Recent ads tout "orange Oil" as a new "green" alternative to fumigations and conventional chemical treatments against termites. But is this a valid bio-degradable and ecological alternative or is it just another new marketing ploy? How does it compare to other insecticides and is this a truly effective and reliable termite treatment?
History and Facts:
The citrus industry produces many by-products from concentrates to compounds used in foods, cosmetics, chemicals and other areas. The rind acid of the fruit is mechanically, steamed or chemically extracted to produce d-limonene
(C10H16), a hydrocarbon oil (terpene) also found in conifer and some other plants. The orange oil extract (OOE) is used as fragrance, solvents or dispersing agents found in various products from candles to paint stripper, cleaners, detergents, shampoo, sprays and some insecticides.
Pest Control and Citrus Oils:
In the past most orange oil extracts were used as mild repellents against household insects such as fleas, lice, mites, ticks and mosquitoes. Lab tests show that some animals (including pets) avoid the smell and that excessive exposure can cause exoskeleton damage and death to some insects. The UC Berkeley Entomology Department is conducting a research study to determine the effectiveness of orange oil against the Subterranean and Drywood Termites native to California. Currently, only a few pest control companies in California offer orange oil treatments and given the lack of official data, the effectiveness and longevity of orange oil treatments remains unclear.
Orange Oil vs. Fumigation:
According to the Structural Pest Control Board of California
"orange oil is another localized treatment tool… against the elusive drywood termite. It is not an alternative to all-encompassing methods of treatment" such as fumigations (SPCB Summer 2007 Newsletter). Like Termidor
, orange oil treatment entails injection and/or surface treatment of infested wood members. Vikane
fumigant (sulfuryl fluoride
) has been researched and effectively used for decades with strict procedures and specific safety measures, all reviewed and supervised by the California Structural Pest Control Board, the Department of Pesticide Regulations and the Environment Protection Agency. To date, orange oil has no known state or federal impact results on drywood termites, and private articles on various pests vary greatly depending on its private source or corporate sponsors.
Orange Oil vs. Other Termiticides:
Like plant pyrethrins or synthetic pyrethroids, orange oil is a contact insecticide that penetrates the exoskeleton of insects leading to internal contamination and death at sufficient dosage. The orange smell also acts as repellent that many animals avoid and termites detecting the chemical will avoid treated areas and may feed on other non-treated wood members. Orange oil may stain some surfaces such as wood, sheetrock, wall covering, concrete and must be applied cautiously. Orange oil does not appear to have a chemical transfer effect from one insect to another such as in Termidor-SC. It also remains uncertain if orange oil's longevity is as enduring as Termidor-SC, Bora-Care or Tim-Bor (inorganic diatomaceous borate). However, as an oil based product, it penetrates the surface of wood based products fairly easily, whether injected into wood members or applied as a surface treatment.
Orange Oil and Health Hazards:
As a natural by product, orange and citrus oil appears as an ideal "green" and biodegradable product. However, its health hazard may not be limited to pests and as its use continues to grow and becomes widespread, research and results from renowned organizations such as the IPCS and EPA will to provide additional data. The strong odor of orange oil can cause some humans and pets to experience allergies and some breathing difficulties, particularly among asthmatics and citrus allergic subjects with Pantothenic Acid (or Vitamin B-5) deficiency. In doubt, consult your doctor prior to any treatment and inform your pest operator of any allergies you may have to avoid any reactions. An alternative is to use odorless products such as Tim-Bor
Orange oil is not a new all encompassing miracle solution to completely eradicate all pests, including termites. It is another available insecticide that can be used in local treatments against drywood termites and wood boring beetles. Government and independent studies by renowned sources are underway to determine if its longevity and effectiveness is similar to other known termiticides. Depending on accessibility and infestation size, The Termite Guy and IRC Services will provide treatments using orange oil base insecticides if the client absolutely wants it, as well Termidor-SC, Bora-Care and Tim-Bor to combat and eradicate drywood termites or wood boring beetles.