Bugs as Guests? Orange Oil an option, fumigation may still be needed

I learned about Orange Oil today.  No, not for aromatherapy, the bundt cake recipe, or anything along those lines.  It is for termites.  The hottest marketing craze to hit the “structural pest” world has phones ringing off the hook, according to Kevin Palmer of Premier Termite in Half Moon Bay.  Why?  Because it’s not a poisonous gas, which many of us don’t care to put into our homes if we don’t have to.  Homeowners seem to be enthusiastic about this local-use option.  Orange oil is a contact spray with the active ingredient being d-limonene.  It has to hit the bug to work.  It does not spread termite to termite.  It will work in some circumstances and not others – only your professional structural pest inspector will know for sure… 

Kevin brought us up to date on the most commonly used products around here and the Coastside’s favorite pests – termites and wood beetles.  And he had some stories that made a few of us squimish.  The most common termites around here are drywood termites, dampwood termites, and subterranean termites.  I was going to share pictures but I really didn’t want to spend that much time looking up bugs!

One of the fumigation products being used now is called Vicane.  Per Kevin, this gas leaves no residue with proper application.  You do need to remove all food, including food in the refrigerator and freezer, and plants.  Kevin tells us that factory sealed cans can stay, but boxed or bagged items need to go out of the house.  However, some of us do not want to add more of this type of chemical into our home, even if it’s temporary – 3 days is the recommended time to stay out of teh house.  Once you return, that’s the time to wipe down and reorganize the pantry, which you’ve been meaning to do for years anyway.

Powderpost beetles are pretty common in our area also.  A product used to treat this pest is Timbor.  It attacks the larvae, yet they can still come back because there is a 3 to 5 year life cycle.  We also learned that older wood is less susceptible to bugs than the newer engineered wood.  Whether you have a newer or older home, it’s still a good idea to have an inspection every few years.  One house we heard about hadn’t had an inspection for many (10+) years and the inspectors found that under the hardwood flooring, there was barely any subfloor left because the termites had eaten most of the foundation.  The house basically had to be rebuilt. 

So your options are deconstruction/construction, fumigate, local treatments/orange oil or do battle in combination.  Your pest inspector will know based on the type of bug you have and the type of construction on your home.

For sellers, it’s wise essential (in this market) to get this inspection before your home goes on the market.  Know what you’re dealing with ahead of time to have the advantage going into the sale process.  For buyers, don’t discount a house just because it has a large amount of pest work (which can either be dryrot or bugs).  Just know what you’re getting into and use as a negotiating tool if it’s the house you want.  Of course, if it’s too much work, you can walk away.  Note that in this changing market, some sellers are coming to market with a pest clearance – as in markets past.  Susan O’Driscoll shared with us also today that most lenders are not requiring pest clearance but that could change.