Table of Contents
- 1 The nature of a termite infestation
- 2 Termite control natural methods
- 3 How to prevent termites from coming back
Termite eradication methods vary as much as each infestation does. There’s no one-treatment-fits-all when it comes to killing the pest. The exterminators have to assess the extent of the infestation, your location, and the efficiency of the potential treatment. For this post, we will take a look at 6 of the most common termite control natural methods to see which works for your home.
NOTE: Each of these methods has to be administered by a professional exterminator for a higher success rate. A DIY application may lead to problems that can compromise your safety.
The nature of a termite infestation
Termites feed on cellulose and they usually forage in colonies. Each colony will compose of thousands to millions of members. The most destructive species, the Formosan termites, can contain several million members per colony.
This pest is every home’s “silent killer”. The infestation can take place without the knowledge of the homeowners. Worse, the signs will only show once the infestation is already at an advanced stage.
Termites will feed on wood, books, boxes, a stack of paper, and anything that has cellulose in it.
Take note that most termite species thrive in moisture, darkness, and food sources. These three things are commonly found on neglected basements and crawlspaces.
Most termite colonies can consume 2” x 4” piece of wood in 5 months. Meanwhile, the more destructive Formosan can finish off the same wood in just 25 days. Aside from being invasive, Formosan termites – and other sub-species of Subterranean termites – are difficult to control once it started the infestation.
Each termite species have varying colony sizes and foraging behaviors.
The following are the most common termite species:
➡️ Subterranean termites
This species builds mud tubes to lock in the moisture of their bodies. Also, they live beneath the ground with colony sizes that can range from hundreds of thousands to millions of members.
➡️ Formosan termites
Known to be the most destructive species, they can forage in wood faster than any other termite type. Formosan mites also build large colonies.
➡️ Drywood termites
As its name suggests, Drywood termites prefer low-moisture cellulose. Also, they don’t need contact with the ground and they can navigate like ants in the open.
➡️ Dampwood termites
The total opposite of Drywood termites, Dampwood termites prefer moist cellulose. They also tend to harbor on outdoor wood like tree stumps, mulch, and more.
This species was believed to be entirely eradicated in 2003, but it resurfaced in the Broward County, FL just recently.
Termite control natural methods
Exterminating termites isn’t an easy task. For widespread infestations, you’ll need the help of professional exterminators. DIY remedies will work to some extent, but if the termite colony is already at an advanced stage, over-the-counter termiticides aren’t strong enough to purge every mite.
For this, I have listed 6 termite control natural methods that you can consider for termite extermination.
1: Using nematodes
2: Applying botanical treatments
3: Sprinkling diatomaceous earth
4: Applying boric acid
5. Liquid nitrogen spot treatment
6. Heat treatment
METHOD 1: USING NEMATODES
One of the natural means of eradicating a termite population is by releasing nematodes to the infested area. These beneficial nematodes will kill termites without causing damage to the property. Also, it doesn’t require the homeowner to vacate the house.
Nematodes are proven to be safe for humans and pets. The possibility of the nematodes becoming the next pest is unlikely as long as the deployment has been done correctly.
Usually, a small bag of nematodes will have to be mixed in water. Others will just be sprinkled like salt in the affected areas.
Water-mixed nematodes are easier to disperse as the water will soak into the wood, allowing the beneficial organisms to infiltrate the termite harborage easier.
The application can be done once a day or a few times a week depending on the type of nematode used and the degree of the infestation.
Most of the time, exterminators will use microscopic roundworms that will feed on termite eggs and adults. These organisms will enter the body of the termite through their anus, mouth, or body wall. The gut bacterium that the nematodes contain will be poisonous for termites.
Why use nematodes?
Nematodes are the common options to infested areas located nearby bodies of water. The EPA has specific regulations when it comes to the use of pesticides, its certification, and the area where it will be used.
Also, nematodes are the most convenient option, especially if you don’t want to vacate your home. However, this method will take time to eradicate the termite population. For massive infestations, nematodes may not be enough.
Nematodes are fast-acting. It will start to kill termites within 24 hours. However, it may also kill other insects. If you have insects as pets, you should be cautious about using nematodes to eradicate the mites.
Application and storage
Nematodes are effective against Subterranean termites. Aside from spraying the nematode-infused water into the affected wood, you should focus more on your garden where these termites originate.
If you’re storing nematodes, put it inside the fridge but not in the freezer. Also, don’t apply any fertilizer at least two weeks after the initial application of the nematodes.
METHOD 2: APPLYING BOTANICAL TREATMENTS
If it’s possible to use nematodes, you can consider the application of botanical treatments. These are natural pesticides made from various extracts of plants. The substance will kill the mites upon contact, much like artificial termiticides.
Some of the common botanical treatments include Orange oil and Neem Oil. Orange Oil is packed with d-limonene, a major component of citrus peels. This strong citrus scent and substance is effective in killing termites upon contact.
