Knowing your termites

These wood-eating pests fall into two categories: subterranean termites, which are quite widespread, and drywood termites, which live in warm climates. (The Southern United States and California are at highest risk for both kinds of termites.) Within these categories are a number of species, each with its specific behavior patterns. Check with local organic pest-control professionals for details on what works against the termites in your area.

Controlling subterranean termites

Subterranean termites generally are controlled with in-ground bait stations, but some nontoxic approaches are slowly moving out of the experimental category. A sand barrier, for example, is a mechanical deterrent that involves surrounding vulnerable wood with a 4-inch-deep by 24-inch-wide moat of sand or ground cinders. You can't use just any sand, though. You need a specific size, called 16 grit, that's too big for the termites to move around and too small for them to use as substrate for building the protective tunnels (known as mud tubes or shelter tubes) they need to get to your deck posts.

You can also clad posts and other vulnerable wood with metal flashing or special termiteproof stainless steel mesh. You need to install this material with the utmost care, though, because termites can pass through a 1/64-inch opening.

Other defenses include treatment with nematodes, boric acid, or desiccants such as diatomaceous earth. There's also the simple act of finding and destroying the underground nest.

Fungus with powers for good

An eccentric, utterly credible, and brilliant sci- eradicate termites permanently at a cost of entist named Paul Stamets, up in the state of about 81 per treatment. Visit his Web site at

Washington, is working on a special fungus that poisons termites. Stamets claims that he can a\ng/

Controlling dryWood termites

Drywood termites enter wood from the air, not the ground. After they enter a piece of wood, they can be impossible to detect until something collapses from the effects of their feeding. According to independent authorities, no homeowner-applied treatments are effective on drywood termites; professionals should be called in at the first sign of infestation.

Nontoxic treatments include heating the wood with big space heaters (difficult to do on a deck, though), using localized heat guns, chilling them out with liquid nitrogen, zapping them with electricity, and sending microwaves into the wood.

Tenting and fumigation — the most widespread control method — is toxic and dangerous, and apparently doesn't work as well as its proponents claim.

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Oplan Termites

Oplan Termites

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