophallaxis).


Altriset is a newer generation of termiticide using anthranilic diamides (from the Ryania genius tree) with the lowest toxicity level of all termiticides. Altriset’s active ingredient “Chlorantaniliprole” is reported as having no effect on mammals (humans, pets, cattle, etc.) and not systemic with plants. Altriset is approved for subterranean termite treatments only and is a non-repellent termiticide (no odor, fumes, color or taste) and has a transfer effect between termites through grooming and feeding (trophallaxis). Unfortunatelly our record tracking shows more recalls for retreatment with Altriset and its effectivneess against subterrenean termites has proven to be inferior to Termidor.


TimBor & BoraCare are a borate based insecticides/fungicides (disodium octaborate tetrahydrate) used in the US for over 20 years. Borate, borax and boric salts have been used as a food preservative, insecticide and fungicide for centuries. Boron is a natural earth deposit dating over 20 million ago. Over 50% of the world’s borate is produced in the mines of Boron California. Though lacking the transfer effect of Termidor and Altriset, TimBor and BoraCare are effective against drywood termites and wood-boring Beeltes as well as fungi/dry-rot infestation to wood members. They are not used against subterranean termite soil treatments, as they are also herbicides that can affect nearby plant life.


Optigard-ZT is approved only for drywood termite and is an older generation of non-repellents used since the 90s. The active ingredient is using thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid and its effectiveness against drywood termite has prooven inferior to Termidor-SC, TimBor and XT-2000. This product is systemic and should not be used around vegetable gardens and crops.


XT-2000 is approved only for drywood termites and is an odorous repellent (d-limonene) extracted from the rind of citrus fruit. Commonly called orange oil, d-limonene is very acidic and should be applied cautionly as it may cause skin, eye and respiratory reactions. The product does not have a transfer effect between termites, is a repellent that can be detected by termites that will avoid it. Orange oil is not lasting once dry several days after application. Its effectiveness against drywood termites has proven to be inferior to Termidor-SC and TimBor. Some pest control companies will advocate orange oil as a marketing tool but always use it in conjunction with another product like Termidor or Timbor/BoraCare to lessen calls for retreatments against drywood termites.


Premise-75 is approved for both subterranean and drywood termite and is an older generation of non-repellents used since the 90s. The active ingredient is using imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid and its effectiveness against drywood termite has prooven inferior to all other tested products (see table below). This product is systemic and should not be used around vegetable gardens and crops. Most pest control companies will prefer using another more reliable product against subterranean and drywood termites.


Natural Oils: Other oil extracts from pine, juniper, clove, peppercorn and mint are all terpenes type oils similar to orange oil and have been tried against various insects including drywood termites with less than satisfactory results. Natural oil extracts are acidic and should be used cautiously with the proper protective equipment as they may cause eye, skin and respiratory problems. Natural oil extracts cannot be used as a soil treatment against subterranean termites as they can affect nearby soil and water tables with rains and landscape irrigation.


Freezing, Heating, Microwaving: Temperature and electronic treatments against drywood termites have been attempted several times in the past and all have many limitations and less than satifactory results. Freezing cannot be used where plumbing pipes and other sensitive materials are present. Heating cannot be used where plastics and vinyl material are present nearby or within walls(vinyl windows, ABS, PVC, electrical/electronic cables) and Microwaving cannot be used where metal is present (nails, ties, anchors, electrical cables, etc.). Additionally the cost of freezing and heating a structure makes these alternatives too expensive against other conventional treatments and these are seldom used unless in a highly controlled environment for crops and wood based products in containers and kilns.

Most Effective Termite Treatments: Termidor, Altriset, TimBor/BoraCare, Optiguard & Premise are non-repellents termiticides that do not have anysmell, taste or vapors, while X-2000 and other oil based terpenes have a smell, taste and emanate vapors that termites can detect and avoid. Only Termidor and Altriset have a transfer effect where contaminated termites pass the termiticide onto others through grooming & trophylaxis (mouth-to-mouth feeding). XT-2000 and other oil extracts are repellent-contact insecticide that does not have a transfer effect and do not remain effective once dry. Termidor is the most effective at eradicating an entire colony within a few days or weeks. Termidor is the only product effective against both subterranen and drywood termites that remains effective for years and provide a long lasting protection against termite infestations without any smell, vapors and short or long-term impact on the landscape and grounds surrounding your home.
 

