Termites in potting soil

How to Prepare for Fumigation

If you’ve found bugs in your home, you may want to look into having your home fumigated. Here’s everything you need to know about fumigation preparation.

For particularly bad infestations, fumigation may be a necessary step to effectively treat your house. While the gas fumigant used is poisonous to household pests, it’s also harmful to humans if used improperly, so it’s important to take the proper precautions.
Follow these steps for fumigation preparation accordingly, before the fumigation tent takes over your home.


You and your family will not be able to re-enter the house once fumigation starts, so arrange for a place to stay for two or three nights. Talk to the fumigator ahead of time to be sure the schedule of events is clear to everyone. Pets, including fish, will also need to be out of the house as well as any house plants.


This will allow the fumigant to pass through every space. Also open cabinets, drawers, closets, appliances and safes. If it has a door, open it. Raise all the blinds and drapes on your windows to allow the fumigator easy access.


These items can be moved off-site or double-sealed in special NylofumeTM bags provided by the fumigator. This includes medicine, pet food, tobacco and dental products. Only products in unopened bottles, jars or cans with the original seal intact do not require double-bagging. Your professional fumigator should make sure all necessary items are properly contained.


As for the exterior of the house, the fumigator will help you decide what to do with plants that may obstruct the tent, as some of these may have to be removed.


They will need access to every part of the house and will know to lock up when finished. They will also use a secondary locking system on all doors to prevent entry by anyone during the fumigation.
No person can enter the home for any reason until it has been cleared and released for re-entry by the fumigator. Check with your fumigator for detailed instructions on returning to your home once the process is complete. They will help make sure the transition is easy and safe.

For more information on preparing for fumigation, .

Next > How Fast Do Termites Eat Wood?

Termite Fumigation Preparation

To prepare for termite fumigation, you will need to make arrangements for your family and pets to stay away from the house for several days. Fumigation preparation, treatment and aeration can take up to 72 hours. Make sure to pack everything you might need for up to three days.

Since fumigations require tarps to enclose your entire house, good weather is a prerequisite for treatment. Rain and heavy winds can affect the treatment if bad weather is in the forecast, your expert may reschedule.

Typically, the actual treatment portion of drywood termite fumigation takes 24 hours or less. The aeration process typically takes about six hours. However, you will not be permitted to return until your home is cleared of fumigant.

What to Do Before Termite Fumigation

  • Food for people, animals and pets, as well as tobacco products and medicines (including items in refrigerators and freezers) can remain in your home if they are in plastic, glass or metal bottles, cans or jars with the original manufacturer’s air-tight seal intact. If these items are not sealed, they must be removed or double-bagged in special nylon bags provided by your fumigator.
  • Bottled or canned items that have not been opened and still have the original manufacturer’s airtight seal do not need to be removed. These items can include drinks, pantry items like soup, and medicines.
  • Dry goods packaged in bags and/or cardboard boxes need to be removed or double bagged even if they haven’t been opened. These items include cereal, chips, rice, etc.
  • Mattresses sealed in plastic, such as baby mattresses, need to be removed or the waterproof covers must be removed or opened. These plastic covers can slow the rate at which the fumigant aerates. You also should open or removing plastic covers to chairs and sofas and other incased items.
  • Remove all plants from inside the house and any outdoor areas that will be covered by the fumigation tent to avoid damage.
  • Shrubbery around the house should be trimmed to allow room to secure the fumigation tent between the house and the shrubbery.
  • The day before your fumigation, someone from the gas company should turn off the gas line to your house.
  • Also the day before the fumigation, water the perimeter of your house at a depth of about six inches. This moisture helps protect plants that are just outside the fumigation tent, and it helps prevent fumigant leakage at the base of the tent.

Your termite expert may have additional suggestions or requests before the fumigation. Make sure to ask how you can best prepare for the treatment.

