Wednesday, November 21, 2012


What are Wood Boring Beetles?

Present on all continents but Antarctica, wood-destroying Beetles (coleopteran order) are part of our ecosystem and help decompose dead and dying trees into rich organic material. Depending on their specie, wood-boring beetles can infest wood from healthy and green to dried lumber, seasoned wood and even older antique furniture. Some beetles live for years causing damage to appearance and structural integrity of infested wood.

The most common species in Marin County are the Lyctid (true powder post), the Bostrichic (false powder post), the Anobiid (deathwatch or furniture) and the Cerambycid (old house borer). A few other species like the Buprestid (flat head or metallic), the oedermerid (wharf borer) and the scolytid (bark borer) are also found outside and sometimes in exterior siding. Seldom seen by humans, the beetle’s most visible sign of infestation are emergence holes on the surface of infested wood members and powder beneath.

True Powder Post Beetles (Lyctid)

The Lyctus beetle is the only “True Powder Post” beetle and produces a very fine talcum-like powder when emerging through small round exit holes. Indigenous and most common in California, it favors seasoned hardwood (oak, ash, mahogany, etc.) and can be seen in hardwood floors as well as furniture. Sometimes Lyctus beetles emerge from new furniture made with previously infested wood containing dormant eggs. It can re-infest the same untreated wood to produce new generations and eggs will hatch with warmer conditions ideal for survival and reproduction. Re-infestation is unlikely in varnished and treated wood.

False Power Post Beetles

Often referring to several wood-destroying species such as Anobiid, Bostrichid and Cerambycid, they are found worldwide in structural wood members and furniture. Emergence holes are often seen on the surface of wood members, door and window frames and antique furniture. Eggs survive for years and hatch when the environmental conditions (temperature and humidity) are conducive to their survival and reproduction.

Polycaon Stoutii (Bostrichid)

Commonly known as the “Black Polycaon”, it is one of the largest wood-boring California beetles. Easily spotted by humans it rarely re-infests wood and favors hardwood over softwood. Sometime infesting structural wood members of homes in fairly humid areas, it emerges through large round holes to mate and reproduce.

 Treatment and Prevention

For larger infestations, fumigation of the entire structure is the only way to ascertain complete eradication of wood-boring beetles. Since fumigation have no residual effect, it will not prevent re-infestation if local conditions (humidity and temperature) are favorable to local species. All beetles favor fairly moist wood (17% to 30% humidity) and the best is to eliminate or limit humidity as feasible with proper drainage in and around the structure and dryer basements and crawl spaces, and vapor membranes covering substructure soils. 

In a dryer environment, or once the excessive moisture condition has been addressed in basements and crawlspaces, a surface treatment with a borate based material such as TimBor or BoraCare (dosidium octaborate tetrahydrate) will deter further re-infestation of wood boring beetles. We also recommend periodic applications of wood preservatives or coatings (paint or vanishes) on exterior wood members to deck, stairs or balconies to deter further re-infestation.

Call Marin Termite Control at (415) 456-9620
to speak to one of our state licensed inspectors and to schedule an inspection.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Fall is here and Dampwood Termites are swarming and visible inside and outside structures. Off all the varieties of Termites indigenous to the United States, the Dampwood Termite (Zootermopsis Angusticollis) of the Hodotermitidae family, is the biggest and most visible termite. With a bright orange-redish color, light brown see-through wings over ¾ of an inch long and a body almost a ½ inch long, these termites appear huge at over 1 inch in length. They are indigenous to California and we often see them in Marin and Sonoma Counties from early September to late November, depending on the warmth and moisture of the Indian summer. 

