Frequently Asked Questions
The Pest Control Industry was officially regulated by the State of California in 1936. Many people have questions about how our industry works. Here are some of the most common questions we receive. If you have a question not addressed here, please contact us and we would be glad to provide an answer.
Termite inspections are routinely performed when a house is sold but are NOT required by State or Federal law. This practice has been part of a Real Estate purchase as long as their have been buyers of Real Estate. Homes and many commercial structures in the United States are constructed of wood. Professionals with knowledge of wood destroying pests, dry rot and contributing conditions are invaluable in assessing the integrity of a wooden structure. The actual requirement for a Termite Inspection and subsequent Termite Clearance was a standard adopted by the Lending industry. This loan requirement was initiated by the Federally funded loans (FHA-VA) that were becoming common around 1960. This practice was also adopted by most lending institutions thereafter. As a result of these industry standards, the Real Estate industry has made the Termite Inspection a standard practice of disclosure. A Termite Inspection became such an integral part of a Real Estate transaction that many pages of State Law were written to regulate how they were performed. These laws are specified in the Structural Pest Control Act and are enforced by the Structural Pest Control Board, a division of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
A Limited Inspection is an inspection of a "limited" portion of a structure. A Limited inspection is usually made at the request of the homeowner who has found a specific problem, or only wants a bid for a known condition reported by another company. I would advise that a complete inspection be performed so that the client is fully informed. It is usually better to have more information than less when making decisions. An inspection for "Wood Destroying Organisms" must be completed by a licensed Branch 3 termite inspector. The opinion of the painter, handyman or contractor may be inaccurate and such rendering of advice requires licensing by the Structural Pest Control Board. Requirements for inspection are specified in the Structural Pest Control Act. These laws have specific requirements for licensed inspectors to follow. The inspector should perform a complete visual inspection unless a limited area is requested. Inspection should include all physically accessible portions of the structure. Areas of the structure which were not inspected must be described in the report. Click these links for more information;
\ [Structural Pest Control Board]
[California Business and Professions Code 8516]
[California Code of Regulations] See sections 1990, 1991 and 1993
For all practical purposes in a Real Estate transaction, the inspection covers the Main Residence and "attached or abutted structures". Seems simple until you have to define what a structure is. The legal definition of a structure is "anything constructed or erected with a fixed location on the ground." For the purposes of Structural Pest Control, the definition is expanded to include railroad cars, ships, docks, trucks and airplanes. Unless otherwise instructed, the Structural Pest Control Act requires that the scope of inspection include the main residence (of the physical address) and attached or abutted structures such as (but not limited to) wood decks, porches, patios and storage sheds (fences are generally excluded). The expectation of lenders is to inspect structures included in the property appraisal. The Residential Purchase Agreement used in California by most realtors will also have verbiage to specify the scope the buyer investigations.
Required findings of a "Wood Destroying Organisms Inspection Report" are fairly well defined by State law. We are required to report the visible evidence of infestation (insects), infection (wood decay fungi) and adverse conditions (conditions deemed likely to lead to infestation and infection). We are also required to report damage to wood members caused by infestation or infection. In addition, we are to report areas of the structure which were inaccessible for inspection. Recommendation for further inspection may be made for areas which should have normally been inspected but were inaccessible at the time of the original appointment. The report must include recommendations for correction of the conditions found. By law, prices for these corrections must be quoted for each recommendation if the company is in the business of providing such services.
From what I have researched over the years, it seems that a licensed termite inspector has been allowed to comment on structural weakness based on his or her field experience and usually without any formal education in engineering or structural load capacities of dimensional lumber. This seems to have been out of convenience in serving the real estate and mortgage industries. When dealing with termite damage, general rule of thumb in our industry has been to consider a wood member structurally weakened if 1/3 of that member has been consumed and compromised by termite activity. Beyond this industry standard, structural weakness is in the opinion of the inspector. Surface channels or minor evidence of feeding may require correction if the wood member is visible and needs correction for cosmetic reasons. Surface damage is generally corrected with wood filler and paint. When dealing with an active fungus infection, structural weakness is not the primary consideration. Wood decay fungus infection is a living organism. The goal with fungus infection is that it becomes inactive through treatment or wood member removed to eliminate the active infection. Structural weakness is secondary to stopping the active decay process. If all moisture exposure can be eliminated, then structural integrity may be corrected in the same manner as termite damage. If the wood member is exposed to the weather or moisture cannot be controlled, removal and replacement will be required. Consider wood decay fungus a "wood cancer." It usually has to be cut out to be stopped.