Fumigation gets rid of unwanted household pests, most often termites. Termites seriously threaten the structure of a home, and once they’ve moved in full-force, fumigation is usually the only option. Infested homes are “tented” with a plastic coated canvas tarp that’s used to trap the fumigant over the infested area.

There are a number of measures that your household will be asked to take in order to prepare for the event. Your exterminator also takes steps to ensure a successful fumigation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the process of fumigation, and requires exterminators to be trained and certified.

Is Fumigation Safe?

Fumigation is safe when the proper precautions and preparations have been taken and a trained andcertified exterminator is doing the job. During fumigation, all people, plants, and animals must be away from the premises and certain perishable food items have to be either double bagged in special bags or removed from the home. Several additional precautions must be taken as well.

The fumigant dissipates from the area once the tent is removed from the home. After about six hours the exterminator will test your home for traces of fumigant with a fumiscope before allowing your family to return (once traces of the fumigant are less than one part per million).

What Happens During Fumigation?

Once your home is tented, the fumigant is released inside at levels determined by both the size of your home and the size of the infestation. These two factors plus the temperature outside also determine how long the fumigation process will take—usually anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. When contained in an enclosed area, the fumigant is able to penetrate wood and other porous surfaces where pests may be hiding or building nests. Rainy weather can affect the fumigation process, so you may have to reschedule your fumigation if rain is in the forecast.

Steps to Prepare for Fumigation

There are certain steps you need to take during the days before your fumigation. It can take several days to prepare, so make sure you have a plan of action to follow and don’t wait until the last minute to get started. Your exterminator will provide you with a checklist of items to help you prepare.

Call the gas company: If you use natural gas as an energy source in your home, you’ll need to have the gas shut off before fumigation begins. Schedule a temporary shutoff to happen first thing in the morning the day fumigation begins. If you have a propane tank you can shut off the source to your home yourself, or call the propane company for assistance.

Remove plants, animals, and people: Anything that’s alive will need to be removed from the inside of your home and kept away from the house. For example, your dog can’t stay in a fenced-in backyard and outdoor cats must be removed from the area; both animals could get into a spot where they would be exposed to the fumigant. Houseplants can be moved outdoors to a shady spot several feet away from the home’s exterior. You will need to find a place for your family and pets to stay for up to three days.

Food: Perishable food items, including those inside your fridge and freezer, must be either removed from the home or double bagged in special fumigation bags. Items you must double bag if they are to remain inside include items such rice and cereal that are packaged in plastic or cardboard, even if these items are unopened. Any canned or bottled items that are unopened/still sealed may remain inside your home. Don’t forget to remove bagged pet food too, even if it’s unopened.

Medications: Vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and prescriptions must also be double bagged or removed from your home. Make sure you pack any medications you take regularly to keep with you and double bag all other items, including things like cough drops.

Landscaping and shrubbery: You’ll need to cut back plants and shrubs that are close to your home so that they will remain outside the tented area. This can be a good excuse to get some much-needed pruning done. Once pruning is complete, thoroughly water the perimeter of your home to further protect the plants from the fumigant.

Remove plastic from indoor items. The plastic tent is used to trap fumigant inside your home, but when plastic is covering items inside the home, the gases can get inside or underneath and become trapped, so they are not able to dissipate once the fumigation is over. Any items covered in plastic should have the plastic cover removed. These items can include baby crib mattresses and furniture, but don’t forget to look for other items such as garment bags used to protect clothing. Plastic storage totes should have the covers removed as well. If you’re not sure whether an item in plastic is airtight or not, remove it from the property.

Do Termites Hide Out In Potted Plants?

