Close-up termite mound on the wood
Fumigation for the control of Drywood termites had been the mainstay for decades. That began to change about 15 -20 years ago. Let us look at the pros and cons of tent fumigation versus spot treatments for the control of Drywood termites.
Sulfuryl Fluoride is the gas that is currently used for the control of Drywood termites when doing tent fumigation. Sulfuryl Fluoride, also known as Vikane gas, was developed by the Dow Chemical Company. Methyl bromide was used in tent fumigation, but has now been replaced by Viking gas for structural pest control.
Sulfuryl Fluoride is an excellent broad-spectrum fumigant due to its toxicity on the target pest, its good dispersion, and its penetrating qualities. In addition to Drywood termites as a target pest, Vikanegas also targets Formosan termites, old house borers, bedbugs, cockroaches, and rodents.
Placing a tent over the structure to be fumigated assures complete coverage. This is a big positive when dealing with structures that have multiple infestations of Drywood termites, or Drywood termite infestations that are in inaccessible areas. Drywood termite infestations in the subflooring of multiple story buildings would be a good example of having Drywood termites in an inaccessible area.
Placing a tent over the structure to be tented is labor-intensive and costly. During the course of placing a tent over the structure, theres always the possibility of causing damage to the roofing material. A good example of roof material that could be damaged would be barrel tile, concrete tile, or aluminum roofing, just to mention a few.
Satellite dishes, antennas, skylights, and solar panels on the roof must be removed, or special care must be taken to avoid damaging them. Landscape material can, and often is killed up to 2 feet from the structure. Commercial tape is used to adequately seal around doors, windows vents, and other openings. The tape can cause damage to both the paint and any other material where the tape is attached. Electrical cables, phone lines, TV cables, power lines, fences, screen enclosures, aluminum porches, rain gutters, and landscaping all need to be dealt with, or removed, to prevent damage during fumigation. These are just some of the issues that add to the liability of tent fumigation.
Additionally, there are a number of items that need to be removed from the home prior to tent fumigation to assure safety for the residents. A list of these requirements is required to be signed by the homeowner, as it is their responsibility to have them removed, or secured, in gas tight bags.
This list includes removing edible items from the structure before the fumigation. All persons, domestic animals, pets, and desirable growing plants must also be removed. Mattresses and pillows, when thoroughly and completely enveloped inwaterproof covers, must also be removed. Food, feed, drugs (including tobacco products), and medicines (including those in refrigerators or freezers), that are not in plastic glass or metal bottles cans or jars with the original manufacturers air tight seal intact must be removed from the fumigation site, or double bagged in Nylofume bags.
All flames must be extinguished, including pilot lights of water heaters, gas refrigerators, ranges, ovens, broilers, etc. Automatic switch controls for appliances and lighting systems, which would be included in the space to be fumigated must be shut off. An example would be security lights that have motion detectors which would come on when covered by the fumigation tarps. Holes burn through the tarps rendering the fumigation useless and could also start a house fire.
Vikane gas carries a DANGER POISON label with the SKULL AND CROSSBONES. Danger labels indicate the most hazardous products available.
Vikane gas is a highly hazardous material and should be used only by individuals knowledgeable of the hazards of this chemical and trained in the use of required respiratory equipment, detector devices, emergency procedures, and in the proper use of this fumigant.
Residents of the structure must vacate the structure prior to fumigation and cannot re-enteruntil after the house has been cleared by a licensed fumigation expert. The structure fumigated must be thoroughly ventilated before occupants can re-enter. The chemical label for Vikane gas covers the procedures required for proper aeration.
An approved positive pressure, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA, not SCUBA), or combination air supply/S CBA respirator, such as manufactured by Ranger, Survivair, Scot, or MSA must be used by a highly trained professional and properly licensed fumigation expert. Other equipment such as the INTERSCAN and the M I RAN gas analyzer must be used to give immediate readings. Using a series of one hour, six hour, and eight hour testing and waiting periods, the amount of Vikane gas must be brought down to 5 ppm or less before re-entry is allowed. This process can be both time consuming and complicated. Operable doors and windows may be open for at least 10 minute intervals repeatedly if necessary to perform the proper ventilation. Note: Even though the label for Viking gas allows the structure to be reoccupied when the concentration of Vikane gas is 5ppm or less, Bates Exterminating requires its clients to remain out of the structure for at least another 24 hours.
There have been several high-profile cases recently where the residents, or occupants, suffered horrific consequences because the structures were not properly ventilated, or other safety procedures were not followed correctly.
Because Viking gas is colorless, odorless, and has no warning properties such as eye irritation, a warning agent must be introduced to the structure prior to fumigation. That warning agent is a chemical fumigant named chloropicrin a known lachrymator. In the absence of chloropicrin, the exposure to toxic levels of Viking gas may occur without warning, or detection, by the user. If a warning agent has not been properly applied, there would be no way to prevent an accidental poisoning which could result in death.
No tent Drywood termite treatments have been used for decades successfully. These chemical treatments can be both preventative and curative. The use of products such as Bora-Care, for the prevention of Drywood termites, has a long and successful history. The list of chemicals that have been added to the arsenal for use by the professional pest control operator has increased dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years.
The list of chemicals now available include Dominion 2L, Imidacloprid, D-Foam, Premise-75, Premise Foam, Termidor SC, Termidor Foam and several other products, but for the sake of time and space, we will discuss only Bora-Care.
Bora-Careis the product that has been successfully used the longest for the control of Drywood termites. Bora-Care has what is known as a broad spectrum of target pest which includes Subterranean termites, Formosan termites, Drywood termites, Carpenter ants, and several wood destroying beetles. Additionally, Bora-Care also controls wood decay fungi, rot and algae.
