This blog will discuss the advantages of using XT-2000 orange oil for the contol of drywood termites and some other wood boring insects. I am posting a list of questions I got from readers of my column in California and the answers to the questions. There are also a few general termite questions as well. If you still have questions after going through these, then I will be happy to answer it for you.
You write that fumigation is no longer a good method of control for drywood termites and you push orange oil. How about some of the other methods? Are they valid? Do they work?
H.M., from Sebastopol
There have been other methods of control tried but most only allow spot treatments. Heat and electro guns are two. There have been other methods tried but they have failed. Electro guns supposedly shoot enough electricity into the wood to kill the termites. It has worked in some cases but has failed in others. One large national company that used to use electro guns has stopped because of callbacks. Heat has actually progressed to where it is considered sufficient to control termites in the entire house. There is a lot of preparation needed for heat treatment and the time and labor cost is reflected in your bill for the treatment. It takes six to eight hours to heat a piece of wood internally to 125° Fahrenheit which is necessary to kill the termites. In addition, the pretreatment preparation required of the homeowner is extensive and, if not completed properly, heat can be extremely damaging to property, such as plastics, electronics, and many other items. and there was at least one instance of a house exploding because of the heat and propane gas. I can’t recommend this treatment.
Approximately ten years ago orange oil became a player in the termite control game and a very good player indeed. While there are several kinds of orange oil available to the pest control professional, one brand, XT-2000 stands out. It is the only orange oil formulation that can be used to treat entire homes. The others are only good for spot treatments. Orange oil is unique in that the capillary action of the product works in many ways like fumigation, but without the same risks! XT-2000 Orange Oil moves through wood like a gas, along the path of least resistance, filling up the treated piece of wood until the termites have no place to hide. Unlike fumigation, XT-2000 Orange Oil treatments are specifically targeted to the area of infestation, so you do not need to move out of your home during the treatment. Because of sophisticated optical equipment such as the borescope, inspectors have the ability to located otherwise hidden termite problems and treat them. Since orange oil has come on the scene, over 500,000 buildings have been treated. This includes homes, churches, schools, apartment complexes, and assorted commercial buildings. There has been a very low callback rate with this treatment which demonstrates the effectiveness of the orange oil.
We had our house tented and fumigated twice for drywood termites. We were told they they can still come back. Isn’t there anything a homeowner can do to prevent them from infesting our home repeatedly?
W. L., Santa Cruz
I have good news! I have been doing some research on this since there are so many repeated fumigations. Even orange oil, which I recommend, isn’t a permanent solution. Now there is a solution. There is a company in the LA area that uses a silica product to coat all of the interior wood in a house. They use a pneumatic duster to apply it and the electro-magnetism causes the desiccant dust to stick to all vertical and horizontal surfaces, thereby coating the wood. The company in LA says it can get rid of existing infestations with this material. They didn’t tell me how they do that, but I expect treating existing infestations with orange oil (XT-2000) and then using the silica or diatomaceous earth to coat all of the interior wood framing would be the most effective treatment.
The silica gel is a desiccant, as is diatomaceous earth, and it is completely non-toxic. Desiccants kill insects by causing them to dry out. Any termite that even lands on a piece of treated wood will die. Either product can be used for this purpose and neither product will ever break down. Now if you have had your house treated for termites by structural fumigation, you can have it protected from future infestations. There are several other companies looking into this procedure and when they let me know they are doing it, I will put a link to their websites on my website. If everyone in California had their house protected with silica or diatomaceous earth, the fumigation industry will soon be history as it should be.
Not only will this procedure protect the wood from drywood termites, it will protect it from wood boring beetles. Also, Argentine ants, which like to live in walls will find they are no longer welcome. It will also control other pests that may get into wall voids such as bird or rat mites and cockroaches.
A totally non-toxic way to protect your house from drywood termites and other pests. This is very good news for the consumer.
Since the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, just announced that they would be controlling greenhouse gases, will this have an affect on the usage of sulfuryl fluoride in fumigations?
D. L. San Leandro
Absolutely. Researchers calculated that one kilogram of sulfuryl fluoride emitted into the atmosphere has a global warming potential approximately 4,800 times greater than one kilogram of carbon dioxide. That is pretty impressive. Go to http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu/Releases/?releaseID=965 for more information. The chemical’s annual use in California creates emissions equivalent to the carbon dioxide produced by 1 million cars and California accounts for 60% of the sulfuryl fluoride used in the world. I believe with a record like this, sulfuryl fluoride won’t be around much longer. I have contacted the EPA in order to get a commitment from them and when I do, I will post it in the column. I would love to write the obituary for this dangerous product.
You have written several columns about orange oil and fumigation and why you prefer the orange oil. I read some of the columns but have to make a decision. Could you put all of your arguments in one column so I can make an intelligent decision on how to proceed.
