Published October 1966 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
From the Office of United States Senator Robert C. Byrd Room 342, Old Senate Office Building, Washington, D. C. Volume VI - Number 43 October 28, 1966 Byrd's Eye View A Public Service Column by Senator Robert C. Byrd BEDBUGS AND TERMITES Bedbugs and termites are among the most noxious of insect invaders of the American home. Fortunately, with the increased sanitation of our more modern age, the prevalence of bedbugs is enormously diminished. However, a prime reason for this diminution is that the presence of bedbugs is early noticeable and is so greatly deleterious that human hosts usually strive promptly and mightily to rid themselves of the critters. By contrast, the stealthy infestation of American homes by termites often goes unnoticed until material damage has occurred. As a result, subterranean, or ground-nesting, termites cost the people of the United States many millions of dollars annually in repairs to homes and in control measures. Also, whereas modern, more open, home construction tends to discourage the presence of bedbugs, some factors in modern home construction actually serve to encourage termite population. One of these factors, central heating, has made infestations of termites more prevalent because heated basements prolong the period of termite activity. As another, the increased use of concrete and masonry terraces adjacent to foundation walls and the haphazard use of, slab-on the-ground construction have provided favorable conditions for termite development. The most effective defense against termite invasion is achieved by application of the same formula succesnful1y used in protecting humans against disease--the usage of preventive measures. Such termite-preventive measures are most effectively taken in planning new construction, but they still need to be followed by termite inspection at regular intervals during the life of a structure. Also, home owners who are alert to the appearance of flights of termites are in the best position to begin a search for points of entry which can be treated and blocked. In planning construction, homeowners should include removal of all tree roots, stumps, and wood debris from the building site prior to beginning work. Drainage of water should be carefully designed to prevent moisture from accumulating in the soil beneath a building. Furthermore, the inclusion of metal termite shields of galvanized iron, zinc, copper, or terneplate can prevent hidden entry of termites, when properly made and installed in sealing unit masonry foundations. Poured concrete foundations, properly reinforced, are relatively resistant to termite penetration. Hollow-block or brick foundation piers capped with reinforced concrete or filled, with cement mortar are also effective against termite invasion. Wooden piers, or posts, used for foundations or supports, should be pressure-treated in advance with an approved preservative. Especially important, the soil underneath concrete slab-on-ground construction should be pretreated with chemicals before pouring the concrete, to keep termites from traveling through the ground and up along expansion joints, around plumbing, and through cracks which may develop. Additionally, these openings should be filled with roofing coal-tar pitch or rubberoid bituminous sealers. For the do-it-yourself homeowner, among the chemicals recommended for soil treatment are aldrin, benzene hexachloride, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, and heptachlor. The desirable quantities, a recommended liquid for forming the emulsion, and the rates and methods of emulsion application, should be based on authoritative instructions available from commercial handlers of the chemicals, or from the U. S. Department of Agriculture. These same chemicals, used during construction to avert termite attacks on buildings, are effective in checking penetration after termite discovery.