22 May 2012

Out, out damned termites

The exterminator just left.

Life in a century-old, wooden structure comes at a price. Namely, drywood termites. Drywoods are one of the three kinds of termites we have in Florida. Whatever their species, they're bad news.


There are termite species that live all over but they seem to particularly common in the sun belt. I never remember them when I lived in the Northeast. In Florida however, they are part of the scenery. Just like palmetto bugs, having termites isn't a reflection on someone's housekeeping. Even so, having them makes me feel dirty somehow.

When I first moved here, the only cure for them was to have the house tented and treated with Vikane. Vikane is sulfuryl flouride, a relatively inert gas. These days we spot treat with a product called Termidor and it promises to kill every termite in the area but at the same time be inert to me because I'm a mammal and have a spine, Termidor doesn't affect me. At least according the research Dow's done.

Back to Vikane for a sec however. Sulfuryl flouide is a greenhouse gas and its widespread use is a bad idea. In its place, spot treatments with Termidor are becoming the default mode for termites.

Part of me longs for a day when I could just eliminate everything but it makes sense to spot treat and not damage the atmosphere instead of the scorch and burn method I'd prefer.

The exterminator Steve told me that I shouldn't keep things so neat because he couldn't tell where the termites were. Pardon my hygiene. I'll start allowing dust buffaloes to form under my bed to make life easier for exterminators. Hah!

Does anybody out there have any experience with Termidor? Am I alone in living in an old structure and dealing with termites? I remember seeing termite nests in the trees in Costa Rica and Panama and being awed by them. However, seeing them in my kitchen is whole other matter. If they're in my kitchen, what are they doing to my floorboards and rafters? I need to quit thinking.

Out, out damned termites!


  1. A few weeks ago I spotted some mystery insect that I thought was a termite. It turned out to be flying ants. The darn things look so much alike! I did however, have them when I lived in Pittsburgh. They ate my entire basement window and started working their way up to the first floor. Glad I caught it in time!

  2. They DO look alike however, the similarities stop there.

    You lived in Pittsburgh? I went to Pitt and lived in South Oakland and then in Shadyside. Where were you?

  3. SoCal Homeowner22 May, 2012 20:33

    I had to have my house tented about 5 years ago. I think we had the swarming kind. They had wings. There was a lot of sawdusty looking stuff all around. It was gross.

    We tried to do the orange oil thing because tenting seemed like such a massive pain in the neck. But the orange oil only works if things aren't too far along. And tenting took care of it, thank God. Never heard of Termidor, sorry this is not that helpful!

  4. When I moved into my 1948 house 10 years ago I didn't see a termite for 5 years. Apparently when the previous owner installed the new (cheap) cabinets they had termites in them or at least that is where the exterminator said he found them. After a bit of research I went the way of the Borate Treatment - safe for humans and dogs, which is important to me. They drilled tiny holes through my drywall every 24" or so and sprayed behind my walls. This was effective for the first few years and then swarms started happening again each May so I was disappointed in the results. Seeing them makes me feel very unclean too. Unfortunately at this time the recession hit, I had a new job and the extermination company cut back their hours to M-Th 9-4. It still is impossible to fit into my schedule so now I am looking for a new exterminating company. Did you hear about the new termite species that S Fla is getting hit with? Carribean native Nasutitermes they actually can nest in trees.

  5. I've never heard of the borate treatment Ginny. Termidor is inert apparently and it only affects invertebrates. Besides, it cost $250 as opposed to the two grand tenting would have cost.

  6. Well, I'm so glad we don't have termites where I live! The worst pest I've ever had to deal with was an infestation of carpenter ants in our house when I was a kid. They got into EVERYTHING. I have vivid memories of taking a swig of cocoa one morning and getting one in my mouth that had been hiding out in the cup I guess. BLECH. Makes me very glad that we have a cat right now, I rarely even ever see a spider these days with the intrepid hunter keeping the house clear.

  7. Our species are ground-dwellers so ant-capping and other forms of physical and chemical barrier take care of them most of the time. Inspections are recommended annually, though.

  8. Once I was half way through a bathroom redesign for a client when the builder tore open a wall and found that termites had been eating up the supporting wood beams. Needless to say, that project became a major headache, an expensive and delayed headache.


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