In Marin and Sonoma County, Fungus (dry rot), Subterranean, Drywood and Dampwood Termites as well as Wood Boring Beetles and Carpenter Ants are the most common wood-infesting pests.
Termites (Isoptera order) feed on wood using protozoa in their digestive system. Like Ants, Termites are social insects with a complex caste of workers who forage, feed and groom other workers, soldiers who defend the colony and reproductives; the queen(s) and the new winged queens and males also called “Alates” who occasionally fly out to start new colonies (swarm) during swarming periods. In Marin and Sonoma we have three types of termites explained below, each living in slightly different environments and with different habits.
Subterranean Termites: Most common in Marin and Sonoma Counties, the Western Subterranean Termites (Reticulitermes Hesperus) nest and emerge from the ground through cracks and/or voids in the soil and structures. They feed on wood but live in the ground and build mud galleries (aka tubes) to take back the food to the nest and others. We treat the soil with Termidor termiticide along the structure's perimeter foundation and provide a 5-year warranty. This treatment method has proven to be 100% effective as opposed to bait stations that experience failure.
Drywood Termites: More common in Southern California and the Hawaiian Islands, the Western Drywood Termites (Incisitermes Minor) infests and nests directly in wood members. Infestations are more common in southern Marin, often seen on the south side of the structure and not noticeable until pellets appear below infested areas. To eradicate larger infestations we tarp & fumigate the structure with Vikane, Sulfuryl Fluoride and provide a 3 year warranty. Local treatments with Bora-Care, Termidor, TimBor or orange oil (limited warranty) can be done in areas where infested wood members are accessible for treatment.
Dampwood Termites: Mostly found in the forest, Dampwood Termites (Zootermopsis Angusticolis) can only live in a damp to wet wood environment and generally requires no chemical treatment. They rarely infest homes and when they do, they are found near leaks from exterior siding, windows, doors, decks, toilets, showers or other moisture prone areas. They are the largest of all local species and swarm in the fall and are commonly seen flying around exterior lights and windows, often around sunset. Treatment and removing the moisture source to the wood members will stop the infestation, as the insect is unlikely to survive in a dry environment.
Fungi/Dry Rot: Fungus is a plant; a microscopic mushroom that infects unprotected wood. Once the wood is infected, fungus grows and decays the wood where moisture and oxygen are present. Treating decayed wood does not remove the damage. Repairing or replacing infested wood with good quality material and repairs is the only way to eliminate damaged areas. Using pressure treated lumber in exterior or moist environments is best. On minor and/or dormant fungi infested areas, application of Bora-Care or Tim-Bor and keeping the area dry will deter further fungal activity.
Wood Boring Beetles: Most wood boring beetles in this area are Lyctids (true powder post), Bostrichid (false powderpost), Anobiid (furniture/deathwatch) and Cerambycid (old house borer). They infest wood with specific moisture content and are mostly seen in wooded areas (Mill Valley, San Geronimo Valley, Lucas Valley and in western Marin/Sonoma). To eradicate large infestations we tarp & fumigate the structure with Vikane, Sulfuryl Fluoride and apply local treatments with Bora-Care or Tim-Bor insecticide on small and accessible infested wood members. Smaller local infestation can be treated with Bora-Care or Tim-Bor and encapsulated with a wood preservative.
Carpenter Ants: Though they do not eat wood like termites, Carpenter Ants (Camponotus modoc) carve areas in between wood members and insulation to nest and raise their young. Once adult, carpenter ants return to the outdoors to forage for food. As they are part of the ecosystem it is hard to keep Carpenter Ants at bay. To control them, keep all tree limbs and vines trimmed and clear of your home as they use them as highway access. Stack fire wood away from the structure or dispose of it if not used. Spackle a non-toxic repellent (such as Tanglefoot) on you power lines just before the connection to you house. If this does not suffice, call us for a localized treatment to erradicate and deter infestations.
Carpenter Bees: They too do not eat wood like termites or wood boring beetles, but carve out a main tunnel with several side pockets to lay their eggs and seal the chambers with honey type filling that will feed the larve and future bee. Carpenter Bees are polinators so its best to deter them from infesting rather than kill them. Only the female has a dart and in spite of their loud and low monotone buzzing, they are not agressive like wasps or other honey bees. They are not eusocial insects like honey bees but rather independant bees who like to nest nearby each other, which is way they are often see in small numbers. They prefer softer sappy wood but will also nest in hardwood. The best is to replace and relocate the infested wood member during winter time if possible, or plug the holes with an epoxy wood willer. Painting or staining the wood member is a good way of detering the insects from re-infesting.
Horntail Wasp: At 1 to 1.5 inches with a 3/4 ovispositor stout, it appears more ominous than it is as most horntail wasps do not have stingers. The adult Horntail Wasp does not eat wood but their larvae do. The female lays her eggs in weakened trees, often after a forest fire and before the trees are harvested. The eggs go dormant while the tree is converted to lumber. Once the lumber is used in construction and several molts and years later, the adult emerges and tries to exit the structure.That's generally when owners can see the insect emerging from a wall or flying inside their structure. The good news is that these wasps do not re-infest structures and treatment is not necessary. Simply let the insect outside and plug the exit hole left behind.
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