Where do Dampwood Termites Come From? Termites are indigenous to California and were feeding on wood long before the dinosaurs ever walked the earth. As their name indicates, dampwood termites only thrive in a damp or wet environment. They are often seen in the forest by brooks, swamps, lakes, fallen trees and tree stumps with moisture. We can find them in houses around leaking toilets or stall showers, at damp earthwood contacts or planter beds built-up against the exterior wood siding. Sometimes we will find them in damp stumps or roots near or under structures with seepage, a leak or another water source from landscaping, a fountain or drainage. Termites carve galleries within wood members and produce damp fecal pellets that clump together. Most often the wood will be so wet that lichen, fungus and dry rot is also visible. Beware of the soldier’s big mandibles, they can pinch!
What Are Termite Swarms? From early to late fall, some colony members grow sexual organs and wings. Known as Alates, or swarmers, these winged reproductives wait for the right weather to fly and mate. Most will succumb to predators (birds, insects, reptiles), others will never find a mate and die of exhaustion. Their chance of survival is rather small, which is why they swarm in large numbers. We often see them or their wings caught in spider webs or trapped by windows and skylights. Dampwood termites swarm around sunset and are irresistibly attracted to lights, which is why we see them by porches, patios and large windows. Though they may enter structures, they will not establish a colony unless they find damp wood members around a bathroom, laundry room, kitchen or a planter with a water source.
What treatment is needed? The best is to remove the moisture source, make repairs needed and dry out the area with ventilation, proper flashings and sealing. Often the moisture that attracted the dampwood termites will also lead to other infestations and deterioration such as fungi infestation, wood decay damage (dry rot), wood boring beetles and even subterranean termites, which may then require repairs and treatment.
 Can I Prevent Drywood Termite Infestations? Since termites are indigenous to California, the best is to keep homes well sealed and painted and have a licensed professional periodically inspect your home. We recommend inspections every 3 to 5 years. It is long enough for a trained professional to detect visible signs of infestations and not too long for them to cause substantial structural damage.

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

Monday, May 21, 2012


Dealing with Carpenter Ants

Of the dozen species of carpenter ants living in North America, six live in the western US. The most common and indigenous to California is the “Western Black Carpenter Ant” (Componotus modoc) that nest in trees and wooden structures. Carpenter ants are most common in wooded areas of Marin and Sonoma counties. Unlike Termites and wood-boring beetles that eat wood for a living, carpenter ants forage on honeydew, sugars, starches, amino acids, minerals & vitamins. But they can cause damage to insulation and wood members when invading structures. Carpenter ants are eusocial insects that have several queens in the main colony and often establish satellite colonies with additional queens, workers, soldiers and winged reproductives (alates). These swarmers will fly during the swarming season to mate and start new colonies.

Nesting and Infestations:
Like termites and wood boring-beetles, they contribute to the ecosystem’s cycle to return dead trees and wood scraps to the ground as nutrient rich organic material. They nest mostly in dead or hollow trees, trunks, stumps, branches and firewood but will also establish satellite colonies in wooden structures such as sheds, garages and homes. They will excavate wood and insulation and in structures favor tongue and grove open beam ceilings and wall voids. Though they can infest dry areas, they prefer some humidity and an infestation within a structure may reveal an unknown leak or source of moisture intrusion to a roof, chimney, wall, window, condensation or a failing plumbing fixture. Infestation becomes apparent with visible insect activity or debris (frass) falling from ceilings or wall voids, where debris is expelled by carpenter ants busy cleaning their galleries. Debris often looks like small pencil shavings mixed with insulation, other debris and insect body parts. They often travel between the main nest and satellite colonies using power lines, tree branches, bushes and vines touching the structure, as well as railing, fences, decks, balconies, arbors, gutters, downspouts and such features connected to the building. Activity is most prominent in late afternoons on warmer days. The main nest could be off-site, at a neighbor’s property, across the street or in a nearby open space and therefore not accessible for treatment and eradication.

Carpenter Ant vs. Termites: Both carpenter ant and termite alates (winged reproductives) sometimes fly (swarm) at the same time and can easily be mistaken. Carpenter ants have elbowed antennae, thin waists between the head, thorax and abdomen as well as two pairs of wings of different sizes, while termites have straight antennae, a thick waist and two pairs of similar size wings. Termites sometime tear off their wings, which may also lead to confusing them with carpenter ant workers that often forage about for food. Carpenter ants will most often travel in the afternoon through tree limbs and power lines and are easy to spot on wood trim, ceilings and gutters. On the other hand termites tend to fly or swarm on warm days following a rainy or foggy period when moisture is present in the air and are often seen by windows as they try and floy out of buildings.

Preventing and Eliminating Infestations: Being indigenous to California, carpenter ants are always around in the early spring and throughout summer. The best is to prevent infestations through preventative maintenance as proactive measures can go a long way and sometimes prevent the use of chemical treatment. When all else fails then it may be necessary to treat wall, ceiling and eave areas as well as set baits to eliminate persistent infestations. Left unattended, carpenter ants can become annoying invaders generating lots of debris to interior living areas and can also create damage to insulation and wood members of the structure.

