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GSBN:PhD. entomologist pursuing info re: termites v. straw(bale)

(note: My wife Jeanine is not on the GSBN list. I'll forward any replies to her, of course, though you're also invited to CC her with any responses. )

From: Jeanine Christensen jeanine@...
Subject: PhD. entomologist pursuing info re: termites v. straw(bale)

Need some advice here. I've been talking to Dr. Doudou Faye (formerly of
Senegal) about our termites. He came out, diagnosed our problem and
recommended some heavy-duty pyrethrins/pyrethroids to get rid of the evil
bugs. (Lord I cannot wait to build and then move out of this conventional
house!  Yeeesh.)

Faye has purchased land outside the Austin city limits (meaning no code
restrictions), and is *very* seriously considering strawbale construction.
I asked what termites (Formosan et alia) do to the cellulose in straw. I
meant species peculiar to this region--or soon to be, in the case of the
Formosan termites.

Faye didn't know, and further, he was extremely interested in either
setting up some kind of study or finding out if anyone else has ever
attempted to study this question. Enlightened self-interest. After all,
what self-respecting entomologist would want to build a home that some pest
would just love to cohabitate?

I told him sb has had fire tests, quake tests, compression tests, etc. but
could not recall for him any testing vis-a-vis pests. Wouldn't insurance
companies want to know this stuff too? If no study exists, how might one go
about setting up a relationship (or... *sponsorship*..?) with the proper
[gov't?] agency responsible for promulgating such info? The man clearly has
the intellectual rigor, the passion and the right creds to do a proper
test, IMO.

I note in the recent Last Straw (p. 37) the "Building Official's Guide to
Straw-bale Construction" (Lerner, Goode eds.) so I am also asking you,
Kate, if there is any info contained in that book that deals specifically
with pests (insects and others) and sb homes. Faye already knows about the
itch mites. I think what we're looking for are the really destructive
critters that will render a good structure unsound.

Thanks for letting me pick y'all's collective brains,

Bill Christensen

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