If you have Drywood termites infesting your home, Orange oil is a powerful choice for extermination.
Neem oil, on the other hand, works by oiling the affected area and waiting for the termites to chomp on it. Once the pest ingests the treated wood, they will be poisoned to death. Neem oil is effective, but it means you have to sacrifice a portion of wood in the process.
Why use botanical treatments?
Synthetic pesticides have adverse effects on the health of humans, animals, and plants. If you don’t want to expose your home to these harsh chemicals, the strongest alternatives are botanical treatments.
These natural extracts kill the mites with very minimal impact on your home. Still, this should be applied properly to target the right areas and to ensure that the termites won’t transfer to another area of your home.
There are over-the-counter botanical treatments that you can purchase. However, it’s not as strong as what professional exterminators can provide.
Application and storage
When using Orange oil, you have to spray it directly to the treated area. The exterminator can also inject the oil into the infected wood for a better kill.
You can use pure Orange oil or you can mix it with diatomaceous earth (DE) or borax. It should be applied once a year as a preventive measure. If used for extermination, a termite expert will decide about the frequency of use and the concentration level.
For the Neem oil, you just have to spray or inject it into the wood.
During the application of these botanical treatments, you must wear protective gears since these are concentrates. It can irritate the skin, eyes, and nose.
METHOD 3: SPRINKLING DIATOMACEOUS EARTH
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is an all-natural powder used to kill various insect pests including ants, bed bugs, and termites. This is silica made from fossilized remains of aquatic organisms which are known as diatoms. When the diatoms accumulate, it forms a silica deposit which will be mined and filtered to extract the DE powder.
Diatomaceous Earth has calcium, silicon, magnesium, iron, sodium, and other minerals. It’s relatively safe to use around humans and pets. Still, you should refrain from inhaling large amounts to prevent any possible irritation.
Overall, DE is safe and non-toxic even if used on food preparation areas. Also, it’s potent in killing termites upon contact. This can be used both indoors and outdoors. Still, proper application is necessary to ensure that the mites’ population will be eradicated successfully.
Why use Diatomaceous Earth (DE)?
If you’re worried about the toxicity of synthetic pesticides and the potential harm of other termite control natural methods, you can use DE as an alternative. It’s safe, all-natural, and very potent against mites.
Take note that since Diatomaceous Earth will leave dusty trails. If any of your family members exhibit allergic reactions to DE, you may need to discontinue usage. Those with allergic to Diatomaceous Earth will have irritated nasal passages and very dry skin.
Still, DE allergy is very rare. With the right application, any harsh side effects can be prevented.
Application and storage
For indoor use, you can mix DE with water and spray it into crevices and hard-to-reach corners. You can also sprinkle a thin layer of DE on your carpets and rugs if you believe that it’s also infested with termites. If your home is suffering from other infestations like bed bugs, DE can hit two birds with one stone.
Leave the DE on the surfaces for days before vacuuming it. This method works in contact. When DE sticks to the termite’s body, it will act like razor blades, slicing through their exoskeletons. This will lead to dehydration and death. This is why Diatomaceous Earth is very effective when used against Subterranean termites.
Also, the DE-carrying termite will spread the powder to other members of the colony, making the killing exponential.
Make sure that you spray or sprinkle DE on the hotspots where termites are likely harboring.
If you’re using it outdoors, spread a 2-inch thick layer of DE around your house. This includes your balcony, basement, and any part where the termite could enter. You must check the level of the soil since it changes per season. You may need to add more DE as well.
METHOD 4: APPLYING BORIC ACID
Boric acid or borax is said to be the “in-between” synthetic and natural solution for termites. It acts similarly to Diatomaceous Earth. The goal is to get the boric acid to stick to the bodies of termites. From there, it will attack the exoskeleton of the pest, which will lead to its death.
Since the killing process is low, the affected termite can still go back to its colony. This will trigger the spread of boric acid, which will kill more members.
Exterminators can use granule and gel-based boric acid to treat your home. Just take note that boric acid, regardless of form, is abrasive. Still, it’s less harmful than synthetic termiticides.
Why use Boric Acid?
Boric acid is probably one of the most potent of all the widely used termite control natural methods. It’s guaranteed to kill termites upon contact. Also, it’s very affordable and easy to acquire.
Although it’s relatively safe, you should avoid constant exposure to boric acid. You should keep kids and pets away from the treated area. If boric acid is ingested in large (or accumulated) amounts, it may lead to endocrine, liver, and kidney problems.
Boric acid can also cause skin irritations if applied improperly and without safety gears.
Application and storage
During application, wear a mask, gloves, eye protection, and long-sleeve shirt to protect your skin in case the borax wafts into the air.
Also, avoid applying the borax solution in areas where your kids and pets have direct access. This is to prevent direct exposure to the substance.
