For us, like everyone else, 2020 has been a very challenging year, and we feel a bit sheepish to lay claim to woes of our own. But last month we added another entry to our list of troubles. We discovered we had termites.
We have a nice little area in our yard where a roof has been put over a concrete pad, creating a convenient storage and work space for the garden. (It was already there when we bought the house.) A few months after we finished some renovations and moved in, I used a set of old closet doors to put up a screen with a swing gate in the middle. And it was in these louvered panels and the hinge of the gate that we found evidence of termites (A and B in the picture below).
It’s a strange thing to say, but we are fortunate in having had lots of experience with termites. We knew a good company to call, and had it all sorted out last week. In honour of this experience, we decided to bring back two blog posts written by Yaemi Shigyo when we first found termites in the house where we used to live.
By a strange coincidence, earlier this year I read a very interesting book on termites, by Lisa Margonelli. I highly recommend it. Much better to read about termites than have your own!
Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology
by Lisa Margonelli
Also, if you’re in the Fukuoka area and find yourself needing to deal with termites, we’ve enjoyed many years of good service from 髙木しろあり工務店 (Takagi Shiroari Kōmuten, ‘Takagi Termite Contractors’).
Introduction above by Chris Ryal. The posts below were originally published in 2005.
Popular fellows around our house
One day, a dry day despite the monsoon season, we found some globby somethings emerging from a gap between the post and wall in the entrance hall, which had opened up after the 2005 Fukuoka earthquake. We wondered if it was some kind of egg and inserted a palette knife in it: some white ant-like stuff dropped to the floor. ‘What? This may be termites!’
Actually, our house location used to be a low mountain. (It’s too low to call a mountain. More like a hill.) They say Ozasa and Sasaoka (the neighbourhood next door) are a termite paradise. In fact, one of the trees in our hedge was attacked by them, and a wooden edging fence (around a planting bed) and a wooden planter also got damage. We were not sure what we should do this time, but anyway we reported to our landlord what had happened.
Some days later, a couple of guys from a termite extermination company, who were sent by our landlord, came to check our house. They looked under the floor, upstairs and down, and even under the roof. The result was that indeed we did have termites. And that they were the kind called ‘house termites’, which is a bad one: they even damage ceilings. Ay ya. The same kind appeared in the house across from ours last year. We hoped they wouldn’t appear at our place, but they did. Truly, things that we could do without usually happen to us.
The termite guys seem busy these days, so they actually came to treat our place yesterday, after it finally started to rain. In the heavy rain, they set some treatment stations – like plastic jars sunk in the ground – around the house. The damage was not as bad as we imagined: it sounds like we were able to find them pretty early. For a while we didn’t know how much damage we had so we thought we’d have to move from this house. It was depressing. But it seems we don’t need to move for a while. We found the damage because of a gap in the house made by the earthquake: it was a strange coincidence. It seems termites don’t like light, so they were sealing the gap using soil and remnants of food (which is to say, remnants of our house).
And so we got a reprieve for now. But it will still take some time to terminate the termites…
–YS, 7 July 2005
It has been one year since we found termites!
It has been one year since the fearful time that we found termites after some gaps appeared between the walls and posts of our house after the 2005 Fukuoka earthquake.
Last week, a person from the termite extermination company came for the last check of the one year contract term that our landlord made. We heard they got rid of the termites that attacked our house, so they wanted to remove the chemicals inside the house.
People say the area around our house was originally the kind of slightly elevated and moist place that termites like. Our neighbour said there had been a lot of termite damage here and there. Coincidentally, our extermination company has also been treating the house across the street, and the exterminator explained about the situation to our landlord, so our landlord continued the contract for one more year. Thanks, Mrs. Landlord! (Actually, we were wondering what we would do if the termites came back after the contract time finished. Yes, there are more termites in the world than the few thousand they got rid of!)
This time, the termite man went under the floor and between the first and second floors, did the final check, and showed us something interesting. It was dried stuff, full of many passageways, made from termite poo and saliva. It’s called ‘ant soil’ or an ‘ant road’. It looks just like a concrete block full of holes. Of course we can say it’s interesting because we could get rid of the termites. He found it in the post with the worst damage. (It’s one post of the badly ventilated bathroom. Some hateful thousands of termites reached up to the second floor.)
Recently I read in the newspaper that one of the biggest termite extermination companies was using some almost fraudulent sales techniques. (Actually, a few years ago, a sales guy from that company came to our door, and went away grumpy after we refused a free inspection.) Of course we want you to watch out for tricks by companies like that, but we also want you to be careful if you actually see winged termites in your house. I was told not to spray chemicals by myself, because it cuts off their path and it becomes harder to get rid of them completely. In particular, watch out if your neighbour had some damage. We heard they become more active in June and July.
By the way, I don’t want to buy wooden edging for flower beds any more, or put wooden flower pots directly on the soil. Some of ours were invaded by termites a few years ago. We can tell you that a crowd of termites really makes you sick.
–YS, 10 July 2006