Termiticide
(Active Ingredient)

Pesticide
Label

Target
Termites

Smell/Odor
Scent/Vapor
Type of
Insecticide
Transfer
Effect
Still Effective Once Dry
Effect on
Plants
Drywood Termite
Termidor-SC (Fipronil)
Caution
Subterranean
& Drywood
None
Non-Repellent
Yes
Yes
None
100%
BoraCare/TimBor (Sodium Borate)
Caution
Drywood
Only
None
Non-Repellent
No
Yes
Toxic
98-99%
Altriset (Chlorantiniliprole)
None
Subterranean
Only
None
Non-Repellent
Yes
Yes
None
93% *
Optigard-ZT (Thiametoxam)
Caution
Drywood
Only
None
Non-Repellent
Yes
Yes
Systemic
81%
XT-2000 (d-Limonene)
Caution
Drywood
Only
Yes
Contact/Repellent
No
No
Toxic
81%
Premise 75 (Imidacloprid)
Caution
Subterranean & Drywood
None
Non-Repellent
Yes
Yes
Systemic
45%

*Marin Termite Statistic – Other percentage statistics from Dr. Vernard Lewis, UC Berkeley & Dr. Michael Rust, UC Riverside 2009



Subterranean termites travel underground through cracks, voids and decaying tree roots. Studies show they branch out in multiple areas often infesting structures through multiple entry points at the perimeter of the structure, through slabs and in subareas. They feed on the wood and return the food to the underground nest. Because Termidor and Altriset have no smell, taste or color, termites do not detect or avoid it and are attracted to the moist treatment.



Drywood termites feed and live in the wood without any ground contact. They too are attracted to the moist treatment when it is injected into the wood and do not avoid Termidor which has no taste, smell or fumes unlike other oil based inseticides like XT 2000 orange oil and other plant based terpenes.

Conclusion: Termidor-SC is faster acting and longer lasting than other termiticides like TimBor/BorCare, Altriset,  Optigard-ZT, XT-2000 and Premise-75. Termidor-SC remains a low impact termiticide most effective against both subterranean and drywood termites.

Call Marin Termite Control at 415-456-9620 
and check our website at www.marintermite.com for additional information.

Friday, January 10, 2014

SUSTAINABLE PEST MANAGEMENT & GREEN CONSTRUCTION


We all want a healthier environment; organic foods, natural products, better air quality, clean water and fewer pesticides. No wonder many ask us if and how can pests be eliminated without using harmful pesticides.

Along with green construction, sustainable pest control is achievable but does require a new way of thinking, planning and building. It also means a little more maintenance and using low-impact products and ecologically sound materials when necessary. In other words: “Working with nature rather than fighting it.”

Green Construction: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Consult first with your architect, contractor and pest control operator to avoid creating or leaving existing conditions that lead to infestations.
  • Good drainage in and around structures to prevent moisture intrusion and water pooling in crawl spaces
  • Moisture membranes and concrete soil covers to keep sub-areas dry, clean and unwelcoming to pests
  • Sufficient Ventilation in enclosed areas to prevent stagnant and unhealthy air leading to mildew and mold
  • Adequate elevation and grading away from the structure to prevent earth-wood contacts and faulty grades
  • Ample roof overhangs, flashings, gutters, downspouts and drain lines to prevent leaks and deterioration
  • Proper flashing and joints around exterior doors, windows, siding and trim to prevent moisture intrusion
  • Borate based pre-treatment (Bora-Care or Tim-Bor) of exposed wood and foundations before enclosures
  • Complying with and exceeding state and local building ordinances for a healthier and safer home

