I grew up with the superstition that the appearance of swarms of gamo-gamo (antflies) means impending rain. Today, I know better. The flying insects may not be gamo-gamo at all but, rather, flying termites. And their appearance signal the presence of termite colonies in the house.
What are termites anyway?
I’m no science nerd but I know that they are small insects related to the cockroach. They look like ants but are smaller than ants. They feed on wood and dead leaves, among other things.
Termites live in colonies and have a caste system. There is a king and queen to ensure reproduction, and soldiers who are in charge of gathering and storing food.
That may sound like some interesting science tidbit but when you consider that food gathered and stored are actually part of the wood materials in a house, it makes you feel like exterminating them all and support endeavors that will lead to their extinction.
Will commercial pest control services solve the problem?
From experience, we know that termite treatments only result in shooing them away. They might move to the neighbors’ houses or nearby trees but they will still be around. Once the effects of the chemicals wear off and the termites feel safe, they always come back.
But, perhaps, the more significant question is whether we should really exterminate them totally. Apparently, they play an important ecological role — they help enrich the soil for agricultural purposes.
Ironic, I know. We want to keep them in the soil but not allow them up the trees nor our houses.
Termites in our house
We’ve been living in this house for almost ten years. In all that time, the house has undergone minor facelifts but no major renovation. When the ceiling above the staircase started to collapse, we knew we’d have to start major repairs soon. But we kept putting them off.
It’s the dampness and humidity, we surmised. They made the wood boards soft. At the back of our minds, we knew it was termite infestation. We were just in denial because of budget constraints. We had children in college, we had a mortgage to pay… Repairs could wait.
Then, the ceilings in the bedrooms started collapsing too. And now that the girls are done with school, we have to deal with the problem head on.
Initial assessments revealed that the ceilings were being destroyed by termites. As if we didn’t know that already, right? Doable, we said. If it’s just the ceilings, we could afford replacing them. And so we did. One room at a time. But once the ceiling of the first bedroom was opened up, we realized we had a much bigger problem.
It wasn’t just the ceilings that were damaged. Built-in cabinets, door frames and even the parquet flooring all had to go. As I write this, we’re living in an unbelievable mess. Work is ongoing on the entire second floor and all the bedrooms upstairs are unusable.
But that’s not all. The kitchen cabinets, and built-in closets and parquet flooring in the bedroom (the master bedroom) on the ground floor will have to go too. Speedy and I talked about it. We might as well have everything done — redo the ground floor too including the master bedroom and the bathroom adjacent to it. If we end up broke by Christmas, at least the ceilings won’t collapse over our heads.
A long-term solution to repel termites
The “wood” that termites feed on is soft wood. Plywood, ply boards… Hardwood is too tough for them. That’s why the furniture never got damaged in the ten years that we have been living here.
We know that removing all termite-infested wood in the house has resulted in displacing the colonies and depriving the termites of food. At this point, they probably moved to the nearest houses which are both unoccupied. No one to disturb them there.
What we don’t want is to give them a chance or reason to move back into our house. What’s our game plan?
No more plywood and ply board. The interiors will all have to be done in stone, steel, concrete and hardwood. What we’re going to use for our closets, we still haven’t figured out, but I’m sure there’s an option somewhere.
It’s easy to feel depressed in the mess we live in right now. But I try to focus on the bright side. By the time the renovations are done, it will be like having a new house.
My favorite parts of the renovation?
A new kitchen. We’re knocking down divisions and we’ll have an open floor plan on the ground floor. The new kitchen will be bigger and brighter.
A new family room. The loft will be walled-in so that air-conditioning can be installed.
A new home office for me! I’ll be moving to an extra bedroom upstairs. More peace and quiet for writing. More space for doing crafts.
And just how long will the renovations take? I don’t know. We decided that moving out was too much headache so everything is being done in sections. I’m almost sure though that, by Christmas, we’ll have space for a tree that the dog can’t mess with.