It’s All in the Peel: Orange Oil as a Termiticide
There has been increasing attention given to naturally based alternatives to termite extermination in recent years, as the standard chemical pesticides have proven not only toxic to people, but harmful to the environment. One of the most promising of natural botanical pesticides is orange oil.
What is Orange Oil?
As the name implies, orange oil is derived from the citrus fruit or more correctly from its rind. The main component in orange oil is d-limonene which gives the fruit its distinctive odor and has wide practical applications in medicine, cosmetics, and solvents.
Orange oil can be cold pressed or distilled from the orange rind and is considered a natural byproduct of the extraction of orange juice. Orange oil has a high acid content, is recognized as a mild irritant to human skin due to its effect of stripping protective oils from the epidermal surface.
How It Works
Orange oil as a termite treatment is particularly effective due its impact on termite physiology. Just as it irritates human skin, the d-limonene in orange oil insecticide also compromises the integrity of the termite exoskeleton, effectively dissolving it.
In the strengths used in orange oil termite treatment, the product has an lethal “window” of approximately eight hours once a termite has encountered it. During these eight hours the termite exoskeleton is dissolved, causing a massive loss of fluids in the termite body resulting in desiccation and death. This extended period is especially useful in killing concentrated populations of termites within galleries in wood because an affected termite helps to spread the substance through the colony and to other termites it encounters (although only to a limited degree in the latter case—it is most useful and lethal when applied to galleries full of active termite organisms). Orange oil termite pesticide also permeates wood via capillary action. This poisons the termite food source; an effective secondary cause of termite death due to orange oil termite treatment.
There is evidence that orange oil, in addition to being a direct method of extermination, can also prevent re-infestation by disrupting pheromone trails within colonies of insects. This has been best studied in its use in ant colony extermination, but may have applicability to termite extermination as well. Orange oil does biodegrade, however, so its effectiveness as a long term termite repellent is limited; other products such as boron are recommended for use as long term protective option.
Method of Deployment
Application of orange oil termite treatment is accomplished through the drilling of holes into the infected structures and the injection of the oil into the wood–ideally into the termite galleries themselves. As such it is not an reliable alternative to fumigation or “tenting” extermination and is generally considered to be a localized or spot treatment which may have to be repeated several times in order to target the entire colony; tenting/fumigation remains virtually the only way to eradicate termites which are determined to be widespread in a structure due to the ability of pesticide gas to more completely permeate all areas within a dwelling. Fiber optics are utilized to target the drilling and injection sites in orange oil termite exterminations, making its application more precise, but it is still most useful on those termite invasions that are localized and not widespread. Further, because of its tendency to quickly biodegrade, orange oil is best used in cases of drywood termite infestations; it does not work well with subterranean species that nest underground.
How Effective Is It?
The effectiveness of orange oil as a termite pesticide also relates to its application by licensed professionals. Because of the need for precise detection and highly targeted drilling, do it yourself orange oil termite treatment is not generally recommended. Orange oil is not available for retail sale to the general public in strengths great enough to be considered lethal to termites (92% pure and above) due to health and safety concerns. While considered low toxicity, orange oil still presents significant risks to people sensitive to allergic reactions, and is considered to be harmful in high and repeated exposures, especially when inhaled. Because of this the only actual way to buy orange oil termite treatment is through a licensed professional exterminator.
Cost of Orange Oil Termite Treatment
Initially the average cost of an orange oil termite treatment is between $1200 to $1500, a figure which must be multiplied if localized treatments are found to be necessary in other areas of the structure separate from the original site of infestation. Other chemical means of localized termite treatment cost, on average, anywhere between $350 to $750 per application. Orange oil termite treatment cost therefore may be prohibitive unless it can be guaranteed that a colony has only infested a dwelling in a localize area. This is entirely possible early in the lifecycle of a termite colony and it is this instance that orange oil extermination will be the most advisable method.
Localized treatments in general are not effectual when a colony is determined to be widespread in a structure or have multiple colony locations (satellites) within a building. In these cases fumigation and tenting methods may not only be the most cost effective method, but the only means by which to treat a termite infestation.
As a rule of thumb, the extermination company which offers a range of treatment methods may be the best bet for the homeowner looking not only to eradicate a termite infestation but to also to keep costs in check. As a general rule a multi-method service is more likely to offer the consumer a choice of treatment options with a well defined schedule of prices readily available. Exterminators who offer only one method, be it orange oil, fumigation or chemical have a vested interest in promoting only their specialized method and may over estimate their ability to handle the actual infestation. Careful consideration must also be given to the warranties offered by services, no matter their treatment approach, to be sure that if a reinfestation occurs or part of a colony was missed that their policy will cover the costs.
The Pros and Cons in Short
No vacating the dwelling during treatment.
No need to remove plants or pets from premises.
No bagging of food or medicine.
No need to walk on the roof (necessary in tenting)
Orange oil will not control undetected infestations
It must be directly applied to existing termite galleries.
Large treatments with orange oil could cost more than fumigation.
Orange oil does not leave a long lasting residue for future protection against re-infestation
Orange oil requires drilling into your walls and wood members.