When people find themselves at the mercy of an in-home termite infestation, the main question on the minds of residents is often: “how did termites get into my house in the first place?” The answer to this question often depends on the species-type of the offending termites. Many people are aware that termites come in three common varieties. These different types of termites include, drywood, dampwood and subterranean termites. Subterranean termites are responsible for the vast majority of termite infestations in manmade structures. In these cases, there is often little mystery as to how the infestation started. Subterranean termites travel below the ground, as their name would suggest. Eventually subterranean termites encounter houses that contain large sources of wood, water and soil, all of which are resources that subterranean termites require for survival. Once these homes are found, subterranean termites simply build mud-tubes from the ground soil in order to access a home’s timber frame. However, the causes of structural termite infestations that involve drywood and dampwood termites are more difficult to determine since they do not require soil contact for nourishment. A single piece of wood, most often rotting wood found in forests, is all that most drywood termite species need in order to thrive. These termites do not need to dwell within soil, so they do not reach homes on their own, as subterranean termites do. Consequently, the cause of structural drywood termite infestations are often difficult to determine. As it turns out, many plant enthusiasts may be unknowingly risking termite infestations by purchasing potted plants.

Termites are generally harmless to non-woody plants, but many plants with harder bodies are pinpointed by termites. Potted plants should never be placed directly on top of ground soil, since subterranean termites can easily access these potted plants. Potted plants release moisture which is absorbed by nearby ground soil. The resultant moist hotspots are known for attracting termites, and this problem is especially common during the summer months. These are just a few of the reasons why placing potted plants on decks and patios is a must for those who do not want to be surprised by termites. Most termite infestations in potted plants are caused by subterranean termites, but drywood termites have been known to infest plants that people have purchased and then brought into their homes.

Have you ever known someone who claimed to have had an infestation of drywood termites in their home?

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Termites in Potted Plants

Termites can cause a lot of damage to wood structures and plants with woody stems.

It has gained such a foothold as an invasive species that the U.S. Army Public Health Command has issued information and warnings about this pest.

Common Termites

Termites live in wood and plant stems because they are made up of cellulose material that is attractive as food and domicile to the pests. Common termites are those found in the walls of homes or rotted wood and stumps. They do a good deed in that they help decompose old woody material and turn it into a beneficial organic compound. They do not eat healthy wood and are only found in places which already have rot or disease issues. Their presence is usually noted when the winged adults emerge in warm days following rain. They also leave behind mud tubes between boards and cracks.

The Formosan Termite

Formosan termites live underground but also form a winged colony. They are voracious tunnelers and eaters and have the ability to cause destruction in a very short time. The colonies are unusually large in comparison to native termites and they have a wide range of habitat preferences. They originally arrived on military cargo ships returning from World War II. There are three castes in the termite colony: the swarmers that have wings, the workers with creamy pale bodies and the soldiers with their formidable mandibles. These pests are now found across the Southern base of the United States; cold temperatures in the upper states have halted their progression there.


Termites can be found in any woody area. Wood mulches are a prime culprit and are a common part of the gardener’s materials. Some wood mulches are treated to minimize pest transfer, but the organic gardener does not use products that have been treated and may get mulch with hitchhikers. The garden patio looks so cheery with an old oak barrel planted with annuals, but this is another place termites hide. Often the barrels are old and have been used and the wood is a perfect housing and foraging area. Lastly, the pests can come in on your plants. Imported plants and plants from local nurseries are all suspect. It is important to investigate a plant carefully for signs of disease and pests before purchasing it.

Will termites eat my plants?

Q. In the process of emptying a large pot that had a pepper plant growing in it, I found a nest of termites in the soil. Earlier in the summer, there were termites in a pot with a sago pup. Will termites eat my plants, especially bulbs? After poisoning the potting soil with two gallons of strong chemical solution, all creatures appeared to be dead. Is it safe to use the soil, or should it be discarded?

K.J., Houston

A. Termites are a problem in this area. I occasionally find them while digging in flower beds, and I’ve even found them in soil delivered to my driveway. The pests you see are easy to kill — most any pesticide works — but there can be colonies of thousands deeper in the soil.

Termites eat cellulose, a main ingredient in woody plants/materials, and we find them in decaying trees and logs as well as in our homes. Typically we don’t hear much about them destroying garden plants, but because termites thrive in moist areas, damp soil in a bed or container provides a nesting ground.