T. S., Berkeley
For many years the primary method of controlling drywood termites was to use sulfuryl fluoride (Vikane) as a fumigant. The house had to be wrapped and sealed and the gas injected. It was and still is a major inconvenience for homeowners as they had to do a lot to prepare for the fumigation as well as stay out of the house overnight. It was thought that once the house was cleared that the fumigant would dissipate harmlessly into the atmosphere. A recent study by the University of California at Irvine has destroyed that myth. It turns out that sulfuryl fluoride is a major greenhouse gas that can last about 30 years in the atmosphere and may last up to 100 years. This study can be found at (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090121144059.htm). Another study by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography confirms Irvine’s findings. It can be found at (http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu/Releases/?releaseID=965. The Scripps study says researchers calculated that one kilogram of sulfuryl fluoride emitted into the atmosphere has a global warming potential approximately 4,800 times greater than one kilogram of carbon dioxide. That is pretty impressive.
Also homes and commercial buildings are built differently now than when sulfuryl fluoride was in its prime. The homes made today are constructed much tighter to control energy and that can impede the flow of gas throughout the building leaving some areas untreated. This is one reason why fumigation has a higher re-infestation rate than orange oil treatments.
Another important fact about sulfuryl fluoride is that when it breaks down it leaves fluoride in the soil and in your home. Flouride has been linked to a number of deaths, particularly to children and the elderly. Inhaled fluoride has been implicated in acute respiratory failure.
Finally, homes fumigated with sulfuryl fluoride are likely to get reinfested. This is not the case with the companies that use orange oil and also treat all the wood in the house with a sodium borate or silica gel. When homes are treated by these companies, drywood termites and wood boring beetles will never be a problem again. We are a decade into the 21st century and we need to get away from using toxic pesticides whenever we have a pest problem. Consider the following facts: Crop losses caused by pesticides cost farmers and producers approximately $1.4 billion yearly; bird losses due to pesticides ring up at $2.2 billion yearly; and groundwater contamination at $2.0 billion yearly. (Cornell University, Prof. David Pimentel, Pesticide Impact on the Environment, 2005 Impact Statement)
Ironically, studies have shown that often less than 0.1 percent of an applied pesticide reaches the target pest, leaving 99.9 percent as an unintended pollutant in the environment. (Jess Silver, Becky Riley, 2001, Environmental Impact of Pesticides Commonly Used onUrban Landscapes)
According to Thomas Kerns, author of Environmentally Induced Illnesses, pesticides may be responsible for many “adverse health effects” including cancer, immune system dysfunction, neural damage such as Parkinson’s Disease, and respiratory disorders, just to name a few.
Studies have found that pesticide residue can be found not only in yards and outside areas where children and adults play and sit, but on household items such as carpets, toys, pillows, bedding, furniture, and other items. (The Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, 2008, Pesticides)
A 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that women who lived near California farm fields sprayed with organochlorine pesticides were more likely to give birth to autistic children.
Not only shouldn’t you even consider fumigating your house with sulfuryl flouride, I think it would be a good idea to prohibit the use of any pesticides in or near schools, day care centers, retirement centers, hospitals and similar places. There are safer alternatives to fumigation such as orange oil and there are safer alternatives to all pest problems.
Having been unsuccessful at finding the answer to my question searching Google, I wondered if you might tell me if you are aware of any need for caution to young ladies who are pregnant based on a potential for adverse reactions to XT-2000 and Tim-bor insecticides if they are exposed? I’m most interested in the potential for any adverse influence of these agents on fetal development during pregnancy.
R R, San Francisco
As far as we know there is little or no risk. Toxicology studies have shown no adverse affects from XT-2000. A study in Israel showed that people with asthma & bronchitis will breathe better due to the purification of d-limonene, the active ingredient in XT-2000, exposure. TimBor is a sodium borate which is also a natural product. I know of no incidents or studies showing that it is not safe. On the other hand I would never recommend that a pregnant woman expose herself to sulfuryl fluoride which is dangerous.
I had a couple of companies come to my house to give me estimates on using orange oil for my termite problem. I refuse to fumigate my house after reading your blog. One company wants to use XT2000 orange oil and the other uses something called ProCitra. Which is better or is there any difference?
F. G., Fremont
There is a lot of difference. ProCitra only contains about 10% d-limonene, the active ingredient, while XT2000 contains 92% d-limonene. You can only use ProCitra for spot treating but you can have your whole house, or apartment complex or commercial building treated with XT2000. It is far more effective. I would never recommend using ProCitra for termite control. I can recommend companies throughout California that use the real stuff, XT2000.
Are there any safety requirements for the people who tent houses? I read where someone was killed when they fell off a roof yet I see these guys just walking around on roofs, apparently unconcerned.
F. I., San Francisco
The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) does have some safety guidelines, but they are rarely followed. They require scaffolds and lifts for safety reasons but don’t enforce it. You would think that a company that is supposed to be interested in customer safety would be concerned about their own, but apparently they aren’t. If you see a fumigation in progress and you don’t see some safety equipment such as scaffolds and lifts, then make a note of the name of the company so you will never use it in the future.
Companies that use orange oil don’t have to use such safety equipment but some of them aren’t perfect either. One company mixes Termidor in with the orange oil for some reason. Why they would mix a pesticide in with a natural product is beyond me and I wouldn’t recommend them either.
If you see someone spraying trees or lawns when the wind is over 10 mph isn’t practicing safe pest control either. Pest control companies have a responsibility to practice safety when plying their trade. They should be wearing the proper safety equipment and they shouldn’t be doing anything to endanger their customers or bystanders and they shouldn’t be mixing products that don’t need to be mixed (orange oil and Termidor). Most companies are good, safety conscious organizations, but a few will spoil it for everyone. They give the industry a bad name. I can give you the names of some companies that I know practice safety and use common sense when applying their materials.
