Termites are one of the most successful and durable organisms on Earth. For every one person on our planet, there are roughly 1,000 lbs of termites. Termites also work around the clock, never once requiring sleep for their entire lives. More closely related to cockroaches than other social insects like ants, termites have been around for over 250 million years (by comparison, humans have existed for just over four million years). While there’s upwards of 45 different species of termites, three species account for most termites issues: subterranean termites, drywood termites, and dampwood termites. It’s estimated that these termites cause over five billion dollars in damage each year. And with the typical termite probelm containing anywhere from 1-4 million of these wood-chewing insects, it’s obvious why every homeowner should be prepared to combat termites.
The good news is that termites are relatively easy to treat once located. Finding the source of your termite problem, however, can take some time (there’s a chance you’ll have to remove drywall or dig small trenches in your yard to locate the termites’ hive). Sadly, most traditional methods for treating termites involve toxins that endanger not only your family, but also your pets and the environment. Thankfully, you don’t have to resort to toxic chemicals to get rid of termites. There are several non-toxic alternatives that are highly effective at reducing termite populations. Here are our favorites.
It’s much easier—and much cheaper—to prevent termites than it is to treat them. The following precautions will go a long way in keeping these damaging insects away from your home:
- Eliminate any unnecessary moisture around the foundation of your home. Be sure to properly maintain pipes, home fixtures, A/C units, gutters, downspouts and other drainage sites. Fix any leaks immediately.
- Fill any cracks or other openings that would allow termites to enter your home. Pay special attention to utility lines and piping.
- Do not store firewood or other lumber near your home.
- Remove tree stumps, branches, and any other wooden debris from your yard.
- Keep shrubs, small trees and bushes well maintained
- Make sure all exterior vents have screens suitable for preventing termites from entering your home.
Termites cannot withstand sunlight, and therefore avoid it. Termites require moist conditions to stay alive, which is why direct sun exposure will ultimately kill them. If you’re seeing termites within certain areas of your home, expose those areas to as much sunlight as possible. If you can locate the termites’ hive outside, clear all brush and clutter to allow as much sun exposure as possible. Even better: dig in and around the hive to expose the colony to the heat of the sun. If you suspect that any furniture or other smaller items have been infested, placing them outdoors in the heat of the day is a natural way to help rid them of termites. While sunlight alone will not likely destroy an entire termite issue, it’s an effective natural way to reduce population size and help prevent additional termite problems.
Termites are attracted to cellulose, which makes up a large portion of their diet. Cardboard is full of cellulose, and can be easily re-purposed as a handy trap. This is one of the most effective natural methods for helping reduce termite issues. Simply take a large, moist sheet of cardboard and roll it into the shape of a tube (stacking several moist sheets atop one another also works). Place these DIY traps in the areas of the home where you’ve witnessed the most termite activity. Within a few days, collect the traps and discard them somewhere far from your house, or treat the collected termites with a naturally sourced insecticide. Repeat the process until you no longer see signs of termites.
One of the greener options for termite control involves introducing parasitic roundworms into the termite colony. Also known as beneficial nematodes, these organisms can devastate termite populations. Once they’ve located and entered a host, these nearly microscopic worms release a bacteria that’s deadly to insects such as termites. Once they’ve killed their host they move on to another member of the colony, reproducing in the process. Beneficial nematodes can typically be found at your local home & garden store. Once purchased, release the nematodes into the termite hive and let them do the rest. This approach works best in conjunction with other natural pest control methods.
Orange oil has proven effective at killing termites, particularly drywood termites. Extremely affordable and all natural, orange oil is derived from orange peels and is made mostly of d-limonene—a solvent that’s deadly to termites. When termites come into direct contact with orange oil their exoskeletons begin to dissolve, causing them to lose proteins and moisture, and ultimately die. This method works as a deterrent, too, as termites will avoid traveling in areas saturated with orange oil. Orange oil is also believed to disrupt termites’ pheromones, which they use to communicate. Simply spray full strength or mildly diluted orange oil onto termite problem areas, as close to the hive as possible. If the hive is located behind a wall and you’re not interested in tearing out Sheetrock, many professionals recommend drilling holes in the drywall and dispensing orange oil through the opening. (Always consult a professional before removing drywall or drilling holes for this purpose). Be aware: orange oil can irritate skin and cause complications if ingested, so please exercise caution when using this essential oil.
Along with its countless other uses, vinegar can also be used to kill termites. Mix half a cup of vinegar with the juice of two freshly squeezed lemons; then simply use the mixture in the same manner as the orange oil above, spraying in or around where the termites congregate—preferably the hive itself. The acidity of the solution is too caustic for termites, killing them on contact. This solution also functions as an effective deterrent. Repeat the process as necessary.
Naturally Sourced Insecticides
Naturally sourced insecticides are our preferred method for treating termites. For best results, you’ll want to treat both inside and outside your home. We recommend using Cedarcide Original for all indoor termite issues, and PCO choice for all outdoor applications. Simply spray Cedarcide Original anywhere you’re experiencing termite activity—this will kill all active termites and deter future individuals from returning to the area. If the hive is indoors, saturating the colony with Cedarcide Original should greatly reduce its size. To manage all outdoor termite problems, treat your entire yard with PCO Choice. With generous application, this cedar-based outdoor pesticide will seep into the soil, eventually reaching the hive. As an additional precaution, we recommend applying a thick barrier of PCO Choice around your foundation to prevent termites from entering your home. Repeat these processes as needed.
One of the very best ways to deter termites is to make your home's wood unappetizing to termites. A wood treatment that removes moisture from wood is a highly effective method to deter termites from consuming or inhabiting wooden structures. This approach not only preserves wood—making it more structurally stable and resistant to rot—but also transforms it into something termites can no longer eat or destroy. We recommend treating all wood vulnerable to termites with Cedarshield. This can be done either by treating wood before it's used for construction purposes, or after the fact once termites have become a problem. For more info on how to use Cedarshield watch the video below: