Subterranean Termites, Drywood Termites, Wood Boring Beetles and Wood Destroying Fungus create devastating amounts of structural damage to homes and buildings throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. When left undetected or untreated, wood destroying pests & organisms can lead to extensive structural repairs. Early detection and timely treatment are essential in avoiding expensive structural repair projects. The first step in protecting your property is to have a licensed Wood Destroying Pest & Organism Inspector perform a thorough, complete inspection and provide you with a WDO Inspection Report. Should an infestation or infection be found, the report will contain recommendations for appropriate control measures for your approval.
Professional termite treatments and fungus treatments made in California must be performed by licensed WDO Operators or Termite Companies, pursuant to a written WDO Report issued prior to treatment. Licensing and regulations are in place to promote and enforce safe, effective and environmentally responsible applications.
“An ounce of prevention…..
There are many property maintenance practices that can be done to help avoid termite infestations. Your Termite Inspector will provide a wealth of information and recommendations as it pertains specifically to the conditions and maintenance needs of your home. In the mean time, here are some suggestions to avoid extending a diner invitation to wood destroying pests.
Remove any wood scraps, lumber, cardboard and paper (cellulose debris) from the soil within the crawl space below your home. Avoid using the crawl space as storage space or place storage on raised platforms with masonry footings to avoid earth to wood contact.
Eliminate all forms of direct earth to wood contact beneath and around the exterior perimeter of your home. This includes isolating wood fences in contact or attached to wood exterior surfaces.
Provide a minimum of six inches of clearance between the soil grade and the top of the foundation stem or the base of wood siding.
Control excessive moisture when ever possible. Avoid sprinkle system spray from wetting exterior surfaces of the structure. Repair or replace leaking rain gutter systems and provide adequate down spout discharge out and away from the foundation. Caulk and paint exterior surfaces as needed and patch and seal any exterior penetrations or openings to avoid moisture intrusion. Trim vegetation to allow for ventilation space between plantings and the exterior surfaces. Do not obstruct crawl space vent openings and keep clear of vegetation.
Wood Destroying Fungus is structural enemy number one. Fungus grows easily under the right conditions and is found throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Because the spores needed to spring fungi to life are everywhere in the environment, all that is needed to create fungus infection, wood decay or dry rot is basically wood, water and the Bay Area climate. Fungus growth and resulting damage can slow down or speed up depending on the fluctuation in optimal conditions. In fact, fungus can go dormant and then come back to life when appropriate conditions for growth are met again.
Fungus infected wood will display fan-shaped patches of fuzzy growths that resemble plant roots. The color of these growths may range from white, light brown, bright yellow, and dark brown. The fibrous, root like strands of these growths are Mycelia. Mycelium grows through the wood just like plant roots through soil, producing enzymes that break down the cellulose and lignin in the wood. This feeding process is what destroys the structural properties of lumber. Once Mycelium becomes established the wood has already become significantly weakened, even if the wood appears or feels firm. When the fungus depletes the wood of nutrients, the wood is left as a dry crumbling mass the consistency of chard wood and with the strength of Styrofoam. Hence the name Dry Rot. Wood Destroying Fungus is the primary cause of all structural damage in wood frame structures and can quickly lead to serious structural integrity issues.
Inadequate or faulty construction details of some structures can contribute to the introduction of moisture to wood structural components, resulting in fungus growths. In most other cases however, fungus infection can be avoided by providing regular property maintenance, controlling excessive moisture and eliminating earth to wood contacts. At its early stage, fungus can be treated with Sodium Borate but this is not by any means a structural repair cure all. Treating and epoxy wood filler applications are sometimes appropriate remedies for ornamental and non-structural components of a home or building. The primary most effective means of fungus infection control is achieved in combination of removing and replacing the infected wood members as well as fungus damage, structurally weakened wood members, controlling or eliminating adverse conditions contributing to fungus growth and appropriate treatments.
When Wood Destroying Fungus conditions go unnoticed or ignored, it can quickly become an extensive structural repair project. Structural repairs can be quite complex, requiring the experience and know how of a specialist. Licensed Wood Destroying Pest and Organism Operators are experts in all aspects of the highly specialized trade of WDO structural repairs that is a necessity to achieve the proper, effective and lasting guaranteed results. Protecting your property from wood destroying infestations and infections starts with a thorough Termite Inspection.