Bora-Care has the active ingredient Disodium Octaborate Tetrahybrate and is considered one of the least toxic products available. Bora-Care carries the word CAUTION on the label which indicates the least toxic of all pesticides. The word Disodium refers to two atoms of sodium in a molecule, or an element of salt, often found in salt rock. Sodium occurs abundantly in nature. Octaborateis most commonly known as boric acid and is derived from salts, also related to Borax. Tetrahydrate is a compound with four molecules of water or hydrogen. These compounds together make up the active ingredient in Bora-Care. The inert ingredients, which comprise 60% of the product, remain unnamed but are the patented products that cause the active ingredient in Bora-Care to penetrate wood. Its the ability to penetrate wood what makes the product Bora-Care so invaluable for the control of Drywood termites.
Bora-Care has a very low toxicity. Bora-Care can be used in and around homes, apartments, garages, museums, public and private institutions, schools, hotels, hospitals, kennels, stables, farm buildings, trucks, trailers, warehouse and on food areas of supermarkets, restaurants and food processing plants.
Bora-Care comes in a concentrate and is diluted with clean water before use. Bora-Care is easily applied using hand pump sprayers and is quite versatile. Because Bora-Care contains an inorganic borate salt, and is soluble in water with insecticidal and fungicidal properties, it is effective against many wood destroying organisms. Bora-Care is easy to apply and required only long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, shoes, chemical resistant gloves and protective eyewear for the applicator. Only in confined spaces does the applicator have to use a standard dust/mist filter respirator. In short, it is definitely safer than Vikane gas.
Drywood termites digest their food using a protozoa, or fungus in their gut. The mechanics of how Bora-Care kills termites is quite interesting. Unlike humans who digest their food by using enzymes, Drywood termites digest their food using a fungus. That fungus is killed by salt, and Bora-Care is essentially a salt. Therefore, once Drywood termites begin to eat the wood that has been treated with Bora-Care, they ingest the salts and the fungus dies. The Drywood termites are then no longer able to digest their food and they starve to death. If that sounds simple, its because it is. Essentially the abundance of salt on our planet is one of the natural occurring elements that keeps fungus, algaes, and other plant life in check. If it were not for the inert ingredients in Bora-Care, I would suppose you could call it a natural treatment for Drywood termites, as 40% of the product is made up of borates.
As already stated, Drywood termites depend on the protozoa, fungus, or bacteria in their digestive track, in order to digest cellulose, or wood. As with all termites, Drywood termite kings, queens, soldiers, and the young larva, are unable to feed themselves and are dependent upon food transfer from the nymphs and the workers in the colony.
Because Drywood termites are social animals and depend on the workers for food, the transfer of borates are absolute once the termite begins to feed on the borate treated wood. The young larva in a Drywood termite colony depend on workers to pass down protozoa through the regurgitation of food. When Drywood termites shed their skin during molding, which is how they grow, they lose the protozoa they need and it again has to be replaced by the workers feeding on the wood.
Drywood termite colonies live entirely in dry, sound wood. Drywood termites, unlike Subterranean termites require no connection with the soil. All the moisture that the colony needs is obtain by feeding on the wood they eat. Although the Drywood termites can infest furniture, hardwood floors, and many wooden articles, their usual points of entry in the structure are somewhat predictable. The swarmers of the Drywood termite colonies gain access into the house through screen foundation vents, soffits, cracks, knot holes, joints, or other somewhat predictable openings. Drywood termites, unlike subterranean termites, have no mud tunnels. The galleries that they make go both across and with wood grain. The interior of the galleries are very clean and look as though theyve been sandblasted. The most obvious sign of Drywood termite infestation is the fact that they have tiny fecal pellets which the termites eject from the galleries through what are normally called exit holes, or take out holes.
Drywood termite colonies are small in comparison to Subterranean termite colonies with perhaps only a few thousand individuals, or even less. Because of this, infestations are often in localized areas such as in a door or window frames, furniture and even picture frames. The fact that Drywood termites are normally in localized areas, and easily predictable locations, make spot treatments much more viable. Drywood termites often start in the eaves or in the soffits of the home which are readily accessible to a termite professional. Drywood termites are also found in roof trusses which were installed in the home with the termites already in them, or have transferred from other locations such as the eaves. Either way, roof trusses are typically accessible to termite professionals also.
In most cases the pros related to spot treating for Drywood termites for outweigh the cons of tent fumigation. Nevertheless lets look at the cons are sponsoring.
There are cases where Ive seen Drywood termites infestations that have gone untreated for years resulting in dozens of termite infestations in a single structure. In situations like this, it becomes non-cost-effective to treat using either the borates or the other products mentioned earlier. Although this is usually the exception, not the rule, this does happen and tent fumigation becomes the only viable solution.
Bates Exterminating has been a licensed fumigation company since 1978, however the need for tent fumigation is extremely low particularly where new development has occurred over the last 15 years. With that said, the only other time spot treatments would be acceptable is in a situation where the Drywood termite infestations are completely and totally in accessible.
In summary comparing TENT FUMIGATION to NO TENT DRYWOOD TERMITE treatments, I would be amiss not to mention the fact that tent fumigationleaves absolutely no residual product to protect the home against new Drywood termite infestation. Termites can, and do, often re-infest homes that have been tent fumigated whereas wood treated with Bora-Care has a residual that has been proven to last for decades. Some of the other products besides Bora-Care that are used in spot treatments also have long residual effects.
Bates Exterminating is of the opinion that each individual Drywood termite infestation needs to be thoroughly inspected by pest-control professionals to determine whether tent fumigation or spot treatments would be the correct choice.
Bates Exterminating is interested in hearing from you, the public, as to whether or not youve ever had a problem with Drywood termites. If so, what did you do?
Also let us know if the information in this blog was helpful to you.
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