Q.One of the big trees in our yard fell during recent heavy winds. It didn't hit the house, but hit power lines, and blocked the road in front our house. It was a while before we got power back. The tree appeared to be healthy, but the man who hauled away the debris told us the tree was full of termites. He suggested we have our other trees baited for termites. He said the termites from this tree will go somewhere and would attack other trees. I called the company that does a yearly termite inspection on our house. They said they only do houses and didn't know anything about baiting trees. We have a lot of trees and I can't imagine how you would protect every one. Do you know anything about baiting trees? Do termites only attack trees that are diseased? Will the termites from the downed tree attack our house? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
A. It would seem to me that a tree would be bait enough if the treeís condition was attractive to termites. Then the problem would be what to do about it should that happen.
Termites around here are called subterranean termites. They live deep in the ground where breeding takes place. Termites are temperature and humidity sensitive creatures so the mud tunnels or tubes they build are for their safety-- they canít live long outside them. When one goes looking for termites itís the tunnels that are being looked for, not the bugs themselves. Break open termite tunnels and if the termites are active they will look like bits of white rice with legs. They send scouts out to look for food and food is generally a wood source and itís not live wood. In my life I have only seen one live tree with termite tunnels on it and they were going after dead wood on the tree.
You can be sure that there are termites in the ground out in your yard with those trees present. Termites, in the overall scheme of things, clean the forest floor so they are there and they are working. Your tree cutter was correct suggesting that the surviving colony will be looking for another food source now that the wind blew their lunch away.
The problem that we have with termites is they canít tell the difference between a big dead tree limb out on the ground and the lumber in your house. Termites can and have destroyed houses and thatís why most mortgage lenders require certificates that show a house is termite free at the time of purchase and why prudent homeowners maintain an annual inspection relationship with a pest control professional after move-in to keep it that way.
Since the control of termites usually involves toxic agents in one form or another and since if used or handled improperly can injure other living things beyond termites such as children or pets, the whole activity is generally and wisely left to licensed professionals. Youíve done that with your house and if you think you can really control those termites out in the woods you call a yard, you are mistaken. I recently was in a newly constructed building, entirely of concrete and steel, that was built on ground that I knew to have been tree free for a century or so. Previously to the building being on that spot it was paved over for parking with some grass around the pavement. The building hadnít been up for a year and I spotted termite tunnels coming up the concrete block wall between the block and the concrete floor. Those tenacious termites must have fed for decades on meager rations indeed and I think someone kicked a board or wood scrap into the ditch before the foundation trench was filled and they found it, ate it and went looking above for more. They wont find anything but they were looking. Your yard is a feast compared to what these guys were eating.
Since your pest control company doesnít do woods and trees then what I suggest you do is establish a reasonable perimeter around your house, say twenty feet or so, that you can declare to be a no termite zone. You can buy and apply broad spectrum insecticides that will reduce the population of all sorts of critters in your perimeter that can be safely applied by you as long as you follow the directions carefully. Orthoģ sells some in a garden sprayer type applicator. Sure, you can buy bait stakes to put in the ground. I found some on the web for $325.00 plus shipping and handling but Iím not so sure what youíd gain by using them.