Outside in and inside out! A place to store ideas about education.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Right now I'm researching pest control.

We have a nasty pest problem here at home. My dad says that our place has a particular allure for termites. Our neighborhood sits atop a bed of adobe (now that I've researched it, it doesn't appear to be adobe at all! maybe I should schedule a little visit to the NIGS), which my dad claims comes from a really fantastic volcanic eruption somewhere in Laguna Lake (?) that threw all sorts of rocks and magma hereabouts. Anyway, rumor has it that this particular rock (it is quite hard, which led campus architects to construct houses with large back yards, because cracking the rock under the soil was simply too expensive) exudes warmth, which, coupled with the natural humidity of our tropical rain forest-like climate, as well as years of housekeeping neglect, attracted and maintained a thriving colony of subterrainean termites in our home.

Now that's just outside our home. Inside is a labyrinth of books, manuscripts, magazines, and papers, given that my mom is a librarian and my dad is a novelist. Perfect termite food!

So anyway, the termites that we have are subterrainean kind and they cost the most damage in properties all over the world (except in dry or too cold climates). They make mud tunnels from the ground to their food source (in our case, window jambs and ceilings). They are very social animals (there is a term: eusocial) and communicate to each other frequently during their tunneling and burrowing. Taxonomically, they are closely related to wood-eating cockroaches (who knew?) and apparently had a major role in keeping the ecosystem, ranging for processing dry leaves (to prevent really bad forest fires from happening) and exuding insane amounts of methane (a greenhouse gas) into the environment.

So what's a homeowner to do? i researched the ways by which my current (VERY BAD) household infestation can be treated, and I realized that I really had to go call the pest contrl people, even though I shudder at the price they may quote. The biology of the termite (being an eusocial organism, does this give them superpowers?) being quite tricky, I wouldn't want to unnescessarily make a bad infestation worse. (note: DonĂ¢'t touch or disturb the infested site to keep the termites from spreading to other areas.)

There are three ways to go about it, First, there is the Barrier method, where you practically drench your lot with highly toxic anti-termite (and actually, anti-everything else) solution which will deter the termites from going in. Problem with this method is that it does kill the termites going in, it traps the termites in your house from going out! So that's really a big negative, since my infestated house is not only on the outside but underneath, on it (windows and walls), and on top of it (ceiling), too.

Second there is the termite baiting system provided by the likes of Centricon. THey administer a termite bait using termite attrative-hormones (pheromones) a distance away from your home so that the termites all go there, being more attractive than your home. With the pheromone is a nasty you-can't-molt chemical, which is really environmentally friendly as it acts only on those pesky termites and not much else. SO birds that eat the termites don't get sick, water systems don't get poisoned, and you sleep better knowing that your house is safe from termites and your kids are safe from getting poisoned by pesticides. However this method is really darn expensive not to mention that it takes a while for colony eradication.

Now third there is the method used by Bayer called Agenda. It is a low-concentration toxin that is applied like a barrier but does not work like a barrier. Instead, termites pass through the pesticide barrier and get a good dose of it on its body. It then rubs up to other termites, giving these other termites a good dose of the pesticide. The second batch of termites rub off on a third batch, and so on, spready the love around. Within 3 months there is a drastic decrease in termite population. One should just pray to high heaven that the termites don't develop tolerance (immunity?) to the chemical.

I'm thinking a bit about the Sentricon method, because it is safer in the long run. However, the Agenda thing is also a good option because we really have a really big termite population and I'd like to do something about it and fast.

(this article was brought to you be Google and Wikipedia, and by a number of other pest control websites, particularly this site from the University of Texas).


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