Orange Oil for Termites
Orange oil is something that is extracted from peels from oranges. It is
mainly made up of a chemical called d-limonene, which is a natural
insecticide. This is toxic to insects, but has a very low toxicity to
A lot of companies have started promoting it as a natural way to
get rid of termites - they will inject orange oil into the wood of
your house, and use it as an alternative to fumigation (since you
don't have to move out to do it).
The current answer in my
opinion is that orange oil could be useful when combined with
other methods - but I wouldn't rely on it as the sole way to try
to kill them off.
Orange oil does kill termites on contact.
However, it's a questionable remedy for actually getting rid of a colony.
There have been no published studies proving that it's effective as a
termite remedy. One of the things people are concerned about is that it is
organic and tends to lose its effectiveness rapidly - unlike many
pesticides, it can't just sit there for a year and keep killing insects. If
you don't get the entire colony in one go (and kill the queen), they'll be
back. And that's hard to do because they don't all live in the wood. With
subterranean termites (the most common type) they live underground as well.
Study by Nicholls State University Professors
published in the Journal of Economic Entomology showed that orange
oil was highly effective if you stuck a bunch of termites into a container
with it. But if you actually put it into a model of a wall, it killed very
few of them. It was even less effective in the ground, because it was
basically gone after three weeks.Study by University of
California - Riverside Professors
This study, by two
professors at the University of California - Riverside (Michael Rust and
Jody Venturina) looked at the effectiveness an orange oil based product
called XT-2000 (you
can read it here
). They tested it on drywood termites, and found that it
was "extremely toxic" to them - but only for short periods of time. This is
because the deaths are caused by vapors, which lose their ability to kill
them after 24 - 48 hours. They did find that even though it stops killing
termites at that stage, it does prevent them from feeding off the treated
wood, which can eventually cause the termites to starve to death if they
have no other food source. However, it wasn't as effective as several other
products they tested. The difficulty I see based on this study is that you
basically need 100% treatment of the wood in your house. If they can find
anything that isn't treated, they'll eat it and be able to survive - and it
stops killing them after 24 hours or so. Does using orange
oil make my house more likely to catch fire?
I haven't been
able to find a definitive answer to this question. I e-mailed Michael Rust,
a professor of entomology at the University of California - Riverside. He's
done some studies with orange oil, and he was gracious enough to take the
time to respond that: "Like most oils it will burn. If you put a wick in
the orange oil, it will burn very nicely. I don't know if it makes the
treated wood more flammable." There's also an Australian expert named
he has used it to start fires and says he would hesitate to
Another website called the Termite Guy
believes it's a significant risk
, calling it "glorified organic lighter
fluid" and compares using it to soaking your home in gasoline. I also found
from a company called Hi Tech Termite Control showing a model
house being lit on fire using just orange oil. They also talk about some
anecdotal situations where they say fires were caused by it. I think you do
have to take what they're saying with a grain of salt - they are competitors
trying to sell you their own products, after all.
One of the
companies that sells it (a brand called XT-2000)
says their orange oil
"combustible" and less likely to cause fires than other products called
"flammable," but doesn't really speak to its safety. I've seen a similar
statement on several other pages from companies that sell it. Again, this is
from an interested party. One thing that worries me personally a little is
that they don't just come out and say "no, it doesn't start fires." When a
company has very specific language like that about their product (that
doesn't really answer the question), often they don't want to give you the
straight answer for a reason.
The end verdict is - I don't know
whether your risk of a fire goes up by using orange oil. It can definitely
catch fire - but so can wood. I haven't been able to find any tests,
studies, or comments from unbiased experts that would give a definitive
answer one way or another.
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