Sustainable Maintenance:Use nature’s lessons and allies to your advantage”. Once completed discourage nature’s invaders and maintain the structure and its surroundings inhospitable to pests.
  • Maintain the structure’s exterior siding and trim sealed, painted and watertight.
  • Keep and trim vines, trees, shrubs and vegetation away to promote air movement and a dry environment
  • Don’t pile, store, build or lay material, plants or added buildings against the exterior of the structure
  • Keep sprinklers and other irrigation systems from watering against or near the structure.
  • Don’t add planter beds, stone facia, brick veneer or raise soil grade against the exterior siding
  • Keep ventilators unobstructed to promote air movement and replace torn ones to keep rodents out
  • Clean and clear roofs, gutters, downspouts and drain lines, particularly during winter and spring
  • Have your sump pumps, drain lines and plumbing checked and serviced to prevent leaks and moisture
  • Keep all areas dry and clean to discourage common pests (ants, flies, beetles, fleas, termites, etc.)
  • Know friends and chase away foes: Spiders, birds, lizards, and some beetles are all pest predators
  • Use non-toxic traps or repellents to avoid secondary wildlife poisoning (e.g. birds of pray and reptiles)
  • When using retail available products, always follow the label never exceeding recommendations
  • Consult with a licensed professional before adding, remodeling or modifying any improvements
  • Call to get a periodic pest inspection by a State Licensed Professional to discover infestations early
Low Impact Pest Control: Nature is tenacious and in spite of the above recommendations it may still find ways to infest. Gone are the days of creosote, chlordane and such other pesticides that were common around homes. Decades of public awareness, research and development have lead to more target specific and safer products eliminating pests without affecting occupants, the local ecosystem or surrounding environment.

Marin Termite recommends following the above items first and uses the following low environmental impact products once infestations do occur: Natural inorganics (Bora-Care, TimBor, diatomaceous earth, salts, clays), odorless non-repellents (Altriset, Termidor), natural organic compounds (plant oils, spices and extracts).

Call 456-9620 and ask for one of our licensed inspectors to schedule an inspection.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

HOW MANY TYPES OF TERMITES?


Some of our customers are surprised to learn that there are several types of termites in our neighborhood and that infestations, damage and treatments can vary greatly. So! Here is everything you ever wanted to know about termites and never dared to ask… 

Termites are small xylophagous (wood eating) insects that consume dead wood and other wood bi-products containing cellulose like cardboard, paper, laminates and other wood based composites. Like ants and bees, termites are eusocial insects with generally one queen, soldiers to defend the colony and mostly workers who forage and feed all the members of the colony. The male (or king) will die shortly after mating with the queen who will be pregnant for the remained of her life (15 to 30 years depending on specie). Soldiers and workers are all drones and the workers are the ones who actually cause wood damage, ingest the wood and feed others through regurgitation known as trophallaxis.

Termites have protozoa in their intestinal tract that allows them to digest wood cellulose. Curiously, they are not born with these protozoa in their gut, but acquire it through feeding from others. Lab research has shown that termites without protozoa will die of starvation, even when fed wood cellulose.

What Are Termite Swarms?
In addition to the queen, king, soldiers and workers, and once the colony is big and mature enough, some of the colony members will grow sexual organs and wings to become winged reproductive males and females also known as Alates (future kings and queens). Once fully developed, they will patiently wait for the perfect time to fly or swarm. Their sole purpose during the swarm is to mate and start a new colony. Swarmers will be fed by workers until the swarm occurs and they will not feed during the swarm. Termite alates swarm in large numbers, as their chances of survival are quite small. Most will fall prey to predators (birds, other insects, spiders, lizards, frogs, etc.), many will die of dehydration or exhaustion in the wrong environment before they can mate, and the few lucky ones to find a mate may not find a suitable place to start a colony. Yet in spite of insurmountable odds, some do survive to start new colonies.