An inspection report includes the structure identified by address (usually the main residence) and any "structure" that is physically "attached or abutted." The legal definition of a structure is "anything constructed or erected with a fixed location on the ground." Commonly attached or abutted structures are decks, patio covers and steps. They are considered part of the structure if they are physically attached or if they physically "touch" the structure at any point. If these structures are adjacent to the main structure but do not physically touch it, they are not required to be included in the termite inspection of that structure or even mentioned. We usually make a note in our reports that such an adjacent structure was not attached or abutted and therefore not included in the inspection. These detached structures should not be drawn on the diagram. If a company mistakenly includes a detached structure on their diagram, it is implied that it was included in their inspection. One common exception is exclusion of a wood fence that is attached to a structure. To exclude a fence, we must state it has been excluded in the termite report or risk becoming liable for the entire fence "structure." A fence is a "structure" by legal definition. Most companies do not inspect wood fences unless they are part of an enclosed patio space or privacy screen. Inclusion would be a judgment call by the inspector. I know of one case where a termite company was found liable for 10 acres of wooden fencing in Palos Verdes. The wood fencing was rotted, expensive to replace and the buyer sued. Because the fence was attached to the main residence and it is considered a "structure," it was legally required to be included it in the termite inspection. The termite company was held liable. The bottom line is that a termite company (or home inspection company) must state in writing what is included in their report and what portions of the structure were inaccessible for inspection or not inspected.
A termite report, or "Wood Destroying Organisms Inspection Report", will only include wood destroying pests. Other pests such as rats, mice, bats or cockroaches will not appear in a termite report. Even Woodpecker problems will not be addressed in a termite report (FYI-woodpeckers are also a protected bird). A Branch 3 licensed termite inspector is not trained or licensed to render opinions regarding non wood destroying pests. If inspection for structural pests is desired, you must hire a Branch 2 Pest Control licensee to inspect and report such evidence.
The best way to treat for termites is to first have your house inspected. Then you will know which species of termite you have and better understand the extent of the infestation(s). Treatment depends on the type termite infestation attacking the structure and location of the termite colony. The two main termite species found locally are Subterranean Termites(reticulitermes hesperes) and Drywood Termites(incisitermes minor). Dampwood Termite infestations are also found on the Central Coast but are not a major infestation risk.
When applied properly and according to label directions, pesticides are a useful tool in controlling insects and the risks are minimized. Millions of dollars are spent on testing pesticide formulations to ensure that public health is protected. The Pest Control industry is regulated and requires licensing in the State of California (and most other States) to protect public health. Chemical Poisoning is almost always due to safety instructions not being followed. The pesticide label is the State Law and should be followed to the letter for safe application. The idea that "More is Better" can be dangerous when using pesticides. For licensed professionals, materials are applied so as to minimize human contact and in amounts unlikely to cause unintended harm. Chemical effects are a relationship of amount ingested compared to body weight. As an example, the number one medication prescribed is warfarin (a blood thinner). Warfarin is a useful tool in combating blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. Warfarin is also the number one rodenticide material applied for killing rats and mice by "over" thinning the blood and causing fatal hemorrhage. A very small amount can be a health benefit and larger amounts can be deadly. Chemicals and medicines function as a ratio of chemical weight to body weight (milligrams per kilogram of body weight). Amounts of pesticide applied inside of a home would be negligible to people and pets but fatal to insects because of their small body weight. Chemical applications that are unnoticeable people are knee deep for insects.
No, there is no need to wash dishes or utensils after a fumigation with Sulfuryl Fluoride gas. Sulfuryl Fluoride is a true gas similar in vapor pressure to carbon dioxide. It is not a mist or fog as some have experienced with older cockroach control methods and does not leave a residue.
Not really. The acute toxicity of a particular chemistry does not necessarily make it a better tool for controlling pests. A sledge hammer is also a useful tool but can be overly destructive with a wrong application. Modern pesticide formulations have been working toward the goal of maximizing effects on the target pests while minimizing the effects on people.
One example is the use of synthetic hormones that disrupt or stop the life cycle of an insect pest. Insects are unique in that many go through a 4 stage metamorphosis process of egg, larvae, pupae and adult. The synthetic hormone, methoprene, interferes with this process. Methoprene prevents an insect from completing the necessary transformation to become an adult pest but has no effect on mammals. Methoprene is very effective in flea control.
Another method is to take advantage of an insects behavior to more effectively control populations. Termites and ants have organized social behaviors. Applying a slow acting chemistry uses such insect's social behaviors against them. The chemical, fipronil, will take 2 to 3 days to have a fatal effect on an insect. During that 2 to 3 day period, they will come into contact with thousands of other nest mates. The fipronil particles they pick up on their exoskeleton will be spread throughout the entire colony within a few days by their antennation behavior. Antennation is a social insect behavior where one member of the colony bumps up against another and touches their antennae over the other's exoskeleton to determine if they are a "family member". They are reading a specific chemical signature of their colony. The antennae are pulled through the mouth parts regularly to keep them clean and effective. Watch a trail of ants sometime and you will observe obvious antennation behavior. If a termite bumps up against an ant, the termite immediately knows they don't belong because the chemical signature does not match and a war begins. This social behavior of antennation behavior and delayed mortality makes fipronil very effective on social insects. Fipronil also has the benefit of binding to an insect gaba receptor (nerve) 100 times more tightly than a mammal gaba receptor. This allows extremely low dosage applications that are fatal to insects with almost no risk to mammal health.