I recently bought a house that I had inspected and was told of previous termite damage. They had an annual contract with a company and therefore there was no active infestation. After doing remodeling I noticed active termites beneath the wallpaper. I contacted the company and was told the warranty ended with change of ownership of house. I was very upset. Nonetheless I had others look at termite eradication and basically I don’t have the money right now.
I am very willing to do it myself I just need guidance on what to use. Should I use a bait system or one time treatment with liquids. I don’t mind doing the work, so just let me know what to use and I would really appreciate it. This is by far the biggest investment I have ever made and I just want to get rid of the termites.
R. S., Walnut Creek
Bait systems are worthless for eradicating an existing infestation. Why would termites leave a perfectly edible house to go to a bait station outside? Bait stations are good for monitoring activity around your house and letting you know when termites are in the area.
As for termiticide treatments, you can’t do it yourself as all the effective termiticides are restricted use, which means you have to have a license to obtain them. You also need special equipment to do a job properly. The only way to effectively treat your house is by having a professional do it. I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but it is the truth. I can recommend good companies for both subterranean and drywood termite control.
I read a column you wrote several years ago where you recommended that the people get their home fumigated. Now you rail against it. Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?
S. L., Los Angeles
Not at all. I have recommended fumigation in the past. Actually I have probably fumigated several hundred homes in my career. I also used to drink beer, smoke cigarettes and eat meat. I don’t do any of those anymore either. When you find safer alternatives to something you go for it. Orange oil is much safer and much more effective than fumigation, so I recommend it now.
We recently had a termite inspection and the inspector said we have powder post beetles in the joists under our house. He quoted quite a bit to treat for them. Would we have powder post beetles under our house. I thought only termites could damage the wood.
P. L., Lodi
You can certainly have beetles infesting the wood under your house but they probably aren’t powder post beetles. The fact that your inspector misidentified them should be enough reason to call someone else. The beetles in the wood under your house are most likely anobiid (ano-bee-id) beetles. These beetles belong to the family Anobiidae. Several species infest wood while others are pests in dried foods, such as the drugstore beetle. The common name for the wood destroying anobiid beetles is deathwatch beetles or false powder post beetles. The true powder post beetles (family Bostrichidae, subfamily Lyctinae) feed almost exclusively on hardwoods. They can show up in your crawlspace if you have oak wooden floors. Joists are usually made from softwoods such a pine and true powder post beetles rarely feed on softwoods.
There are several groups that you have to be concerned about. The long-horned beetles (family Cerambycidae) are occasionally found in the wood in new homes. They are also common in firewood. Most species, but not all, will not re-infest dried wood. The larvae (known as round-headed borers) have a life cycle of a year or more before they pupate into adults and exit the wood. They leave behind fairly large round holes in the wood. Two species, the old house borer and the newhouse borer can re-infest dried wood so it is important to try to find any specimens if you suspect you have these beetles.
Another group of beetles occasionally found in homes are metallic wood borers (family Buprestidae). The larvae are known as flat-headed borers. These beetles have a relatively long life cycle and may emerge from the wood more than five years after it is installed in a home. They leave distinctive oval-shaped exit holes that are often packed with frass (wood shavings). The good news is that these beetles never re-infest and no treatment is necessary.
The anobiid beetles mentioned above can do significant damage if left unchecked. They usually are found in crawlspaces but can work their way throughout the house if left alone. True powder post beetles are not as common but can be found anywhere and they often infest antique furniture as well as hardwoods in a house.
Applying a sodium borate to the wood will prevent any beetles from re-infesting it. It would be a good idea to treat all exposed unfinished wood in a house with a sodium borate to prevent wood destroying insects of any species from attacking it. If the beetles are firmly entrenched, you will probably want to have the wood treated with orange oil. Fumigation is not necessary to control wood-boring beetles. If you live in a house with a crawlspace or if you have exposed wood outside, you should probably have your home inspected. This is particularly important if you live in a small community far from the larger cities where there may be a shortage of competent inspectors.
When we bought our house three years ago the realtor arranged for a termite inspection and treatment with Premise (active ingredient Imidalcloprid) and a three-year guarantee. The three years are almost up and I would like to know if renewing the guarantee is a good idea. Would I be just as well off to pay for an annual or bi-annual inspection and then treat if necessary?
H. R, Fremont
The two best termiticides presently available are Termidor and Premise. Both are labeled for outside perimeter use only now. However this is a problem so I would keep the guarantee in affect. If you have a home built on a slab and you have had a termite job performed recently, you may want to read this carefully. Subterranean termites live in the soil and enter homes through the expansion joint between the foundation and the main slab or through a crack in the slab or around plumbing that penetrates the slab. Up until a couple of years ago, a termite crew would drill holes in the slab along the inside of the house and then treat the soil around the outside of the house. The purpose was to prevent termites from entering from the expansion joint or from coming up the outside of the house under the stucco. Recently, two termiticides, Termidor and Premise, have put out labels that allow the outside of the house to be treated as well as the area inside where the termites are active. They no longer have to drill the inside wall which often involves pulling carpet and drilling through tiles.