Here are a few prevention tips:
1)      Correct roof or plumbing leaks and other moisture problems that will attract carpenter ants and can also lead to damage and deterioration to wood members
2)      Periodically clear roofs and gutters of tree debris to avoid built-up, moisture retention and food source as clogged gutters can contain seeds and food substance sought by carpenter ants
3)      Eliminate earth-wood contacts where soil cover or mulch is against the siding of a home, especially soil covering that is deteriorated or old and rotting
4)      Trim tree limbs, vines, bushes and vegetation away from roof, decks, fences, arbors & siding several feet to create a break between the environment and the house
5)      If you have vines growing against the house, decks, balconies, fences, arbors, try and trim them or isolate them from these to make it harder for ants to travel to and from the exterior
6)      Seal cracks and openings at foundation, siding and eaves, especially where plumbing and utility pipes as well as cables and wires enter from the outside.
7)      Check also utility wires, data cables and other wiring for lighting, sound systems or laundry lines leading to or going through trees that can be an easy point of entry for carpenter ants
8)      Stack firewood, lumber, recycling material and compost piles away from the structure and elevate it off the ground. Never store firewood in the garage, basement or in other areas of the home, as firewood is a prime nesting area for carpenter ants, wood boring beetles and termites
9)      Pay attention to bird activity as birds often feed on carpenter ants and wood peckers will also drum on wood infested by carpenter ants
10)  Get a period service to have your property monitored and treated during the carpenter ant season before a large satellite colony is well established inside your home’s walls and ceilings.
11)  Call us if you suspect activity or for periodic inspections and treatments. To eradicate and deter carpenter ant infestations we use low toxicity insecticide (Termidor, Tim-Bor, MaxForce), bait gel and/or repellents.

Call our inspectors at Marin Termite Control at (415) 456-9620 to schedule an appointment and check our website at and our blog ( and facebook page ( for additional information.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Why treat before or during construction?

With many wood-destroying organisms (wood boring beetles, fungi, porea, mildew, mold, subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites, carpenter ants, etc.) indigenous to our area, treating a structure prior to or during the construction is a small investment that goes a long way.

Along with good quality construction and use of correct material for the job, a pre-treatment will result in a dependable and long lasting defense against many wood-destroying insects. Sodium borate based materials (Tim-Bor & Bora-Care) are the some of the greenest and most eco-friendly natural pesticides available to date. Coming from the salt mines of Boron in California, this diatomaceous earth product is odorless, colorless, vaporless and has a lasting effect against insects and fungi when applied to framing wood members and sheathing. Non-repellent products like Altriset & Termidor bond to the treated soil and do not leach away, nor affect plant life, making them among the most reliable and eco-friendly insecticide to treated soil.

When is the best time to pre-treat? 

Soil Treatment: For concrete slabs and perimeter foundations (constructions or additions) the best time to treat the soil with Altriset or Termidor is just after all the preparation work has been completed (foundation forms installed, utility conduits in place, sub-slab gravel laid out) and prior to the sub-slab moisture membrane installation and concrete pouring. The concrete can then be poured right after the treatment is performed.

Perimeter Treatment: When a structure is already present it is still advised to perform a soil treatment to the perimeter of the concrete foundation prior to installation of concrete patios, walkways, porches, grade stairways, asphalt driveways and tiled or brick covered areas. It also makes sense to treat interior slab areas before any floor covering are installed to prevent drilling of hardwood, tiled or finished floors. We also recommend treating soil areas beneath decks built low above soil grade as all these areas will be inaccessible later.

Wood Treatment: For constructions, renovations, additions, remodeling or repairs the optimum time is to treat all accessible wood members with Tim-Bor or Bora-Care when the framing and sheathing are exposed and prior to the installation of the moisture membranes, felt paper, insulation and wall, ceiling, roof and floor coverings. The treatment is water based and completion of the work can then resume within a few hours once the treated areas have dried. These treatments are advised when doing a complete remodel, but also when remodeling only some rooms like bathrooms, kitchens and particularly rooms with moisture conditions. They are also advised in basements, crawl spaces, sleeper floors (wood framing over concrete slabs), attic areas  and other ceiling, floor and wall voids, particularly before theses area are enclosed.