Swarms occur several times a year between early spring and late fall. Customers often ask if swarming termites sting or bite; But termites do not have any biting or stinging mouth parts, do not feed on blood and are not interested in human or pet skin. Termites aren’t even interested in live trees and only feed on dead wood. The good news is that they do not carry nasty virus or bacterial diseases like some rodents or blood-sucking insects (mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and bed bugs to name a few). They are even picky on their choice of wood and will favor softer sappier pinewood over hardwood, younger redwood or cedar. They will avoid the hardest and driest old-growth redwood.

Subterranean termite swarmers are small (1/4 to 3/8th of an inch) and black with see-through wings.
Drywood termite swarmers are medium (1/2 to 5/8th of an inch) and maroon with see through wings.
 Dampwood termite swarmers are large (3/4 to 1 inch) and brown with a red/orange head and brown see through wings.
 

Where do Termites Come From?
Termites dating back to the cretaceous period (125 million years ago) have been excavated, and well-preserved termites were found in amber (fossilized tree sap) in the Baltics. In entomology, termites belong to the Isoptera order and according to Cornell University; there are 2761 known species of termites. Termites are indigenous to warmer climates and depending of the specie, colonies can have millions of members and several queens with secondary colonies. Termites have a place in our ecosystem by braking down dead trees and returning them as carbon rich nutrients to the soil. Unfortunately termites don’t distinguish dead trees from lumber and are pests when they infest structures. The word “termite” comes from Latin "termes" and from Greek "tetranien", meaning "a worm eating wood".

In the US, Termites are present in most coastal and southern states:
a)      The most popular is the Subterranean termite with several species depending on the location
b)      The Drywood termite found in southern states from Virginia to California
c)      The Formosan termite found in coastal areas from North Carolina to southern Texas and Hawaii
d)      The Dampwood termite found in the southwest, pacific coast states, Florida and Hawaii

In Northern California the three most common and indigenous species of termites are: Subterranean, Drywood and Dampwood termites. Each has a different pattern of infestation, different frass or debris and require different treatments, the details of which are explained below.

Subterranean Termites:
Common in California is the Western Subterranean Termite (Reticultermes Hesperus). These termites nest in the ground and infest wood below & above ground (debris, fences and structures). It is a common misconception that termites do not eat redwood or cedar. They favor softer woods like douglas fir and poplar, they will eat any and all dead wood that is to their liking. Because redwood and cedar have a red tannin with a bitter taste, termites will avoid it when the wood is recently cut. But with time the tannin and bitter taste will dissipate and termite will eventually eat redwood and cedar. Additionally, termites prefer softer sappier wood to harder denser fibers and knots in the wood. This is why it is rear to find them in old growth redwood.

Research from UC Riverside and UC Berkeley has shown that Subterranean Termites will travel long distances, leaving trails of pheromones as markers for colony members to reach the food source. Though they don’t travel long distance at once, they pass the foraged food from one termite to another until it reaches the nest where most colony members and the queen live. Termite drones, workers and soldiers, and the queen are generally whitish or cream colored, which is why they are sometimes called “white ants”. They are cryptobiotic, meaning they live in a dark and enclosed environment with a specific humidity and temperature. That is why they build mud tubes, against foundations, posts and sometimes free standing, to reach the food source.

Treatment entails injecting a registered termiticide in soil in areas of infestation and around the exterior perimeter of the structure. Marin Termite uses minimal impact Altriset or Termidor termiticides and provides a 5-year warranty against re-infestations of subterranean termites with complete perimeter treatments. Both Altriset and Termidor are water based products that are odorless, colorless and tasteless termiticide and attract termites without impacting the soil, plants or emanating any smell, vapors or fumes. Other termiticides like borate based TimBor or Boracare and orange oil are not used for subterranean termite treatments as they are ineffective against subterranean termites and toxic to plants. Subterranean termites will often swarm on warm days following a rainfall from early spring to early fall.

Drywood Termites:
Indigenous to California, the Bay Area and Marin County, the Pacific Dark Western Drywood Termite (Incistermes Minor) from the Kalotermitidae family is generally found infesting the warmer side of structures. Unlike their subterranean cousins, the whole colony, queen, soldiers and workers, all live within the infested wood members without any ground contacts. Drywood termites infest the structure aerially by flying into cracks and crevices or vents. Drywood termites swarm in hot static weather in the summer or early fall (Indian summer). As their name indicates, they favor a hotter and drier environment with certain air moisture content often found near coastal areas. In Marin County, they are most often found near Tiburon, Sausalito, Stinson Beach, Bolinas and Point Reyes, but also occasionally infest other areas.

