Termites are ubiquitous to life and soil in Bohol and the entire country. Despite that, I find it amazing the people continue to build houses and create conditions that are termite attractants. I had to keep telling people to not put wood, and especially rotted wood, next to the stilts of the house.
The wood floor section under the bathroom is also already showing signs of rotting, indicating that there is bad plumbing done and that the concrete and tiled section was not waterproofed properly if at all. A similar situation may be found under the kitchen sink where bad plumbing drips water onto the floor beams. The nipa roof has also suffered damage through decomposition and cats prowling, as well as two poor attempts at repairs. So when it rains, water leaks through and dampens the floors in a few sections of the house.
The construction and repair of nipa frond roofing is becoming more scarce so finding skilled workers to do this is getting to be impossible. I will keep looking for good nipa roof workers, and by patronising them, they will continue in their craft. We really prefer nipa roofing because it is so much cooler than the typical industrial materials like galvanised iron sheets.
The termite damages is not bad at all considering the house entirely made of wood. Termites seem to pass along the woven bamboo walls of the house, the wooden sticks supporting the nipa fronds of the roof and the criss-cross bamboo sections of the balcony. They pass there and eat, create their mud tracks, but eat only a little and then move on. They can’t seem to eat their way through the gmelina hardwood.
They can eat through mahogany, though, especially when the wood has chips, holes and gaps – and especially if the wood is constantly getting wet.
But the termites are already here. I have seen the white ones that make mud tunnels. They are white with brown heads. I can hear them when they eat their way through. I think those are termite soldiers.
The black ones that look like ants are what puzzle me – are they termites or are they ants? I have always thought they were ants but when I took some close-up photos, I think they are actually termites! They may be workers in the colony, but they also look like kings.
I am currently thinking of a solution to these problems. I am thinking of ecological and cultural control measures. I find it pointless to use poison and kill the surrounding soil of the house when termites and soil are nearly synonymous here in Bohol.
One direction I am going is to try to discourage the termites from finding their way through the wood since they do attack wood from the inside out. I will have to spend several happy days picking through holes and gaps in the wood, treating and sealing them with wood glue or epoxy.
My friend Lori also suggests using soapy water and bleach to kill the termites, which is a much better way than using highly poisonous chemicals. I have poured some bleachy soapy water on some white termites and that killed them – so the bleach soap water does work as direct contact killers.
Next week I will try and get some clear varnish to continue the task of sealing the bamboo sections of the house. Varnish often help make the wood unpalatable to the termites. That is another way of discouraging them from staying. I believe they come up to the house to find food, but they actually live under the ground. The termites here are the subterranean types.
Out in the garden, everything rots so quickly. Our pig pen, built only 2 years ago, is almost ready to fall to the ground. The fencing around the chicken run nearly got half eaten after only 6 months of keeping the chickens locked in the coop. Now that the chickens are out in the run, they are now controlling the termite population. So chickens are a good natural termite control.
So much to learn!