Termites, Friend or Foe?
Termites are a beneficial insect as one of nature’s original recyclers. Termites in their natural environment basically eat dead trees, breaking down the wood into nutrients that fortify the soil and in turn help new trees to grow. This is an important part of the ecosystem as it applies to forests, wooded areas and open undeveloped land. Unfortunately, when our little friends mistake our homes as dead trees, they quickly become our foe.
Depending on the species, a single termite can devour a few ounces to a pound of wood in a single day. Colony sizes ranging from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands. It is not uncommon for more than one colony of a particular species or more than one species of termite to infest a structure. When you do the math, it becomes easy to understand just how destructive termites can be when they infest the lumber used in wood frame structures.
Western Subterranean Termites are the most prevalent and destructive termite species found throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. They typically become noticed for the first time when they swarm. On warm sunny days following a rain in the spring or fall, adult, winged, reproductive termites swarm from their colony, pair up and seek out a new suitable location to start a new colony of their own. Their bodies are dark brown to black with double paired translucent and veined wings that are much larger than their bodies. If you experience a swarm within the interior of your home, your home is very likely to be infested.
Subterranean Termites require a moist environment and control their environment, by colonizing in soil and building shelter tubes to protect the colony from the dry open air. Shelter tubes are usually found bridging the surfaces of foundations to connect the colony in the soil to the wood framing above the foundation. If you break open a shelter tube, the worker cast of termites can be seen trailing back and forth just like ants. Because of the moisture associated with subterranean termites, fungus infection and damage is likely to accompany the infestation.
The industry standard of Subterranean Termite control is to treat the soil at the foundation perimeter of the structure and other critical entry points. The best termiticides available are non-repellant and slow acting. Slow acting materials allow time for the material to be carried back to the colony to affect and eliminate the entire colony. A one time treatment is all that is needed to provide effective control for five to ten years. Attempting to control a subterranean colony by eliminating workers above ground with fumigants, microwave or heat treatments does not work for Subterranean Termites, because an active reproducing colony will still exist within the soil below.
Baiting is another Subterranean Termite control option. Instead of the workers traveling through a soil treated barrier in order to enter and exit an infested structure, they are coaxed to bait stations with tasty wood steaks. Once feeding begins, the steaks are replaced with bait that is carried to the colony providing colony elimination. When this method works, it works very well. The problem I have observed with baiting is similar to that old proverb, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” After the initial system installation, the stations are monitored and maintained through regular service calls. The servicing of the system can be a long drawn-out process before baiting begins, if ever. In most cases soil treating is a simpler, provides expeditious results and an effective economical solution in comparison to a baiting program.
Drywood Termites infest and colonize directly within wood members. Drywoods are predominant in the warmer micro-climates of the Bay Area, like the South Bay and Valley Areas. However, they are now being found throughout the greater Bay Area including San Francisco. Drywood Termites prefer a warm and arid habitat located at the sun exposed areas of a structure and infest dry wood that is free of decay. Fungus infection and damage found associated with Drywood Termite damage, occurs when excessive moisture is introduced into the termite galleries. The galleries then create a plumbing affect, dispersing the moisture through the wood and promoting and accelerating fungus growth.
After an adult reproductive pair creates a new infestation, they tend to exist within the wood for one or two years without any outward sign of a new colony being present. Drywood Termite colonies are small in numbers and create damage at a slow pace. When significant Drywood damage becomes evident it is usually indicative of an older well established infestation that has produced several reproductive swarms and satellite colonies that can infest other areas of the same structure. Typically, the first indication of a Drywood Termite infestation is the appearance of granular fecal pellets being ejected through “kick holes” from the galleries of infested members. Depending on the diet of the termites, the coloration of the pellets range from a light golden hue to light brown and from dark reddish brown to black. When viewed with a magnifying glass, the pellets are elongated with rounded ends have and six ridge and groove excretion markings running the length of a pellet. The pellets are slightly larger than the size of this hyphen (-).
