Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Termite Treatment 101

I had a phone today that I've gotten many times and have not written down the steps for future reference. The common question I get is, "how do you perform a proper termite treatment?" It is actually quite involved, so I think by writing it down I can reference people to this and not have to explain it each time. This treatment applies only for SUBTERRANEAN TERMITES. Drywood termites require a different treatment method.

A Liquid termite treatment, although involved, is definitely something a homeowner can tackle. What makes it EASIER for a company is the equipment. It is definitely not rocket science. The main piece of equipment that makes it easy for company’s is they have 100 gallon pressure sprayers. A typical termite treatment requires 100 to 200 gallons of finished solution, so it helps out quite a bit to be able to treat in one or two shots. A homeowner normally does not have access to a 100 gallon spray rig, so it is much more time consuming. Most homeowners use a 5 gallon bucket. Since subterranean termites come from the ground, the goal is to put a complete termiticide barrier around the structure. This is achieved by trenching where there is dirt against your foundation, and drilling where there is concrete against your foundation.

Using a pick axe or trenching tool, you should dig a 6 inch wide and 6 inch deep trench directly against the foundation everywhere the ground comes up to the structure. Once the trench is complete it is filled with 4 gallons of mixed termiticide per 10 feet. This is where the 5 gallon bucket comes in handy. If one side of your house is 30 feet long, than you "eye" 4 gallons in the bucket and pour it in the trench 3 times for a total of 12 gallons per the 30 feet. You can use a one gallon sprayer to mix and spray the chemical with, but if your house requires 100 gallons of chemical, it may take you two days to fill the sprayer 100 times. It also helps to have something large to mix the chemical in, and then pour it in the 5 gallon bucket to place in the trench.

Once the trench is filled with the proper amount of termiticide, cover the trench back with the dirt that was removed. You want the dirt that you place back in the trench to be treated also, so that you have a complete barrier against your house and no untreated soil. If you place the dirt back in the trench while it is still filled with the termiticide, it will mix and be treated. If the ground has already soaked up the termiticide, than you will need to pour extra termiticide on top of the backfill.

For your garage, porch, patios, or other contiguous slabs against the home, you will need to get the termiticide underneath the concrete against the foundation. To do this you will need a hammer drill with a 12" by 1/2" wide drill bit. You drill holes throughout the concrete about 3-4 inches away from the wall or foundation, and apart about every 10"-12". Once the holes are drilled, you fill at the same rate you did the trench, 4 gallons per 10 feet. To fill these I would recommend using the one gallon sprayer on a "pin stream" setting so you can force the liquid down the hole and not splash it everywhere. Once the holes are filled all you need to do is patch them with a concrete patch filler you can buy at Home Depot.

These are the basic steps in a liquid termite treatment for Subterranean Termites. If your home has a crawl space or is surrounded by brick on all 4 sides, there are some additional drilling that usually is done when a professional treats your home. However, we have only covered the basics today. Good Luck!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Roaches, Roaches, Everywhere!

I have been in the pest control industry for quite awhile, so on most normal days I do not see new and unusual things. I have been on some "bad roach calls" plenty of times, but this day would be different. I've heard stories. . .even seen educational videos for my training classes we take every year. Every time I have watched these "bad roach accounts" I said to myself, "I will never see something that bad".

It was a beautiful sunny day outside, and I had just arrived at the office to a phone call about a family in a trailer about 5 miles from the office. They said they had a roach problem and wanted a one time treatment to help cut down on the problem. This was a normal call that we get every day, so I didn't think much of it. When I arrived at the structure I was thinking to myself this will be a quick in and out service, and I will be on my way. I was met outside at my truck as I was gathering my arsenal by the 12 year old daughter of the family. As I was digging through my toolbox I asked her how bad the roach problem was and she responded, "It's gotten really bad lately, we see them all over now". That is usually not a good sign. As I walked in the front door, the odor hit me like a ton of bricks. When you walk in a "bad roach call" you can smell the infestation. It has a distinct smell. This was the worse odor I can ever remember. I know the problem was bad before I even saw the first one. As I made my way further into the structure, it was kind of dark and dismal. It was quiet thought, and in the background I could hear what my eyes had not yet seen. I looked up at the ceiling and it moved. I looked at the walls and they moved. Then I realized what I was dealing with. Usually when you first go into a bad roach account, they congregate in the kitchen and bathrooms, and you find some here and there in the rest of the house. For me to see the numbers I saw in the living room and on the ceiling, this infestation had to be at the next level. Roaches are not really social creatures. When you have roaches showing up in huge numbers in other parts of a house other than the kitchen and bathrooms, you know that the population is so great they had to spread out.

