Living in Hawaii, termites are a part of life. Everyone either has them or will get them in the near future. While Hawaii has a handful of different species of termites, only two types have a large economic impact: drywood termites, which leave behind sand-like pellets, and ground termites, which can be easily distinguished by their mud tubes. Although drywood termite colonies are much smaller than ground termites (300 members as opposed to hundreds of thousands), they often swarm and reinfest your house in different areas, thereby spreading throughout your home and requiring extensive treatment.

Unfortunately, if you choose to renovate, you may stumble across these little guys or even worse, you may accidentally introduce a colony by installing infested wood. This is common with new cabinet installations: you may not realize it during the installation, but it is possible that the wood is already infested with a drywood termite colony that may not show signs for a couple of years.


The tradition in Hawaii has always been to fumigate your home for drywood termites. However, many homeowners cannot fumigate or want to have an alternative to fumigation. If you are one homeowner in a multi-unit complex, such as a townhouse or condo, fumigation might not be an option unless all the occupants consent to do so. Other homeowners might have fragile roofing or may not be able to complete the preparations for fumigating. Fortunately, these days there are several choices for drywood termite treatment other than fumigation.

Heat treatment is tent fumigation’s chemical-free cousin. In this treatment, all wooden areas including wooden studs, beams and cabinets are raised to lethal temperatures. Like fumigation, heat treatments kill off the entire termite colony in one treatment. However, unlike fumigation, heat treatment does not require a tent over the roof — which means no more broken roof tiles or worrying about fumigators falling off your house. Additionally, heat treatments only take a few hours, so there is no need to find a place to stay for the night. The best thing about a heat treatment is that you can treat just a part of a structure. If you live in a high rise, you can have your whole apartment (or just one room) treated without affecting your neighbors.

The concept of heat treatments is fairly simple: All organisms have a “thermal death point” — a temperature at which they can no longer survive. However, the actual heat treatment process is complex: The crew must be experienced and attentive or else failure and/or damage is possible. The disadvantages of heat include the potential for damage, a lot of prep work may be required and, like fumigation, there is no residual activity when heat is used by itself.


Another alternative to fumigating is a borate treatment. Borate treatments utilize the salt mineral boric acid — a naturally occurring compound found around the world. In a borate treatment, all unfinished wood (such as wall studs and attic beams) are treated with a boric acid solution that is injected through the walls. Like heat, borate treatments don’t require walking on the roof, nor do they require you to move out of your home. Also, like heat treatments, you can treat partial structures such as a single condo or just the attic. Borate treatments require far less prep work than either heat or fumigation. The best advantage to borate treatments is that there is residual activity — when wood is treated with borate, the boric acid will bond to the wood for the lifetime of the structure. However, unlike fumigation and heat, borate takes a while to work — the boric acid must be ingested by the termites. In addition, borate is difficult to get into inaccessible areas, leaving these spaces susceptible to termite invasion.

The last effective alternative to fumigation is a spot treatment. A variety of products can be used, depending on your Pest Management Professional (PMP). Chemicals used in spot treatments can include boric acid as well as several others. The biggest advantage to spot treatments is that it is the least invasive and least expensive. However, they may be ineffective depending on the extent of the infestation and the experience of your PMP. Spot treatments are usually only effective in the earliest stages of an infestation, before you have several colonies in your house.

Whether you have termites in a house, condo or boat, be sure to share all your concerns with your PMP. Ask a lot of questions, and work together to find out what will work best for you.


Sandwich Isle Pest Solutions offers a variety of termite and other pest-control options, including the above services. In fact, Sandwich Isle is the only company in Hawaii to offer all of these options in addition to tent fumigation. What started off as a one-man operation in 1997 has quickly become Hawaii’s largest locally owned pest control company. The company includes seven fumigation crews, a K9 scent detection division and its very own on-staff entomologist.

CONTACT: 456-7716 •


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