On discovering alate (winged) termites in the living room I launched into some research on these beasts. The order might be dead, but while interesting that’s not very helpful in this situation. They are certainly busy eating the house: I found and opened up one of their little arcades and exposed a steady stream of traffic, including some alates. (The damage to the tunnel was repaired overnight.)
There seem to be two main flavors of treatment, one using baits and one in which the perimeter soil is saturated with insecticide solution. The bait method has inspired volumes of vitriol, which would be funny if it weren’t heartbreaking. I found this site of complaints about Sentricon to be a real page-turner. Although the problems are working their way through the legal system you wonder why so many people get into trouble like this – don’t people read contracts before signing, check the independent research on the method, and get references? I guess I know the answer to that…
I’ll probably opt for the fipronil treatment. I used baited fipronil (MaxForce gel) to deal with a carpenter ant problem a few years ago and it was magical. I will feel bad about the collateral damage but the poison seems to be reasonably safe and specific and the casualties ought to be limited to soil fauna within a short distance of the house. Well, I expect it will also do a number on ant colonies at some distance. We’ll see. But what’s the alternative?
I wish I could figure out how they’re getting into the house. I haven’t found any of their tubes on the foundation. My best guess is that they’re coming in underneath the cinder blocks, about 30″ below the surface, and traveling up through the hollow cavities in successive layers of cinder block. This seems unlikely but I don’t have any better ideas. (In Massachusetts termites don’t nest in houses, they nest in the soil and just commute to the house for refreshment.)
The house isn’t falling down, yet. I opened up the basement ceiling and found damage to only about 24″ of only one of the joists. I’m hoping the inspection doesn’t turn up additional damage and that the floorboards and subfloor will do extra load-bearing duty until I can get the joist fixed.