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Cancelling Terminix... Beneficial Nematodes?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Background: We inherited Terminix as the anti-termite company when we bought the house. We've maintained the annual fee for a few years now. We have the baiting system. The house did have termites when the previous owners were here; that's why they got the termite system installed. However, $350/year just seems like a lot of money for what little work the company seems to do, and I'm looking at other options. They (terminix) tried to sell us on a spray plan instead, but I'm creeped out about that.

I don't want chemicals. I don't want to pay $350/year for the baiting system. But, I really don't want my house to fall down either .

Could I confidently cancel my terminix plan, if I commit to putting down beneficial nematodes in the Spring? Do I have to wait until Spring? Do I have to put them just around the house or all over the property? (To cover my property with nematodes would cost under $50 per application.) Would I apply them repeatedly over the warmer months or just once? Would I reapply every year?

I don't want to simply cancel the terminix thing without having another plan in place. I'd love whatever advice you have for preventing termites without chemicals.

post #2 of 9
I would write to this website: www.greenneedles.com. They're local to me and recommended a great eco-friendly pest exterminator. Their website has all eco-friendly products!

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Bump... I'm still hoping for an answer...

I don't need an exterminator, but I'm hoping to not need an exterminator.

post #4 of 9
Different nematodes live at different levels in the soil and feast upon different prey. So, you want to be certain to get the "right" nematodes for termites. (Heterorhabditis bacteriophora and Steinernema carpocapse are the nematodes to use when targeting termites.)

When to apply depends on soil temperature (you want to apply when soil is moderately warm, above 50 degrees) and the life stage of the intended prey - when prey are apt to be producing larvae, that's the best time to strike. In more southern states, that could be all year long. But, where you are, there are times when termites are more active than others.

Also, after laying down the nematodes, you are going to want to put down diatomaceous earth (which is not "earth", but the exoskeletons of diatoms) around your foundation.

There's a good worm farmer over in New Jersey, when I come back to provide links to more specific information, I'll include one to his site too. (Here's the NY worm farmer's site: http://www.wormman.com/pd_nematodes.cfm.) His site also has information about the application of nematodes, but you are going to want to do a google search for more detail.

You're not going to like this - nematodes are effective within a narrower temperature range than chemicals, and are more impacted by less-than-perfect soil, thatch depth, and watering frequency. It sounds like you're not treating your house or your foundation now - just baits around the lawn. So, I'm going to assume that the house is "clean" and what is being done now is to prevent re-infestation? Know that nematodes aren't going to do much of anything about termites within your walls. They are aimed at termites in the soil and around your foundation (you can insert tubes leading to the foundation to pour some of the nematode solution close the foundation). Most of your H. bacteriophora juveniles are going to die within a few days of application and this is the nematode that goes to the deeper soil to attack termites. So, it's important to apply the right amount for the area you need to cover.

I found a short blurb in a recent edition of an online environmental magazine that referred to a product called BioBlast, said to be an effective fungal parasite for both drywood and subterranean termites. It might be worth looking into this as a product to apply if you do get a reinfestation.

Hope this info helps. And, I would suggest you contact the entomology department of the University of Pennsylvania. They should have someone with specific information for the application of nematodes in your area.
post #5 of 9
How old is the house? Is there any special termite risk, like an antique house with a minimal foundation?
Is there active infestation?

If the house had termite treatment more than 20 years ago, they used some very persistent chemicals that are in the soil forever. I have never had a termite plan on any house in PA, except when it came with the house. (and then we did not extend it)

You are basically buying a warranty against active infestation for $360 a year. If you cancel the warranty and get termites, you will be out about $1000 plus the cost of repairing damage to the house. In Florida, the termites are more vicious (Formosan termites) and can eat faster ... there you would desire continuous warranty.

Usually, the termite damage is found during inspection (while selling the house) and is treated at that time, with a warranty for the new buyer.

There are certain landscaping steps you can take to reduce the risks of termites -

no shrubs or plants against the house
shredded tire mulch instead of bark mulch (near the house)
no wood piles against the house
correct any downspout water management issues
inspect every few months
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Our house is 50 years old. The outside frame is cinder block. There is some wood at the foundation (I can see wood at the top of the walls in the basement).

I've never known anyone who has a termite plan in our area. We're outside Philadelphia. I know that there are termites around, but they don't seem to be that big of a deal. I don't think I've ever even heard of someone I know having a problem with termites.

We do try keep the brush cut back, but we're not perfect about it. We have a brush pile, but it's 20 feet from the house. We don't use bark mulch - the gardens just have regular soil. We had water drainage issues, but we've graded part of our lawn and re-routed the drain spouts, so we should be good there.

We have no termites now. I would like to cancel the terminix plan, as I think that $350/year is a lot for prevention. It strikes me as though our risk is relatively low, and it would be better to just play the odds and pay for extermination and repairs if need be. I just don't want to be naive about it, if the odds aren't as low as I think.

I might try introducing beneficial nematodes anyway - we have a lot of ants (including carpenter, sigh) in our yard (and therefore also in our house), as well as other grubs, that would 'benefit' from the nematodes

post #7 of 9
Another option is diatomacious earth to kill outdoor bugs.

Philly suburbs are not a hotbed of termite activity. The termite company will be sad to see you go.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Will diatomaceous earth kill the nematodes?
post #9 of 9
Originally Posted by avendesora View Post
Will diatomaceous earth kill the nematodes?
Probably. But if you treat a small strip around the house (per label instructions) then you wont NEED beneficial nematodes. You still need to watch for signs of termites, though, just in case.

But like I mentioned, if your house was treated over 20 years ago, the pesticide used to treat it is permanent, and will not ever break down in the soil in your lifetime or mine. :
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