This all sounds good, right? Not so fast. All the companies I have talked to that do termite work told me that when they drill holes in sidewalks, patios and other concrete areas that are next to the home, they use a sub-slab injector to pump the termiticide into the holes. This is contrary to what the label says and the label is the law. Also it does not effectively protect your house from termites. The Termidor label says:
Where physical obstructions, such as concrete walkways adjacent to foundation elements, prevent trenching, treatment may be made by rodding alone. When soil type and/or conditions make trenching prohibitive, rodding may be used with rod holes no more than 12 inches apart. Exterior drilling and treatment of sub-soil is necessary for concrete structures adjoining the foundation such as patios, porches and sidewalks, to complete the exterior perimeter treatment zone. For driveways, exterior drilling is necessary only around building supports or wall elements that are permanently and physically located at driveway joints. Rod holes must be spaced so as to achieve a continuous treatment zone and in no case be more than 12 inches apart.
I think the label is pretty clear that these areas have to be rodded and the termite folks should be making holes large enough to insert their ground rods. Otherwise they aren’t going to be able to get the material to the footer as the label specifies. They are basically spraying the top of the ground beneath the concrete slab. If the material would leach down to the footer there wouldn’t be any reason to trench and rod, they could just spray the surface around the house.
The only way to effectively treat a slab would be with a four foot ground rod inserted into the drilled holes. The purpose of getting the termiticide down to the footer is to prevent termites from coming in contact with it and then climbing up the inside of the footer and entering the home. If you only use a sub-slab injector the termites can crawl under the termiticide and be able to enter the home.
Since Termidor is very effective in killing colonies because the workers carry it back and contaminate the colony (instead of repelling them like previous termiticides), it would be better to do a “complete treatment” by using Termidor inside the house where the termites are active and then installing a baiting system similar to Advance, Firstline, etc. around the perimeter to monitor and control new problems. That would be a complete treatment using two different products and would be much better for the customer as they would be getting a treatment that would be effective. Also they wouldn’t be getting their sidewalks, patios drilled when there is no point to it if a ground rod isn’t used.
I contacted a termite control company. When I asked about whether they offer Orange Oil treatment, they say the don’t use it because it’s flammable. Even after it’s been on the wood for awhile. Is there any information you have about this claim?
- J., Los Angeles
That is nonsense. He has no idea what he is talking about. Over 500,000 homes and businesses have been treated with orange oil in the last ten years and not a single one caught fire because of the orange oil. The government rates XT-2000 Orange Oil® as combustible. A combustible product has a higher flash point than products labeled as flammable; the higher the flash point, less flammable; XT-2000 Orange Oil® is not as much of a fire hazard as a flammable product. A couple of years ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) required fumigators to use lifts or scaffolds when putting up tents on houses for their own safety. Very few companies bother with this and someone was killed earlier this year when he fell off a roof. It is clear that the fumigators, for the most part, don’t look out for their own safety so how can we expect them to look out for ours when they gas our homes? I will match the safety records of orange oil vs. structural fumigation any day and orange oil will come way out ahead. Fortunately people are starting to realize how dangerous fumigation really is and how it negatively affects the environment. More and more people are using orange oil to solve their drywood termite problems and no, their homes will not burn down.
Recently a reader in Berkeley asked for a comprehensive piece on the reasons for orange oil vs fumigation and other such approaches when dealing with termites. I found the article helpful but, to me, it would be more helpful to give information about the orange oil approach as well. I see what is wrong with pesticides but include what is right about orange oil. This will be especially useful if I get into an argument (oops, discussion) with my husband about what approach to use in our house.
L.E. in Atherton
There are at least two types of orange oil in use. One, ProCitra is made by Whitmire and contains only 10% d-Limonene, the active ingredient. This product is not very good. The other, XT-2000 contains 95% d-Limonene. The active ingredient, d-Limonene, is a citrus oil derived from the rind of the orange and is used in a variety of products, including pet shampoos and household cleaners. The reason the d-Limonene is so effective against termites is because of its exceptionally high citric acid content. This highly acidic pH level is of minimum consequence to humans, but fatal to termites. It will melt the exoskeletons and eggs of termites that it comes in contact with.
Orange oil is unique in that the capillary action of the product works in many ways like fumigation, but without the same risks! XT-2000 Orange Oil moves through wood like a gas, along the path of least resistance, filling up the treated piece of wood until the termites have no place to hide. Unlike fumigation, XT-2000 Orange Oil treatments are specifically targeted to the area of infestation, so you do not need to move out of your home during the treatment. Because of sophisticated optical equipment such as the borescope, inspectors have the ability to located otherwise hidden termite problems and treat them. Since orange oil has come on the scene, over 500,000 structures, including homes, apartment complexes, condominiums, and commercial buildings have been treated. This includes homes, churches, schools, apartment complexes, and assorted commercial buildings. There has been a very low callback rate with this treatment which demonstrates the effectiveness of the orange oil.
Although orange oil itself only has a residual level of about four days (compared to no residual for fumigation), some companies treat all existing wood in a home with a sodium borate to prevent drywood termites from ever re-infesting and give very good guarantees.
We just moved to California from Florida, where we had a lot of bugs. How serious are pests in California and do you recommend getting an inspection?