The chemically treated soil can be reused. However, since any beneficial organisms have died with the termites, I would use fresh soil or add compost to the treated soil to boost beneficial organisms.

Fumigating and Tenting

Fumigating and Tenting a Home for Drywood Termites

Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites live inside their food source “wood” making soil treatments ineffective. Structural fumigation is recommended for severe, widespread, partly inaccessible and/or difficult to locate drywood termite infestations. Less extensive infestations often are treated with termiticides injected directly into the wood or localized heat treatment.

dryood termite How Does Termite Fumigation Work?

During the termite fumigation process, a trained pest management professional will place a tent (tarps) over a home before releasing a fumigant throughout the structure. The fumigant will circulate throughout the home to reach cracks and crevices between and inside wood where termites can tunnel and thrive. Termites will breathe in the fumigant, which then will deplete their oxygen, affect their nervous system and cause their death.

After the expert has confirmed there has been sufficient fumigant exposure to infested areas to control all active termite colonies, he or she will remove the termite fumigation tent. Once the tarps are removed, the fumigant will disperse into the air. It typically takes at least six hours for the fumigant to thoroughly aerate from a house after treatment.

From preparation to treatment to aeration, the entire fumigation process can take about 24 to 72 hours, depending on the size of the house and the outdoor conditions. For safety reasons, the pest control expert will test each room in the house using a sensitive fumigant clearance device to ensure the fumigant has aerated and occupants can safely re-enter the home.

While it is important to follow the expert’s instructions to prepare or remove some items before the fumigation, termite fumigants do not leave permanent residues in a home or on household items.

Is Termite Fumigation Effective?

Fumigation is an effective treatment technique however, it’s not a prevention method. Fumigation controls drywood termite colonies that are active at the time of treatment, but offers no protection against future colonies.

It is more difficult to prevent drywood termite infestations than subterranean termite infestations, since there are more potential entry points for drywood termites. By sealing as many cracks as possible and performing regular upkeep on exposed wood, you and your pest professional can help reduce the likelihood of an infestation. However, a proactive program that includes direct wood treatment and regular maintenance provides the most comprehensive protection.

Are Termite Tenting & Fumigation Safe?

The termite fumigation process is very complex and involves restricted-use pesticides. Fumigations can be performed only by professionals who have completed extensive training and passed certification tests.

A certified termite expert may use several pieces of equipment to help ensure your termite fumigation is as safe as possible:

  • A fumiscope is used to measure concentrations of fumigant gas during the treatment process.
  • Leak detectors are used to monitor for gases that may escape the treatment area.
  • A clearance device is used to check for extremely low concentrations (1 part per million or less) of fumigant in the house before people and pets can return.

Fumigants do not leave residues on household items after treatment, once the home has been aired and cleared properly.

More Information

Fumigation Preparation How Often Termite Should We Tent?

How Toxic to Humans is Termite Tenting?

If you’re like most people, your home is the single largest financial investment of your life. Protecting that investment from threats such as termites is a high priority. On the other hand, you don’t want to take pest control measures that may be potentially harmful to human beings. Questions have been raised about the possible toxicity of a popular termite control method known as tenting. Let’s take a look at how safe this procedure really is.

First, What Are Termites?

Termites are wood-eating insects that can seriously damage homes and any other structures made of wood. They are similar to ants in size and appearance. However, termites do not have the pinched-in waist and bent antennae that distinguish ants. One of the most visible signs of termites in your home (besides damage to the wood, of course) is discarded wings during the spring mating season. Ants never shed their wings.

What Is Termite Tenting?

Tenting involves draping termite-infested structure with a tent and introducing poisons into the tent to kill the termites. The homeowners must carefully follow the exterminator’s instructions and find other accommodations during the treatment cycle, which lasts 2-3 days.

Why Is Termite Tenting a Cause for Concern?

When the tent is removed, the poison escapes into the atmosphere. The chemicals used in this fumigation process, and other termite treatments, cause many experts to worry about environmental and physical health.