Drywood termites carve galleries within the wood members producing fecal pellets that are stored in some areas. When Drywood Termite workers decide do some “spring cleaning” they clear some of the galleries by carving a kick-out hole on the surface of the wood through which they expel the pellets then re-plugging the holes with pellets. When this happens in wall voids, attics or crawlspaces, the infestation may remain undetected until it is exposed or discovered. Sometimes, the pellets are expelled into living areas though the sheetrock, door or window trims or from open beam ceilings. For small infestations, a local treatment consists in injecting infested wood members with Termidor termiticide and treating topically the infested wood with a borate termiticide (TimBor or BoraCare). Other termiticides such as Premise 75, Optigard-ZT, XT-2000 orange oil are less succesful and are often used with Termidor and/or TimBor or BoraCare. For larger infestations or inaccessible areas like attics and ceilings, the structure needs to be tented and fumigated with Sulfuryl Fluoride fumigant such as Vikane or Zythor.

Dampwood Termites:
Indigenous to Northern California, Oregon and Southern Washington states, the Pacific Dampwood (or Rottenwood) Termite (Zootermopsis Angusticollis) is one of the largest varieties of termites on the planet at 30 millimeters with wings. This variety of termite requires a higher moisture concentration to infest wood members and are most often found in fallen trees and stumps in the forest and by water sources (creeks, streams, ponds, rivers, lakes).

Occasionally they infest homes with plumbing leaks (toilets, showers, kitchen and laundry rooms) or with wet faulty grade such as built-up planters and exterior soil grade against wood siding. We also find them in areas of moisture intrusion like below leaking roofs, skylights, faulty flashing at windows, doors and exterior siding.

Treatment includes removing the moisture source and water proofing areas of infestation as well as treating with a borate based fungicide/termiticide like TimBor or BoraCare. Dampwood termites swarm in early to late fall shortly before sunset because it is the warmest time of day. They are big and attracted to lights like most insects and are often found caught in spider webs near outside lights on indoors if any windows, doors or skylights are slightly open.

How Can I Prevent Termite Infestations?
Since termites are indigenous to California, the best we can do is to deter them from infesting our homes:
a)      Keeping crawlspaces clean and free of moisture and debris
b)      Fix any plumbing, roof, window and door leaks
c)      Lower soil grades to avoid earthwood contacts with 3 inch clearance between soil and wood
d)      Keeping the exterior of the house well sealed, painted or stained
e)      Don’t store wood piles, compost and other wood bi-products in subarea or against the house
f)        Don’t build planter beds against the house and adjust sprinklers to avoid spraying the building

And have a periodic inspection every 3 to 4 years. It is long enough for a trained professional to detect infestations and not too long for termites to cause substantial structural damage. A limited inspection and a treatment is less costly than extensive structural damage found after many years of infestation.

For more information, call us at (415) 456-9620 and check our website at www.marintermite.com

Thursday, April 4, 2013

FUMIGATION vs. LOCAL TREATMENT



A fumigation is the process of tenting and saturating an item (mattress, furniture, food, etc.) or structure (building, boat, railroad car, truck, silo, etc.) with a fumigant, commonly called a gas, to eradicate infestations.

In some instances infestations (drywood termites, beetles, bed bugs, etc) can be so widespread or extend into inaccessible areas that a local treatment is no longer feasible or even possible.  Since year 2000 Sufuryl fluoride has been used to replace methyl bromide. Sufuryl Fluoride is a true gas, not a mist, vapor, powder or suspension. The gas is used to replace the oxygen in the item or structure and asphyxiate the target insects.