Upon further examination I realized that I was in the "big one". The videos I had seen and stories I had heard about could not prepare me for what I was witnessing in person. One for the record books. They were everywhere, by the thousands. Every inch of the counter, every drawer, every cupboard, every box, every picture frame and poster on the wall, covered in roaches. The saddest part of the whole situation was that humans actually lived here. They sleep here with roaches crawling on them all night, they eat here with roaches crawling all over their food. Roaches are some of the unhealthiest pests around. They carry disease and filth that causes asthma and typhoid fever just to name a few. When you enter a house with roaches, you look for the areas of fecal matter to see where they are hiding out at. There "waste" looks like pepper shaken out on a counter top, and is the unhealthy and diseased part of a roach infestation. Usually you find these fecal deposits in corners, around picture frames, underneath appliances. This particular house had fecal deposits everywhere, and on everything. The people inside of course had asthma, as expected. Some of the fecal deposits were like none I had ever seen, 1/4 thick "cakes" of fecal matter. I could not believe what I was seeing, I could not believe people could live in these kinds of conditions. I couldn't believe that people could let a problem get this bad before calling for help.

The farthest room from the kitchen was the 12 year old girl's bedroom. She had pictures of crayon drawings on her wall and above her bed on the ceiling. Each one of these pictures when tapped with my hand, revealed hundreds of dwellers behind them. I moved her book bag off the wall that was hanging on a hook, and from behind it hundreds of tiny roaches scattered like the light switch was just turned on.

The ideal answer in this situation is to either. . .A.) Call someone else, I'm outta here. B.) Burn down the structure and start from scratch. Or C.) Ask the homeowner to leave for a day and fog like you have never fogged before.

I always like a challenge so I offered answer C. We have a micro jet fogger at our office which I have used in many situations somewhat like this. One thing was evident, a good fogging is their only hope, but they will still have roaches. The hope is to cut down the numbers so they can at least hopefully sleep at night without uninvited guests in their bed, and to hopefully get the population contained back in the kitchen. They agreed to leave the following day. I returned with the fogger and got started. When you start fogging a roach infested house, you usually double the number of roaches you have seen previously. The fog that is created is tiny particles of insecticide that flushes insects out of hiding, and soon after kills them. After a room fills with the fog, they begin to come from everywhere. Of course I was wearing the proper equipment: eye protection, chemical respirator, gloves, long sleeves, and long pants. After you fog each room separately, the entire house at this point is blurry. I set the fogger down near the door and go outside to get some fresh air. I usually leave the fogger on for a couple more minutes to fill the house up completely. I open the door to grab the fogger and turn it off. Once you have fogged a roach infested house, you can hear them falling off the ceiling and hitting the floor, it sounds like rain drops. I was interested in hearing this particular job because of the great numbers I was dealing with. I opened the door and stood silently for a second. It sounded almost equivalent to a torrential downpour in the summertime. Minus the lightning and thunder. I could see the kitchen floor from the front door where I was standing. There were thousands of dying roaches on the linoleum floor, legs up. It reminded me of the battle scene from Saving Private Ryan when they stormed the beach at Normandy. It was a brutal sight. I left the house planning on returning a couple hours later to assess the damage.

Upon my return I would say the assault was successful. Piles of casualties lay all over the house. I would say enough to fill up an entire large kitchen trash bag completely with dead roaches. That family was very pleased with the results. I returned a week later to inspect the structure again and evaluate if it would need another treatment. I was amazed at the results, but it was still not hard to find them. At this point if it was the first time I had entered this house, I would still think in my eyes that it was a bad roach problem. However, my version of a bad roach problem had now taken on a whole new meaning. The homeowners did not want another service. They had lived in those conditions so long, that after the fogging they felt the problem was take care of, even though there will still roaches in many places.

This structure of course was not very clean. The floors look like they had not been vacuumed in years. Cleanliness is key in any roach infestation. Each night the counters and floors should be wiped down of all sticky substances and crumbs. The sink should not have any dishes left in it over night, and the sink should be dried out each night too. This goes the same for bathrooms. Roaches can go a long time without food, but must have water to survive. A couple drops of water can sustain a hundred roaches for weeks. Sometimes cleanliness alone can solve a roach problem, but not one of the magnitudes I have just spoke about. The problem escalated to that point though because of the lifestyle and uncleanliness of the homeowners. The problem doesn't happen overnight, and will not go away overnight. If there is food and water that is left around, roaches will thrive and reproduce so fast that before you know it, you could be the next "bad roach call".