Researchers at UC Irvine found that “an insecticide used to fumigate termite-infested buildings is a strong greenhouse gas that lives in the atmosphere nearly 10 times longer than previously thought. The chemical, sulfuryl fluoride (SF), stays in the atmosphere perhaps as long as 100 years. Earlier estimates projected its atmospheric lifetime at as low as five years, grossly underestimating the global warming potential.”

Not only does SF damage the environment, it has been implicated in human fatalities, even though the victims followed all safety precautions. The Center for Disease Control reported that a Virginia couple died within seven days of having their home tented and fumigated. According to the CDC, the exterminators “failed to measure the air concentration of SF inside the home.”

Alternatives to Termite Tenting

Researchers and healthcare providers encourage using less toxic and harmful pesticides to eradicate termites. According to the University of Kentucky Entomology Department, there are two other options to tent treatment for termites: baiting and liquid soil application.


The termite baiting process is complicated and, as with other termite treatments, should be handled by professionals only. Basically, the process involves placing paper or cardboard treated with a slow-acting poison. Termites are attracted to the bait, eat it, and eventually die.

Liquid Applications

Termiticides applied to the soil around the infested property create a lasting poisonous barrier that prevents termites in the ground from entering a building. Termites already in the structure die when they cannot return to the soil. Premise® (imidacloprid — implicated in the death of honeybees around the world), Termidor® (fipronil), and Phantom® (chlorfenapyr), are non-repellent and kill termites tunneling into the treatment zone.

If Tenting Is Your Only Option

While there are several options available to eradicate termites, tenting is often recommended when there is widespread infestation. If tenting is your only option, be sure to work with a licensed, reliable pest control expert experienced in termite tenting. Follow his or her instructions and safety precautions carefully. Do not return to the property for any reason until a professional has tested the air to be certain that the sulfuryl fluoride concentration has returned to a safe level.

Should You Be Worried if Your Neighbor is Having Their House Fumigated?

It may be shocking to come home from work one day to find your neighbor’s house tented in preparation for fumigation. Your first thoughts will likely be if and how the fumigation process at your neighbor’s house will impact your family and home. These are valid concerns because fumigation is typically done in response to a severe pest problem.

  • Is the health of my family at risk while my neighbor’s home is being fumigated?

You likely do not see houses tented for fumigation on a daily basis so it can be disconcerting, especially if the house is right next door. The main reason homes are fumigated in this way is because there is some type of major infestation. The infestation could be termites, bed bugs, rodents, or some other type of pest. The types of chemicals used to treat the infestation will vary depending on the type of pest. You may wonder if you need to worry about the pesticides coming over into your yard or home and harming your family and pets. This is a common concern. The role of the tent in the fumigation process is to keep all of the insecticides inside of the house to concentrate the treatment and protect the surrounding areas from exposure. There are regulations regarding this type of treatment in order to protect the people in surrounding homes. The specifics of the regulations depend on the state in which you live. If you want more details about the process and safety of fumigation you can contact your local pest control company.

  • Is my house at a higher risk for infestation if my neighbor’s home has been fumigated?

Another concern you may have is the risk for infestation in your own home. Perhaps you have heard that getting a home fumigated simply sends the bugs away to the homes of unsuspecting neighbors. The reality is that the purpose of fumigating is to kill off the bugs in the infested home. Bugs that have been killed off will not be able to come over and infest your home. However, your home may be susceptible to the same types of pests that caused problems for your neighbors. For example, termites are common in certain areas of the country. If your neighbor’s home was susceptible to a termite infestation then your home may be as well. The best response to your neighbors fumigating their home is to have a pest inspection in your own home. Hopefully you will be able to identify and treat any pest problems you have before it gets to the point of needing fumigation.

The best defense against your home becoming the next one on the block to need fumigation is preventative maintenance. Regular professional pest control services can help eradicate an existing pest problem and prevent more problems in the future.

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