Larkspur City Hall & Fire Department
Each year thousands of small and large fumigations occur; mattresses with bed bugs, furniture with beetles, shipping containers, railroad cars and trucks transporting food with pests, and large structures infested with drywood termites, beetles or bed bugs such as multi-unit apartment buildings, university dorms, barns and silos, warehouses, shopping centers and even public buildings like churches, schools, libraries, airports, and museums - only to name a few.

Sufuryl fluoride (SO2F2) is an inert fumigant gas commonly used because it easily penetrates wood members to reach into inaccessible areas where insects live and feed. When fumigating the structure, the treatment reaches into every areas and wood members of the structure (attics, walls and floors) killing all target insects.

Pros and Cons of Fumigation
The biggest pro of a fumigation is that it is a sure kill to all areas and since this is a true gas that is lighter than air, there is no residual effect on the fumigated structure or its content. The fact that there is no residual effect is a great advantage, whether it is crops or structures, but it is also its greatest short coming as once the fumigation is completed, there is nothing keeping pests from re-infesting the structure or its contents.

But fumigation has cons too: It is a costly process that requires vacating the structure for several days. The length of the fumigation will vary depending on the insect to be eradicated:  1 to 2 days for bed bugs, 3 days for drywood termites and 5 days for beetles. The cost and dose of the fumigant used will also vary with different insect infestations: 1 dose for drywood termites, 3 doses for bed bugs, 10 doses for beetles. Fumigation is more costly and inconvenient than local treatments, as the structure to be fumigated will require preparation.

The Process
Single Family Home in Point Reyes
Prior to fumigation, owners and occupants must do some preparation to the structure: Removing pets, plants, medicine, food and opened containers, as well as trimming plants and disconnecting attached fences, arbors and the gas meter. Since the fumigation will lessen the oxygen content in the structure, the pilot lights must be extinguished before and re-lit after the fumigation. The fumigant is lighter than air, so before injecting the fumigant, the structure is completely sealed with tarps (tenting), which contains the fumigant in the building so it penetrates wood members and kills the insects (termites, beetles, bedbugs, etc.). Once the fumigant is injected, the building remains sealed for 12 to 72 hours depending the infestation, building, location and job complexity. Large visible warning signs are posted around the building to notify people to keep out.

On the last day before removing the tarps, the structure is aerated by opening vent traps in the tarps. Fans are used to clear the building of the fumigant and restore the natural air environment. Once thoroughly aerated, a state licensed fumigator measures the level of any remaining fumigant to ensure it meets the strict EPA requirements before re-entry.  The gas will not be reconnected until the building is cleared for re-occupancy by a state licensed fumigator.

Are there any alternatives?
Other attempts have been made in the past to find alternatives to fumigation. Among them are: Heat, freezing, microwave and non-pesticide injections. All these options have advantages, limitations and drawbacks.

Heating: Lab test have shown that high heat does kill termites effectively. A heat treatment consists in bringing the core of infested wood members in a home or wall to 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (45-50 Celsius) for at least 35 minutes to an hour. The home is tented and heated until all wood members achieve the desired temperature. The treatment is very effective in a controlled environment but heat can cause damage to many components (plastics wiring, ABS drain lines, PVC pipes, vinyl windows, roof shingles, etc.) commonly found in structures and to heat sensitive furniture and belongings. Additionally, with today’s increasing price of energy, the associated cost has become less attractive than other treatments and this method is now seldom used except in a controlled environment like kiln dried lumber or crops that can be heated.

Freezing: A Freezing treatment consists in lowering the temperature in the core of the infested wood members to below freezing to kill termites. Sometimes used locally, it is not practical for entire structures as too many components can be damaged by the cold (plumbing pipes, windows, skylights, electronics, lighting, occupant belonging, etc.). Quite successful in test labs but impractical and costly in the real world, it is no longer used except in very controlled environments for smaller items.

Microwaving: Microwave treatment consists in mounting microwave generators on one side of a wall and a protective shield on the other side, then bombarding the wood members for a specific period of time. This has to be done one stud at a time and is limited to areas without metal parts such electrical wiring, plumbing, ducting, etc.). Though efficient in controlled lab environments, it is ineffective in areas that are inaccessible and is nowadays seldom used and not cost effective compared to local chemical treatments.