The long standing, industry standard for Drywood Termite treatment and control is structural fumigation. This involves covering the structure with specialized tarps and releasing Vikane Gas (Sulfuryl Fluoride) within the sealed tarps. Once the gas reaches equalization within the tarps, it penetrates all wood building materials and is allowed the appropriate exposure time to eradicate all Drywood Termite infestations, known and unknown, throughout the entire structure. Structural fumigation is the most efficient, effective and absolute whole structure method of Drywood eradication. The entire fumigation process typically takes approximately 60 hours.
There are definitely drawbacks to consider when contemplating a structural fumigation. Vacating the structure of people, pets and plants is no doubt a major inconvenience, along with the preparation work before hand. If your Termite Inspector is finding widespread infestations and/or evidence indicates that infestations are extending into inaccessible areas, then fumigation is the right choice. The benefit of the end result of being assured that all infestations are eliminated, should out weigh the inconvenience of fumigation.
There is a host of other Drywood treatment options out there. Some are more effective than others; some are more expensive than others; some smell and others don’t but all of them can be categorized as a localized treatment. If conditions and circumstances are right, locally treating a Drywood Termite infestation is a viable and effective option that should be considered when ever practical and feasible.
Local treatments are treatments of an isolated area or specific wood members of a structure. Some of the methods of treatment are ejecting materials into termite galleries and onto the surface of wood members, as well as subjecting infested members to microwave and heat applications. The critical factor of all local treats is determining and containing the extent of an infested area or members. Missing a portion of a colony or infested area by not adequately identifying the infested area can lead to an infestation rebound. Infestations concealed within inaccessible construction details may not be detected and not treated at all. If a known infestation is located within the enclosed wall framing, invasive discovery may be necessary to locate the areas or framing to be treated.
If you find that you have a Drywood Termite problem, the best thing to do is get three opinions and three estimates. Research the methods of treatment recommended and make an informed decision that delivers the results that will best benefit you.
Dampwood termites require wet, fungus infected wood to sustain a colony. Dampwood Termites are found at the coastal regions and in some of the hilly wooded areas around the Bay Area. Controlling Dampwood infestations is more of a structural repair project than a treatment process. Correcting and eliminating the excessive moisture conditions creating the wet rotting wood members, removing and replacing fungus infected, damaged members and Dampwood infested members, will adequately eliminate a Dampwood Termite infestation.
There are various wood boring beetle species but the main three to be concerned about in the Bay Area are powderpost, false powderpost and deathwatch beetles. These beetle infestations cause damage in structural framing, wood flooring, trim work, cabinets and furniture. The feeding during the larva stage of the beetle metamorphosis is responsible for creating the damage to wood and producing frass. The adult stage eventually emerges through round exit holes revealing wood frass, which is typically the evidence found indicating the presence of an infestation. Frass is chewed wood debris and fecal matter left behind by beetle larva.
Powderpost Beetles infest dry hardwoods and produce a fine, dust like, powdery frass similar to talcum powder. The frass is packed into the larval galleries in the wood and can be found in small piles as a result of falling from emergence holes. False Powderpost Beetles infest hardwoods and softwoods. Their course and gritty frass can be found tightly packed in the larval galleries.
Deathwatch Beetles primarily infest softwoods used for framing materials. Because Deathwatch Beetles require moist woods, they are commonly found in basements and crawl space areas where they attack the underside of floor structures. Their frass is also course with small pellets and is found packed in galleries as well as piles from being ejected out of emergence holes.
The name Deathwatch is believed to have come from folklore. Legend has it that when caregivers or the bereaved sat up late holding vigil over their sick, dying or dead, the tapping sound made by the beetles raping their heads on the wood walls of their galleries could be heard in the silence of night. The tapping was said to be the tapping of the grim reaper’s scythe staff tapping the floor, as he approach to claim the deceased.
Control for Wood Boring Beetles is a combination of removing and replacing infested wood as may be practical, locally treating exposed and infested wood members and controlling excessive moisture when possible. Fumigation is sometimes necessary for extensive and severe infestations.
Wood Destroying Pest Control Treatments