It’s best to tap the help of professional exterminators when applying such an abrasive substance.
METHOD 5. LIQUID NITROGEN SPOT TREATMENT
Another natural method that exterminators use to kill termites is liquid nitrogen. This freezing substance will kill termites on the spot. Termites can’t survive extremely low temperatures, which is the same reason why they can’t be found in the Arctic.
Termites can’t survive in temperatures lower than -15 °F. Meanwhile, liquid nitrogen has a temperature of around -346 °F. With the freezing temperature of liquid nitrogen, no insect can survive the contact.
Liquid nitrogen is safe as long as it’s not ingested directly. The liquid nitrogen used on ice creams actually evaporates even before you eat the dessert.
It’s best to ask professional exterminators to administer this treatment. Direct skin contact to the substance may cause frostbite and injury, especially if you happen to pour it on a metal surface.
Also, avoid pouring even a small amount on your furniture as liquid nitrogen can lead to fading.
Why use liquid nitrogen?
If you want a pesticide-free approach with guaranteed kills, liquid nitrogen is a good choice. Just take note that this is ideal only for spot treatment. It’s very difficult to treat an entire house with liquid nitrogen since it has to be applied fast to avoid evaporation.
This is also an ideal treatment option for small infestations or those that are contained in one area only.
Application and storage
The exterminator will drill a small hole into the infected wood. After that, liquid nitrogen will be injected into the termite tunnels. Take note that only a small area can be treated at one time.
Take note that liquid nitrogen can damage your electrical wiring if it’s applied in the wrong areas. This is another reason why you should hire the help of termite experts in the applicant of liquid nitrogen.
Liquid nitrogen can be used extensively, but it will cost more. Just remember that this method isn’t ideal for widespread infestations.
For large infestations, you’re better off with heat treatment. This covers a larger scope but without using any chemicals.
METHOD 6. HEAT TREATMENT
Similar to the liquid nitrogen spot treatment, heat treatment uses extreme temperatures to eradicate the termite population.
In this method, exterminators will use special heating equipment. Your house will be sealed to retain the heat. Also, this method is usually used in killing Drywood termites.
This is a very effective method, but not without some downsides.
Why use heat treatment?
If your area isn’t qualified for termiticide-based treatments, the heat method is an ideal choice. It can eradicate the termites in a single session.
Also, this is the preferred method of eradication against Drywood termites. Since this species doesn’t have an outdoor central colony, the heat is guaranteed to reach even the tiniest crevice where the mites are foraging.
Take note that you’ll need to evacuate your home for this procedure. You should also remove any plants or pets inside your home. The high temperatures can prove lethal for these organisms.
Also, heat treatment doesn’t have any residual effect. Once the procedure is done, your home doesn’t have ongoing termite-killing protection. This is something you’ll enjoy if you use botanical treatments or dusting (DE or boric acid).
The exterminators will order that you shut off all your appliances. Electronic gadgets that can get damaged by intense heat should be removed inside the house. The exterminators will also inspect your home to look for the possible harborage of the mites. Aside from that, they will check if there would be no substantial harm to your home once the heat treatment is finished.
They might also tent your home to lock in the temperature. Once all set, the exterminators will now run the heaters which will raise the temperature by up to 140 F. On the wood where the Drywood termites live, it should be at least 120 F. Exterminators will use temperature gauges to monitor this.
This temperature will be maintained for 35 minutes to kill the pest. Other insects in your home might also die in the process.
Overall, the setup and treatment will only take half a day. After that, you can go back home and fix your things.
How to prevent termites from coming back
After the exterminators killed the termites, you should ensure that the pest will not creep back. Here are some of the steps you can employ:
➡️ Don’t let leaks go unnoticed
Regular inspections of your plumbing system, basement, and crawlspaces will help reduce the likelihood of harboring another infestation. Do the same on your yard.
➡️ Avoid storing wood in contact with the ground
If you’re storing woodpiles, make sure that it’s at least 5 inches off the ground and 12 inches off the nearest wall.
➡️ Let the sunlight in
The heat from sunlight can dry up moisture and discourage mites from foraging in your home.
➡️ Clean your roof
The roof is commonly overlooked when it comes to termite prevention. Without your knowledge, the mites could have been brewing on your clogged gutters. Any holes can be used as pathways of termites too.
➡️ Trim the bushes and tree
Don’t let any tree branch touch any part of your house. Any termites living on the tree can use it as a bridge toward your home.
➡️ Invest in regular inspections
We can always look for basic signs but it’s possible that our untrained eyes may miss some red flags of infestation. It’s best to ask termite experts to inspect your property at least once a year.
These termite control natural methods are ideal for a variety of situations. If you suspect an infestation, you can employ any of these methods to arrest the termite population. In case the mite population has already grown to large numbers, it’s best to tap the help of professional exterminators.
What do you think of suggested methods above? Let me know!