If you own a home in California, it is a good idea to hire an independent professional pest inspection service at some point. The home should be inspected for all wood destroying insects, including subterranean and drywood termites, long-horned wood borers, metallic wood borers, powder post beetles, anobiid beetles, carpenter ants, velvety tree ants and carpenter bees. Both of the ants mentioned can cause minor damage in some instances in homes and they should be noted. A competent inspector should be able to diagnose an infestation of any of these groups of insects by examining any exit holes in wood or any wood frass found in the area. Inspections are particularly important in California as several wood destroying insects that live in the state can do serious damage to your home.
Most household pests you can control yourself but wood destroying insects can be difficult. In some cases if you have a crawl space under your home you can do an insect prevention treatment that would include termites and other wood eating insects. This can be done without using toxic pesticides.
How is the inspection performed? The inspection is a careful visual examination of all accessible areas of the building to determine the presence of wood destroying insects and other pests. This includes inspecting the outside of the structure and the crawl space, if one is present. It should also include the inspection of permanently attached storage sheds, decks, porches, etc.
The inspector should indicate all visible evidence of wood destroying insects and any conditions conducive to an infestation. Conducive conditions would be wood making direct contact with the soil or wood or paper products stored in the crawl space.
If you have any of the wood-boring beetles noted above you can usually control them with a sodium borate. Pesticides are not necessary. If you have drywood termites you can have your home treated with XT-2000 orange oil.
How do you pick a company to do an inspection for your home? Most companies that do termite control also do these inspections. It would be better if you can hire someone who isn’t with a termite control company to do the inspection, someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in finding termites or other wood destroying pests. If not, make sure you pick someone with impeccable references. If you would like a reference for someone who can help you with these inspections, please let me know and I can recommend several people.
We are building a home and the builder recommends treating the soil for termites before they pour the slab. They say it will be a lot cheaper than waiting till we get termites. Do you agree with this method?
B. A., San Jose
For many years I was a supporter of treating the soil to prevent termites, but not any more. A major concern is the discovery that the pesticide soil drench procedure is finding its way into the indoor air for literally years and years after application. It was originally thought that the concrete foundation provided a solid barrier to the pesticide. However, air testing technology has shown this is not the case. Just as radon finds its way into a home, entering from the soil, the pesticide vapors also do, moving from the high pressure underneath the home and into the lower pressure inside the home. It enters through cracks in foundation, around plumbing fixtures, etc. and other places where the termites would gain access. This provides strong evidence that this procedure should be eliminated immediately and alternative methods be used. One good alternative would be to use a borate treatment on the wood framing before installing drywall. BoraCare is a good product for this procedure. We have to get away from letting the builders treat the soil with pesticides and convince them to treat the wood before it is built into the home. BoraCare is available online. One supplier is www.pestcontrolsupplies.com.
A friend of mine had his yard granulated with a termite granule. I have never heard of that. Is this something worthwhile doing?
N. R., San Diego
Premise makes a termite granule that has not been received very well from the pest control industry. In fact I think it is a very good product and can be practical in some uses. If you have wood on the ground near your home and it is infested with termites, it would be a good idea to use the Premise termite granules in that area. The granules will not repel termites and when they come in contact with it, they will bring it back to the colony. This is similar to Premise liquid and Termidor which are used in termite treatments. It also has a six month residual so you can put is around your house twice a year.
Don’t get me wrong. If you have termites in your house you still need to get it treated properly. Also, there is no guarantee other termites won’t move under it and get into your house from inside the foundation wall. If you have a crawl space, it would be worthwhile to put the granules under the house along the foundation and around the piers. Of course you would have to do it twice a year as well. As I said before, it won’t guarantee you won’t get termites, but it will certainly help in preventing them and since the granules are inexpensive, it would be worth doing while considering a good, preventive termite treatment properly done by a company that uses Premise or Termidor.
Back to your question. I see no need to granulate your yard for termites. First of all you would have to keep any pets off the treated area, including the area around your house. Secondly, many yards have termites somewhere. Let them live in the yard. It is better than having them live in your house. You can get the Premise termite granules online. You can get this product at www.pestcontrolsupplies.com.
I am a resident/owner of a condominium. There are 36 units in the complex that consists of 6 separate buildings over a common underground garage. The facility is about 18 years old. One pest control company was asked to inspect all units for evidence of termites. In their inspection report they indicated that there was evidence of termites in units in 4 of the 6 buildings. They recommend tenting the entire facility (all 6 units and the garage) and treating with Vikane. Cost and inconvenience aside, several other residents and I are concerned about the possibility of tenting. Some of our concerns and questions are:
Vikane is apparently twice the toxicity of Sarin nerve gas. How will we know it is safe to return?
We are being urged to do the work before August because, at that time, “the rules change” and it will be necessary to stay out for a longer time than the proposed 3 days. Why are the rules changing? Is it because 3 days isn’t safe?
How does the company using the gas measure the residual gas to make sure that it is below the allowable exposure level before we are allowed back in. Or is it just based on “time and trust”?
What happens to the gas when they pull the tents off? What will be the impact on the residents of the condominium complex immediately adjacent to ours? What about the restaurant on the other side of our complex?
What are the viable options? Is Orange Oil a reasonable alternative?
