Should You Use Orange Oil to Treat Termites?
Discover if orange oil is the eco-friendly termite treatment you've been searching for, and what other options are available.
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Termites are a homeowner’s nightmare. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that termites cause billions of dollars worth of damage annually in the U.S. alone. Plus, homeowners spend around $2 billion treating for termites.
While chemical treatments are commonly used, the search for natural solutions like orange oil is on the rise, due to concerns over environmental impact and potential health implications of synthetic products. But should you use orange oil to treat termites?
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What Is Orange Oil?
Orange oil is an extract from orange peels that’s insoluble in water. It’s used for pest control and general cleaning.
The active chemical ingredient in orange oil, d-limonene, is known to be an effective insecticide against a variety of pests, including termites. You can buy orange oil formulated for pest control.
Orange Oil for Termites
I’m always in favor of natural treatments whenever possible. But orange oil alone is unlikely to work long-term.
Orange oil can be effective against dry wood termites. But you need to thoroughly saturate every part of the galleries (i.e. the tunnels termites create). Otherwise, unaffected termites will continue to cause more damage from the undamaged parts of the galleries.
You also need to regularly reapply the oil. And it’s not the best option for subterranean termites, because it just can’t penetrate deeply enough to be effective.
“Repellent termiticides are really not used much anymore,” says Rachel Maccini, an urban entomologist and pesticide education coordinator at the University of New Hampshire. “No termiticide application is 100%.
“There are always gaps in the soil. Termites are excellent at finding these gaps around repellents and breaking containment of the treatment. Most current products are non-repellent and transferable from termite to termite.”
Regarding orange oil specifically, Maccini says, “Most of these products do not last very long, so will not provide any kind of effective barrier to protect the structure for any length of time.” However, synthetic termiticides have a long-lasting residual effect.
Other Effective Termite Treatments
“I am all for homeowners doing their own pest management,” Maccini says. “But termites are one pest that I always recommend to be controlled by a professional [who] is familiar with the current products on the market.”
I’m on the fence about DIY-ing this. If you’re treating dry wood termites, the infestation isn’t too extensive and you’re determined to go the natural and pet-safe route, I’d use a combination of orange oil as a repellent, reapplying regularly. Then I’d use food-grade diatomaceous earth to kill on contact.
Diatomaceous earth, or DE, is a potent natural product made from tiny, razor-sharp diatom fossils. It’s sold as a powder. When it comes into contact with an insect, the powder sticks and slices through its exoskeleton. The countless tiny incisions cause the termite to quickly dehydrate and die. You can inject it into the galleries and dust it in around the base of a structure, as well as in attics, basements and crawl spaces.
But both orange oil and DE have lower efficacy when dealing with subterranean termites, as demonstrated by a study from the University of Hawaii.
Pet-safe termite treatment
I’m sensitive to what I use around my pets, because I want to keep them as healthy as I can. So if you have pets and decide to use a commercial product, or hire a professional to tackle the issue, be sure to ask about pet-safe options.
One that made it onto our list of the best termite treatments is Control Solutions Taurus SC Insecticide Termiticide, deemed pet-safe if you follow the application instructions. It’s made from fipronil, the same stuff in many flea and tick spot-ons.
Other commercial options
When you need to get rid of termites, think about whether you can handle the job yourself or hire a pro. Remember, you need to kill off the current infestation and create a barrier around your property to keep them from coming back. Pros employ the most up-to-date products, tools and methods.