Fumigation has been the standard method of dealing with drywood termites--the most common kind in California--for many years.
Until 1984, it was the method used by Tallon Termite & Pest Control, 208 S. Guadalupe Ave., Redondo Beach, according to Jay Tallon, vice president.
That was the year that his brother, Joe Tallon Jr., began looking for alternatives to fumigation, with its requirements of tenting a building for two days and one night, moving plants out, worrying about allergies that could be aggravated by the chemical residue.
"We've been in business for more than a quarter century, satisfactorily using fumigation, but we felt the time had come to develop a non-chemical alternative," Jay Tallon said. "We've experimented with electrocuting termites with the Electro-Gun method, but this method is only good for exposed areas. We needed something that would reach the termites in the wall cavities."
The Tallon brothers noticed that drywood termites are a Sun Belt phenomenon; they aren't the problem in say, Alaska or Minnesota, that they are in California, Hawaii or Florida.
This led to experimentation with extreme cold through the simple technique of putting the critters in a freezer. It worked! The body fluids of termites crystalize at zero, they discovered.
"Joe decided to use liquid nitrogen at temperatures down to 20 degrees below zero fahrenheit," Jay Tallon said. "The liquid nitrogen is pumped into a hole at the top of the wall cavity, applied to the infested timbers. The wall frosts over and the termites and their eggs are dead. There is no chemical residue and the liquid nitrogen evaporates harmlessly into the air."
He emphasized that the Blizzard System, as the firm calls its new method, is not recommended for all applications; it's good for seven out of 10 cases, but fumigation may still be required.
If a through-the-wall inspection indicates that the Blizzard method will be effective, the cost can be as much as one-third less than fumigation, Jay Tallon said, adding that his firm charges about $1,000 to fumigate a 1,500-square-foot house.
The through-the-wall inspection is conducted with an Explor-Scope, a fiber-optics inspection device that enables the worker to literally see the termites in the wall cavity.
The Blizzard method has a patent pending and is being marketed to consumers, Jay Tallon said. It will be marketed to other pest control firms in the near future.