I.J., Redwood City
I get asked this question a lot but haven’t covered it in a long time. First, Vikane (sulfuryl fluoride) is dangerous and you basically have to trust the pest control company to properly clear the building before letting anyone back in. This is usually done correctly, but over the years there have been several incidents where people were severely affected or killed by the gas. It is rare, but it happens.
As for doing it before August, the reason is that they will be required to aerate the building a little differently and it will take longer. Does it mean 3 days isn’t safe? It is as safe as the person doing the work. If he is well trained and concientious, it is safe. If he isn’t, hold your breath.
They have a gas detector that can measure the gas left over in a building and it has to get down to a certain level before they can let you back in. I am familiar with one case (not in California) where the person who was supposed to clear the library that was fumigated, ran through the building. When he came out the back door he said the building was clear. He was lucky.
When they pull the tents off the gas goes into the atmosphere where it is a major greenhouse gas and very bad for the environment. Also, the gas, sulfuryl fluoride, can leave a fluoride residual on everything in the building and fluoride is not safe in itself.
As for alternatives, you hit the nail right on the head when you mentioned orange oil. The entire complex can be competently treated by the right company using XT2000 orange oil (not ProCitra, which is much weaker). There is absolutely no risk or health hazards associated with orange oil and nobody has to vacate their homes while it is being done. Over a half million buildings, including condominiums, have been successfully treated with orange oil in California since it became available. It is a much better method for treating drywood termites and other wood destroying insects.
The house across the street was tented and fumigated with Zythor this week. On Monday about 5 pm the house was tented. On Tuesday about 1 pm, the tenting was removed. I was surprised at the quick turnaround time. Not only was I dismayed that fumigation was being done, I worried about the tenting coming down so soon. Seems like all that gas got released into the air very quickly.
Had I know the neighbor had termites, I would have suggested orange oil treatment. But we only got 2 hours notice from the property manager, at which point everything was a done deal.
This is the info from the termite company’s website. Are you familiar with Zythor? Am I overly concerned?
P. M.,San Jose
Zythor is just another brand name for sulfuryl fluoride. However I see they call it sulfuryl .uoride on their website. Maybe they don’t want you to know it will leave a fluoride residue. There are several brands of fumigants that use sulfuryl fluoride such as Zythor, Vikane, and Profume. They are all the same and they are all greenhouse gases that are detrimental to the environment. Just read the website above and look at all the preparations you have to go through when use get your home fumigated. It is very tedious and very expensive. Everyone should use orange oil to control drywood termites as it is much more effective, much less intrusive on the homeowner and much safer for everyone involved, including the neighbors.
Do you have any idea how many homes have been successfully treated with orange oil, fumigated with Vikane or have been heat treated?
F. V., Anaheim
I am not sure about the heat treatment as that is rarely used anymore. There have been over 500,000 buildings successfully treated with XT-2000 orange oil in the last 10 years or so. Not sure of the numbers on fumigation, but homes that are fumigated are more likely to be re-infested quicker than homes treated with orange oil. Heat treatments have caused damage to material left in the homes and sulfuryl fluoride (Vikane) is very dangerous and is also a major greenhouse gas. It should not even be legal to use this product anymore. Orange oil is much more effective and much safer than the alternatives.
We are having flying insects that my neighbor said are termites. Do they swarm and if so, what should I do?
I. F., Santa Barbara
Both subterranean and drywood termites are swarming now. Subterranean termites are black in color and drywoods are brown. You certainly need to get your home inspected and the termites identified to species. If they are subs, your home should be treated with either Termidor or Premise, both very effective products. If you have drywoods, you need to get your home treated with orange oil (XT2000, not ProCitra). Fumigation is dangerous to you and people close to the house. The state regulatory agency has changed the rules about how long you have to be out of the house during a fumigation. You have to stay out at least 3 days now as re-entry isn’t advisable until the fumigation level is one part per million. It used to be that you stayed out one day and the level was five parts per million, but they just decided (after 50 years) that that level was too dangerous. Homes have to have all the fumigant released at the ridge board instead of through the windows as it was in the past as that was creating a hazard to neighbors and pedestrians. There are other hazards as well such as the residue of fluoride that the fumigant leaves behind and the fact that the fumigant (Vikane – sulfuryl fluoride) is a major greenhouse gas. If it is determined that you have drywood termites, you are much better off with a good company that uses XT2000 orange oil. You will be much safer as will the environment.
We are currently looking for a good termite company to treat our house in Berkeley and have you heard about Planet Orange? How good are they? The person I talked to was very thorough in explaining their program and said they can use XT-2000 orange oil, Bora-care, Premise 75, Premise Foam, Termidor SC & Tim-bor, depending on the extent of the problem and the species of termite involved. Are these the right kinds to use for subterranean & drywood termite? Thanks very much for your help.
F. R., Berkeley
You are on the right track as those products are exactly what should be used for subterranean and drywood termites. Planet Orange is an honest and competent company and one of the best in the state and can be trusted to do a good job.