Bio-Control: Bio-Control or “non-toxic” local treatments have also been attempted using nematodes (microscopic worms) injected into galleries to kill termites. But results were disappointing and this bio-controlled treatment is no longer used.

Local Termiticide Treatment/Injection
Citrus or Orange Oils: Attempts have been made with citrus terpene such as orange oil. But results are disappointing, less reliable and orange oil treatments are often used in conjunction with other longer lasting termiticide treatments. Marin Termite Control has used orange oil in the past but treatments are less effective than other termiticides like TimBor, BoraCare and Termidor. Orange oil has become more a marketing gimmick than a dependable solution to eradicate termites and wood boring beetles (see our blog on orange oil treatments).

Borate Based Insecticides:Borate based inorganic material has proven successful; however this is type of treatment is only effective on small localized infestations. Marin Termite Control has used borates such as TimBor (disodium octaborate tetrahydrate) and still uses it against wood boring beetle infestations. However, since its interior approval in 2005, we have observed a greater success rate with the use of Termidor termiticide injections for local treatments against Drywood termites. 
Why Sufuryl Fluoride, and not Methyl Bromide?
Methyl Bromide (MeBr) is an odorless colorless gas that has been used extensively in the past as a fumigant against pest infestation. However, past studies and scientists have shown that methyl bromide contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer and the product has been phased out in the US and many other countries since 2000. It has also been observed that Sufuryl Fluoride penetrates and dissipates through wall coverings and wood members better than methyl bromide, leaving the fumigated structure with even less fumigant than methyl bromide.

How do we know when it is safe to return?
Tenting Before Fumigation
The state licensed fumigator will check every room, closet and space for any remaining gas in the structure. Once cleared, the licensed fumigator will post a notice of Re-Occupancy at the front of your building indicating the day and time for safe re-entry. Structures can only be re-occupied when concentration of fumigant is less than 1 part per million, this includes a considerable safety margin. Tests have shown that exposure to 100 parts per million presented no adverse affects on subjects. Fumigants are a true gas, not a vapor, leave no residue and aeration is rapid. Studies show that, in most structures, less than 1 part per million remain after tarp removal and no detectable levels of fumigant within 24 hours after aeration.

What are the problems associated with fumigation?
Fumigations are more costly and inconvenient than localized treatments. The item or structure to be fumigated must be vacated for several days depending on the infestation. It is also more labor and material intensive and has a higher cost of treatment. However, fumigations are all encompassing treatment and come with a warranty against re-infestation depending on the insect. When the whole structure is treated, all target insects are killed, even the undetected and unreachable ones. This is particularly critical if more than one colony has infested the structure.

Fumigation is hard on the house and adjacent landscape. No doubt about it. Unfortunately, as careful as fumigators try to be, workmen walking around and tarping a structure may take a toll on plants, landscaping and roof shingles. We use reputable fumigators that are thoroughly trained and experienced to keep disturbance and interference to an absolute minimum. The vast majority of homes we fumigate, experience no damage.   

What about other residue & side effects?
Tented Multi-Unit Condominium
Understandably most people are weary when a gas is used in their home. Sufuryl fluoride, used since 1961, is non-flammable, non-corrosive, odorless and leaves no residue. Sufuryl fluoride is lighter than air, and after your house is thoroughly vented and tested by a state certified professional, the little fumigant that may remain in wall voids and attics will dissipate up into the atmosphere just as quickly as it penetrated the structure to eliminate drywood termites. Over a million buildings have been fumigated with Sufuryl fluoride. Many homes are fumigated each month with no problems. All precautions are taken to ensure not only your safety, but also ours and that of our inspectors and experienced crew members.

What preparations should be done to the house?
When a fumigation schedule is requested and a date is set, Marin Termite and the fumigation crew will provide you with printed instructions including a preparation checklist including a list of items to remove from the structure before the set fumigation date. Additionally, we remain available to answer questions via phone (415-456-9620)