[GSBN] Termites

Derek Stearns Roff derek at unm.edu
Fri Apr 18 08:48:50 CDT 2014

I didn’t remember hearing the assertion that cob was immune to termites.  Termites are the most prolific cob builders on the planet, so I would expect them to be enthusiastic about human-produced cob buildings, as well.  I would think that the conventional building techniques for termite discouragement would be useful for for cob and strawbale structures.  Isolating the walls from the ground with a termite shield, such as a thin metal strip, is one technique.  Another is having a stem wall high enough above grade to make it obvious when the termites are building their mud tubes/tunnels up from the ground toward the walls.  I suspect that the Straw Wolf and others on this list will have valuable termite experience for us.

Most termites avoid light, except during the swarming period.  I suspect Misha is observing swarming, which is part of how new colonies are established.  While the swarms will disappear after a short while, the colonies that produced them will remain alive and active, in their hidden world.

While diatomaceous earth is deleterious for all insects, my understanding is that it doesn’t work via dehydration.  Diatoms are single-celled creatures with a silicaceous/siliceous cell wall.  Crushing the silicon “skeleton” of dead diatoms produces hard, sharp shards that lacerate insects bodies and joints.  The problem is that you have to get the insects to walk through the diatomaceous earth powder, for it to affect them.  Unfortunately, termites don’t go strolling about in the open.  I don’t know if it works, when mixed with soil or clay.  Similar issues exist for borax.  Unlike ants, termites don’t do a lot of foraging for food outside the nest, so they may not find and carry borax back to the colony.  Remember that boron in the soil, above fairly modest concentrations, is toxic to plants.



On Apr 17, 2014, at 11:47 PM, Paul Olivier <paul.olivier at esrla.com<mailto:paul.olivier at esrla.com>> wrote:

Dehydrate them. Add diatomaceous earth<http://www.ghorganics.com/DiatomaceousEarth.html> to the crawl space and around the foundation, Fagerlund suggests. This natural, light, powdery "soil," which is really crushed-up fossilized algaelike plants, sucks the moisture out of termites, he says, "It'll repel termites; they won't go near the stuff."  Use food-grade diatomaceous earth, he says.

Put diatomaceous earth within and on the bales of straw.


On Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 10:30 AM, Misha Rauchwerger <misha.rauchwerger at gmail.com<mailto:misha.rauchwerger at gmail.com>> wrote:
I thought I'd debunk the idea that straw bale and cob homes are immune to termites.  As of yesterday, termites began erupting (literally little volcanoes) out of a wooden bench on a cob base in the cob house, and from a dead-man in the cob wall, and I'm finding them on the floor the straw bale house too.  There's something going on with their life-cycle for them to be appearing at the same time in both places.

1.  Has anyone else had experience with termites in natural buildings?
2.  Does anyone know of any natural means of eradicating them?
3.  Are there best practices and architectural details to prevent this issue?

Misha Rauchwerger

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Paul A. Olivier PhD
26/5 Phu Dong Thien Vuong

Louisiana telephone: 1-337-447-4124 (rings Vietnam)
Mobile: 090-694-1573 (in Vietnam)
Skype address: Xpolivier

Derek Roff
derek at unm.edu<mailto:derek at unm.edu>

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