We were going to have our house treated with orange oil until I saw this video on YouTube. Is orange oil as dangerous as the video claims, or can I have my house treated safely? This is the video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E34ySeo1zqA
I. S., Los Angeles
If you can’t see the video, it depicts a fumigation “specialist” spraying the outside of a doll house with XT-2000 Orange Oil and then setting it on fire. He is trying to show how flammable the product is so you won’t want to use it. This fellow does not know what he is doing. When you treat a house with XT-2000 Orange Oil, you don’t spray it all over the outside of the house as he is doing. It is injected into the infested wood and then travels through the wood to kill the termites. If he treats termites by spraying the outside of the house, he is in the wrong business. As for flammability, you can spray a house with WD 40 on the outside like this fellow did and start a fire. Orange oil, like many household products and most oils is flammable, but it isn’t particularly dangerous the way it is applied. You don’t smoke a cigarette when you pump gas and the professional wouldn’t smoke a cigarette when injecting orange oil into the wood, nor would anyone smoke a cigarette when using WD 40. However I wouldn’t be surprised if this fellow went in his house and poured himself a drink of bourbon or vodka (which are flammable) and then lit a cigarette while he pondered his next starring role in a YouTube video. This is the question you need the answer to. How many house fires can be attributed to XT-2000 Orange Oil treatment? The answer is ZERO, NONE. Can house fires take place when using sulfuryl fluoride in a fumigation? The answer is YES, if someone forgets to turn off the pilot lights, which could ignite the gas. Has anyone been killed by XT-2000? Not a single fatality can be attributed to orange oil. Has anyone been killed by sulfuryl fluoride? Yes. There haven’t been many fatalities, but there have been some. That video was just a poor example of how the fumigation industry is trying to denigrate XT-2000 Orange Oil, which is the future of drywood termite control.
have several houses, all infested with termites at various locations. They are rentals, so would have to put up tenants elsewhere while tented. They need to be treated for subs, as well as drywoods. I have replaced wood that is easily accessible, but they are in some walls. Got an inspection/estimate from co. that does orange oil treatments, but regular co. says the “orange oil treatment is a gimmick, microwaving, heat, etc.”. For multiple locations of infestation, they all recommend tenting only. I hate pesticides, but cannot afford to have my hard won investments devoured by termites. What to do???? Thanks for help.
The fellow you talked to is wrong. He is just trying to generate some business for his own company. Anyone who uses any of the methods you mentioned are going to say their method is best. The fact is that the safest and most effective treatment for drywood termites is XT-2000 orange oil. There are other brands, but none as as pure as XT-2000 which contains 96% d-Limonene. Microwaving and heat are not that effective and tenting and fumigating is potentially dangerous and the product they use is a major greenhouse gas. With XT-2000, you can stay in the house while it is being treated. Over a half million structures have been successfully treated with XT-2000 since it became available about a dozen years ago. Anyone who uses it has to go through a vigorous training program before they can buy it from the distributor. It is not available to any pest control company unless they complete the training and it is not available to the general public. There are only about a dozen companies in California certified to use XT-2000. The best one is Planet Orange at 408-963-6868.
You have recommended a termite control company to us but they don’t come to our area. Is there any way I can do this myself as we live in a really remote area and it would cost a lot to get someone to come out and treat?
People frequently ask me if they can do their own termite control, regarding subterranean termites, not drywoods. I have always told them no, it would be better to call a professional in. However, I have changed my mind on this. While a professional termite treatment by a reputable company is a good thing, particularly if you are buying or selling a home, it is entirely possible to treat your home yourself without using a pest control company or toxic pesticides. I have tried this method on several homes and it works. I won’t say it will work in every home as construction of houses are different and there may be some construction in place that would either slow it down or prevent it from working. However since it will probably cost you less than $100 to treat your own home, it is certainly worth trying. The average home will run you in the neighborhood of a $1000 or moreif you have it treated professionally. If anyone wants information on how to treat their own home for termites, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will tell you how to get the information.
If you have drywood termites, you can’t do those yourself. I good natural product is XT-2000 orange oil but it is only available to professionals. Contact one of them if you think you have drywood termites. If you can’t find a good company, let me know and I will point you in the right direction. Don’t consider fumigating with sulfuryl flouride (Vikane) as it is a serious greenhouse gas and it will leave an invisble flouride residue on everything in your house. It also has no residual and termites could reinfest your house in a couple of days. Go with the XT-2000.
I have found dry-wood termites in my subfloor and my wooden floor. I also detected dry-wood termites coming out from under my house through a small hole in one area and through an electric outlet at another site. They were winged dry-wood termites coming out the first week in January. Yesterday I detected dry-wood termite droppings in our bedroom. The hole that the dropping came from is very small, barely visible. I looked up recommended methods for getting rid of them. Tenting and gassing would be effective, however I wonder whether the gas would penetrate the wood in a 72 hour period, specially giving the metal backed insulation and the layered wood planks. Another method is heating the entire house to a high temperature sounds reasonable, except for the possible damage to fabrics and other materials. I would like to get your suggestions.
I don’t believe the fumigant would be effective in your circumstance plus it is dangerous and I don’t recommend heat treatments for the reason you alluded to. One large company used to use electro-guns for termite control but stopped after getting many callbacks. The only really effective and safe way to treat for drywood termites, wood boring beetles and carpenter ants is with XT-2000 orange oil.
We have drywood termites and they seem to be localized. Is there anything we can do ourselves since all the treatments, including fumigation, that we looked into are expensive?