What warranties?
Soil Treatment: We provide a 5-year warranty against re-infestation of Subterranean Termites to all soil areas pre-treated with Altriset or Termidor.

Wood Treatment: We offer a 5-Year warranty against re-infestation of Drywood Termites to all accessible wood members pre-treated with Tim-Bor or Bora-Care.

What Impact do pre-treatments have on the environment?

The Altriset or Termidor soil treatment is specific to the soil below slabs and around perimeter foundations. Once the slab or foundations are poured and the soil around them is back filled, the treatment is out of sight and since the product bonds with the treated soil it does not leach away. Altriset's ingredient (Chlorantaniliprole) is specific to termites and reported to have NO effect on other insects (like bees), warm blooded animals, humans or even plants. Altriset is the only reduced-risk termiticide available, has the lowest toxicity level of any termite treatment and does not even have a "Caution" chemical label. Termidor's active ingredient (Fipronil) is low-toxicity, found in some pet products for flea control, is not systemic and does not affect plant life. No lingering odors, vapors or fumes emanate from either products, yet both products are effective for years even when dry.
The Tim-Bor or Bora-Care wood treatment is applied prior to encapsulation (insulation, membranes, siding, roofing, sheetrock). Any treated wood remaining exposed can be sealed, stained or painted. These borate-based products are also good fungicides and herbicides, which is why they are not used in soils. They are among the greenest insecticides that are least toxic to mammals the earth has to offer. No vapors, fumes or odors even after the treatment has dried.

Call Marin Termite Control at 415-456-9620 or visit our website: for additional information!

Friday, January 13, 2012


Marin Termite Control recommends pre-sale inspections
before properties are listed for sale
to remove unknowns and better prepare homes for sale
How often have you heard of, or experienced a failed real estate transaction where buyers withdraw their offer due to unknown infestations or substantial damage and associated repair costs?  Drainage or other excessive moisture conditions are also costly items that can affect the outcome of a transaction.
Sellers & realtors spend time, effort and moneys to prepare, stage and market a home for sale. So it makes no sense to wait for a buyer’s inspection to discover conditions, risk loosing a buyer or negotiate at the 11th hour. Countless times in our past 40 years in business we have inspected beautiful homes and found problems that surprised realtors, homeowners and inspectors alike! In these challenging economic times, it is clearly advantageous to get a pre-sale inspection to help improve disclosures and obtain a faster and smoother real estate sale. Our slogan “Don’t go ‘Buy’ Appearances, Have It Inspected”TM is from years of experience when we have seen beautiful homes surprise buyers, sellers and agents with unknown infestations or damages. 
Pre-sale inspections have many advantages including:
- Buyers less likely to withdraw their offer
- Homeowners can fix conditions before a property is listed for sale
- Sellers & agents can prepare a home for sale prior to public knowledge
- Owners have more time to get bids for treatments and repairs
- Conditions can be fixed before MLS listing is made public
- Agents & sellers are better prepared for negotiating credits
- Gives competitive edge over other properties not inspected
- Shows buyers that sellers & agents are more thorough and prepared
- Improves disclosure statements & helps listing agent better market a home
- Easier to schedule an inspection at the seller’s convenience
- Removes future unknowns, shortens negotiating & smooths transaction
- Sellers are more likely to disclose & discuss information with inspector
- Give better pricing/negotiation based on disclosure & repairs performed
- Cost of inspection is offset by knowledge & buyer withdrawal
- Provides buyers with feeling of preparedness and confidence
- Gives a third party unbiased view of condition of property
- Inspection report is available for review on site buy buyers
- Encourages buyers to wave contingencies and request less negotiating
Our inspections are thorough and our reports are fair, straight to the point, detailed and clear. Reports list active infestations (section 1 items), issues conducive to infestations (section 2 items) and inaccessible areas in need of further inspection (section 3 items). Each item is followed by a recommendation, and treatment costs and repair estimates are provided upon request. Reports are emailed or faxed the next business day and we are available for questions from agents, sellers, buyers and their contractors. Marin Termite Control’s rates are competitive and vary with the size of the home.  Inspection fees for most condo or townhouses are $250 and $350 for a 2000 square foot home with a crawl space. Inspection fees are generally paid at the time of inspection when the inspector reviews findings with the realtors and sellers or buyers.

Call (415) 456-9620 & check our website at for additional information on inspections, treatments and repairs.