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Woolwich steps up its efforts in battle against termites

Having re-declared war on termites in the township with the launch of a new program last year, Woolwich’s latest battlefront is yard waste – it’s encouraging residents in areas with termites to clear away the kind of debris that can attract the insects.

To that end, the township last month dropped off bins for residents to fill, said chief building official Dave Heuchert.

“Five bins were in Elmira, one bin was in Winterbourne, and they were there for the public to dispose of yard waste or termite-infested wood,” he said. “It was a great weekend in the sense that there was lots of participation.”

It’s easier to kill off termites outside before they infest homes, and also better for the homeowners, he said. When they do get inside, the township’s program sets about tackling them.

Once discovered, exterminators use sprays inside termite-made pathways called tubes as well as placing traps outside to further cull the population.

“Any active termite tubes found inside the house get a borate spray on the tube, that acts as a bait and will kill those active termites,” explained Heuchert. “The traps outside of the home are intended to deplete the population gradually over time. Stump habitat cleanup removes termite nesting sites as well the red zone properties get nematode treatments that provide a further biological base population suppression.”

Currently, there are 125 properties sitting in either a red or blue zone. Red zones are properties that have active termites on it, or are close to a property with an active infestation. Blue zones are a peripheral boundary area which are closely monitored. Most of the activity is in a section of Elmira, with a spot in Winterbourne.

Termite issues were first identified in Elmira in the early 1980s, with 31 homes infected at one point. That “termite area” prompted a 1981 bylaw that gave township staff the authority to inspect properties that had problems with termites and order the removal of wood and infested material while overseeing remedial work. As the bylaw was tied to a provincial grant, it was ultimately repealed when the funding was cut in the 1990s.

Since then, all termite programs had been on hold. Last year, however, Woolwich took steps to restart its war against the termite by creating a new control program and applicable bylaw.

“Our hope is [that] we see a significant decrease in the population,” said Heuchert of the latest iteration of the battle.

The impacts termites can have on a home can be devastating. Protecting residents’ homes may be at the forefront of the program, but Heuchert explains that if left unchecked, the termite population will expand.

“They can damage structural components of the house for sure. The other big issue is how they migrate.” said Heuchert. “If the program had not been implemented, and you were to come back and re-survey those areas in another 15, 20 years, I think you would find that the area has expanded. So really, it’s a way to stop that migration so that it doesn’t start impacting other sections of the settlement.”

While totally eradicating the termite population in Elmira may be unfeasible, Heuchert has pointed out that similar programs have run in neighbouring regions to great effect.

“The exact same program has run in Kitchener and Guelph with great success. So our hope is that we stop seeing termites,” said Heuchert. “The expectation, and based on the track record, is that the population will basically be gone.”

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