Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It is Termite Day! Every year, on the first sunny day after the first heavy fall rain, the termites have their nuptial flight. I think Berkeley got at least 2" Monday night/Tuesday morning. And today, Wednesday, isn't exactly sunny, but it is warm enough for the termites. There are so many of them that the neighbors are stopping me to ask what is going on! It is the nuptial flight of the termites. They come out of the ground, fly around looking for that special someone, mate, and lose their wings. The males die and the females start a new colony. Maybe in your house.

We think of termites as "pests" and destructive insects, and they can do tremendous damage to your home. However, they were breaking down wood long before humans came on the scene, and will probably continue to break down wood long after all our homes are gone. They are composters. If they didn't break down wood, forests would be filled with downed trees. They can break down wood much faster than bacteria alone. What eats wood? Not many animals, because the cellulose is very hard to digest. So the termites depend on bacteria in the gut. Together, they are very efficient. And we should be thankful! They create room in the woods for new trees to grow.

If you are concerned about termites, you may want to read the UC Davis IPM site:
There are less toxic options for getting rid of them. If you want to treat just a small spot, orange oil can work. But if you want to make sure they are gone from the whole structure, maybe heat would be a better choice. And next time, build with steel, unless you are worried about rust. Or maybe stainless steel? Just kidding. Wood homes have served us well for many years, and they can last for hundreds of years if they are taken care of.

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