A few months ago, I would have said no, you need to get it treated professionally, preferably with XT2000 orange oil. Fumigation is the worst choice as it is danerous, a serious greenhouse gas, leaves a residue of flouride on everything in the house, plus it is very expensive.
To answer your question, yes, you can do it yourself. I recently treated two drywood infestations in NM where I live, using something that is available in stores. I don’t want to put the entire procedure in the column as I don’t want any unscrupulous pest control operators using this to treat for termites in California. The material I used isn’t a termiticide and it would be illegal for a professional to use it. However, a homeowner can use anything they want in their own homes to treat for bugs. The product I used isn’t at all dangerous in any way (unless you are a termite). The two infestations I treated cost me less than $15 each to treat. I didn’t charge any money for the work as it was experimental. I also used this material to treat my daughter’s home and my old home in Belen for subterranean termites and it was successful in both cases.
There are occasions when you have construction considerations or other factors that may prohibit you from treating your own home. If you can’t or don’t want to treat your home for drywoods, then I wholeheartedly recommend using XT-2000. If you want to do it yourself, and you certainly can, then email me and I will tell you how to get the information. I really believe that once this method becomes known, it will go viral and will be of interest to everyone who lives in drywood termite country.
Is it possible to treat for drywood termites ouselves without using an exterminator? It is very expensive to fumigate or use orange oil. Thanks.
G.O., San Diego
People frequently ask me if they can do their own drywood termite control. I have always told them no, it would be better to call a professional in. However, I have changed my mind on this. While a professional termite treatment by a reputable company is a good thing, particularly if you are buying or selling a home, it is entirely possible to treat your home yourself without using a pest control company or toxic pesticides. All you need for drywood termite control is a bottle of Greenbug for Indoors. I have recommended Greenbug for many other pests in the column and it will work for drywood termites as well. I have successfully used it here in New Mexico for drywood control. It won’t work for subterranean termites as you will never be able to find the main colony deep in the ground. You will have to hire a professional to use Altriset or Termidor for them.
Drywood termites do not need soil contact. They live in dry, sound wood, usually near the surface. They get what moisture they require from the wood they feed on and from the water formed during digestion of that wood. Drywood swarmers generally enter your home at night through unscreened attic or foundation vents or through cracks and crevices between exposed wood. Drywood termites are most commonly recognized by their distinctive fecal pellets that are often the color of the wood they are feeding upon. The fecal pellets are kicked out of the wood by the nymphs (workers) through “kickout holes” that are visible. If the termite damage is visible on the wood, soak the area with Greenbug for Indoors and put some paper towels over it and tape them down. If there isn’t visible damage, but you can see the kickout holes where the pellets are coming from, inject some Greenbug into the holes with a hypodermic needle. When it appears full, wait a few minutes and then inject some more. When it starts backing out, all of the termite galleries are full. Put a piece of tape over the holes to keep the Greenbug from leaking out. In some cases you may have to drill small holes in the wood to inject the Greenbug. Greenbug is just as effective as XT-2000 orange oil and you can do it yourself. It is EPA 25 (b) exempt and FDA approved so you don’t need an applicator license to use it.
Also, if you get drywood termites in a piece of furniture, you can use a hypodermic needle and inject some Greenbug into the kickout holes in the wood. No reason to fumigate furniture pieces or wooden dolls anymore. Greenbug for Indoors is available at www.greenbugallnatural.com
My Homeowner’s Association is planning on tent fumigation. Many people have stated they will not
leave their homes for various reasons. the HOA had their attorney send out an intimidation letter stating any one refusing to vacate would be held liable for future damage should treatment not be done to a unit. I am all for treeatment, but not with toxic chemicals to humans or animals. Their letter states that the HOA has the right to do termite treatment for the good of the community. ( but at what cost or measures?) The letter states that we must sign a release form authorizing the fumigation and surrender our keys to the fumigation co. I believe this is what is called coercion: use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance, and is a felony. I just dont believe they can legally force you to allow chemicals that can harm your health and sue you because you refuse to allow potential harm to yourself. I’ve heard that sulfuryl flouride residue has been found in carpet fibers 45 days after fumigation .
Thanks for your direction
E. B., Oakland
Here is what you need to do. If they insist on fumigating, make sure the fumigation company has a cleaning crew come in and completely clean your home. That means shampooing the carpets, furniture, washing the walls and ceilings and everything in your home that was exposed to the fumigant. Sulfurly flouride will leave an invisible flouride residue on everything in the house and flouride has now been found to not be safe. Then get a lawyer to draw up a document for them to sign, stating that when the cleanup is complete, you will have the option to have someone come in and check your home and if they find any trace of flouride or any other residual component of sulfuryl flouride, that they will be financially responsible if anyone in your home (including pets) gets sick and it is suspected the sulfuryl flouride residue is responsible. If the fumigation company truly believes their product is absolutely safe, they will have no problem signing the document. I can guarantee they won’t sign it. Now recommend that they treat the complex with XT-2000 orange oil which is just as effective and nobody has to leave their homes as it is absolutely safe. Let me know where you live and I can recommend someone. I want all of my readers to do the same thing if you plan on getting your home fumigated. Have the fumigation company completely clean your home and sign a paper saying they are responsible if anyone gets sick. If they won’t do it, and they won’t, because they know sulfuryl flouride is not safe, then go with XT-2000.