By Doug Hallett
This time it wasn’t a false alarm. When city termite control officer Tim Myles got a call about a possible termite discovery, he thought it was a similar call to ones he’s received over the years – all turned out to be ants or other insects.
“I was very shocked to find they were termites,” he says of the report that came to him this month from a real estate agent. The real estate agent, representing a person who’d put in an offer to buy a house on King Street near the city’s downtown core, went into the house’s yard, “picked up a handful of mulch and said ‘By golly, I think these are termites,’ ” Myles said.
Myles said he feared the worst after confirming there were termites at that house and two adjacent properties on King Street between Eramosa Road and Palmer Street.
The city’s worst termite infestation area is not far away across the river. Myles feared termites might have flown across the river many years ago and established a major and previously undetected infestation around King Street. Termites regularly fly, but they’re generally unable to establish colonies by this sort of migration that can survive a winter this far north, he said.
“Such natural establishment of colonies is rare this far north, but not impossible.”
His fear, Myles said, was that “maybe it’s been under the radar for decades and maybe there’s a huge infestation” east of the river.
However, after two days of inspecting yards in the area this week, “we are breathing a sigh of relief,” Myles said in an interview late Tuesday afternoon.
Termites have been found in the yards of 12 properties – nine on King Street, all of them close together, and three yards of larger properties on Queen Street that back onto the affected King Street homes.
However, no evidence of termites was found in about 60 other nearby properties whose yards were inspected Monday and Tuesday.
The infested area appears to be “a very tight cluster,” Myles said, leading him to think someone brought infested material to one of the 12 properties a few years back.
“Maybe they’ve been spreading for about five years and haven’t gone very far yet,” he said, noting that the spread of termites through foraging activity happens slowly.
Sometimes people unknowingly move infested wood, such as mulch, firewood, sheds and planter barrels, which allows termites to travel over large distances.
It appears the King Street infestation has been “caught quite early,” he said, so there’s an “excellent chance” it can be brought “totally under control,” as has happened with two of the city’s three current termite management areas – one in the Emma Street and Pine Drive area, which dates back to 2007, and the other in the Windermere Court area, which was discovered in 2000.
By far the largest and most active termite management area in the city is called the Woolwich area. It is west of the Speed River, north of Eramosa Road and south of Earl Street. It has been identified as a trouble spot for decades.
The eastern subterranean termite was detected in Guelph in the early 1970s near Goldie Mill Park, said a city hall news release Tuesday that announced the new infestation on King Street. The non-native insects were accidentally introduced from the United States to more than 30 Ontario municipalities, the release said.
In total, the city’s three current termite management areas take in 869 properties.
Myles and his crew will spend the next month inspecting the yards of 450 properties in the area of the newly discovered infestation, including the ones checked so far this week. It’s an area of the city that has never been “systematically” inspected for termites, he said.
After this is done, the city will send letters to the property owners saying how many of the properties will be included in Guelph’s fourth termite management area, Myles said.
The city will then lay termite traps and will map out what material in yards within the new termite management area needs to be removed for disposal. After that, the city will do inspections inside the homes in the new termite management area, looking for “any structural infestation that requires chemical treatment,” he said.
In the three properties on King Street initially identified as having termites on Aug. 7, the insects weren’t just found in the yards, Myles said. In one of the houses, there was quite a large infestation in cardboard boxes in the basement, he said.
By Doug Hallett