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Don't Rock The Boat: Removing A Termite Infestation On Your Boat

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Any proud homeowner dreads the sheer destruction a termite invasion can cause to their home, but sometimes you are often so preoccupied with protecting your home that we you about protecting your other vulnerable possessions. A boat moored at a pontoon or wet dock may seem reasonably safe from termites, and it is true that they are not vulnerable to the voracious attentions of subterranean termites while moored on water. However, drywood termites, which possess wings and propagate in huge flying swarms, can easily target a boat.

Obviously, wooden craft such as traditional sailboats and fenders are most vulnerable to a termite infestation, as every part of their structure can be targeted. However, even modern fibreglass boats can suffer extensive damage to wooden fixtures and railings. As such, it's important to recognise the signs of a possible termite infestation quickly, and use effective means to remove them.

How can I recognise a termite infestation on my boat?

The most obvious sign of any termite infestation is the sawdust-like substance they leave behind close to their boreholes. This substance is called frass, and is actually a mixture of wood and termite excrement, The boreholes themselves can be remarkably small, and may be very difficult to find on darker woods. They will generally be more likely to appear on woods in cabins and other interior sections of the boat, as the weather treatments applied to exterior woods repel the termites.

Another, less common sign of termite infestation on your boat is the presence of dismembered insect wings. Termites tend to shed their wings quickly after finding a new source of food. However, these wings are quickly consumed by the new termite hive as a food source, so they may not be present if you don't catch the termites very early.

How can I remove the termite infestation?

There are several ways to approach a case of maritime termites, but they vary wildly in effectiveness and price. It's always worth consulting with professional pest control experts and scheduling an inspection of your boat, so the scale of the damage can be assessed and appropriate measures taken. Available termite treatments include:

  • Aerosol 'bug' bombs - Bug bombs are cheap and don't require any skill to use, but their effectiveness is limited against all but the smallest, weakest termite swarms. Most termite colonies will be too deeply impregnated within your ship's wood to be affected. If detonating below decks or in a cabin, make sure to ventilate the room as well as possible, and be elsewhere when the bomb goes off.
  • Poison sprays - Designed for more focused application than big bombs, these sprays can be more effective, especially if applied directly into the boreholes with a syringe or can applicator. Take care when using them, however, as they are highly toxic, and just as dangerous to inhale in an enclosed area as bug bombs.
  • Nematodes - Many professional pest control companies now offer small packets of unassuming grey powder. The powder is actually thousands of tiny lifeforms called nematodes, which can be used as a biological agent against termite infestations. To apply nematodes to termite infestations, inject them into termite holes in a solution of water -- once attached to the termites, the nematodes will rapidly spread and potentially destroy an entire hive.
  • Fumigation (tenting) - The most effective way to destroy any boat-based termite colony, this will involve hiring a pest control company to store your boat in an enclosed tent filled with insecticidal gas, often for weeks or even months. Naturally, this is an expensive option, and it can be difficult to find a place on dry land to store your boat while it is being fumigated, but successful termite removal is virtually guaranteed.

For more information about termite removal, visit Expect the Best Pty Ltd.