Ask the Bugman: Removing termites

Question: My garden has termites (subterranean). They are currently in the wood used for the raised beds and I would like to remove them ASAP. What’s your advice on how to get rid of them without poisoning myself or my family? Thanks for any information you are willing to share.


V. A.

A: Cut some cardboard pieces about 2 foot square. Then dig a shallow hole to place them. Get some Tetracycline powder at a feed store and mix a bag of it with a gallon of water. The tetracycline comes in small bags and is fed to livestock. Soak the cardboard and then bury it. Check it in about a week to see if there is any activity. The termites should go to the cardboard and stay away from the wood you are using and the tetracycline (it’s an antibiotic) will kill them. Also, you can treat the wood you are using to raise the beds with a sodium borate such as BoraCare.


Q: Hello, I recently was bitten by chiggers. I probably got them from cleaning the chicken coop. I have nine chickens and usually pick up their droppings every day but recently, I’ve been hosing part of the coop which has wooden floors. The other part of the coop is a sand like soil which I rake almost every day. This is where the chicken food and water and food scraps are located. They are free range during the day and kept in only when it rains. How do I get rid of the chiggers since I can’t see them? I wear high boots now when I go into the coop. I have a vegetable garden near the coop and save their dropping for fertilizer.

Thank you.

S. E.

A: They aren’t chiggers, but they are probably a species of bird mite. Here is what you need to do. Remove the chickens for a day or so and then completely spray the inside of the coop, including the walls, with Greenbug for Outdoors. It will kill all the mites in the coop and not affect the chickens at all.


Q: We live in South Carolina and nature is out of balance and the black widows are rampant! We have a small patio, about 12x15, and I have gotten rid of a dozen or so over the past eight months and there are signs of several more. It’s been this way in many places I’ve lived here. Is there anything that gives them the message to go away? I don’t want to poison because it kills everything else as well. It’s unhealthy and unkind. But I do have a toddler who plays out there and likes to garden and play with the dirt and plants and I need to protect him. I know the widows are shy, but he pokes his hands in everywhere and I don’t really want to teach him to be afraid of plants and dirt... any suggestions greatly appreciated.

A. P.

A: Get some food-grade diatomaceous earth, probably at a local feed store, and blow some dust in any and all cracks and crevices where spiders may hide. You can get a Centro-Bulb duster to apply it or you can use an empty squeezable ketchup or mustard container. The duster would work better. Then you can spray any spiders that come out from the dusted areas with dish soap and water and alcohol (equal parts). Make sure there aren’t a lot of places, such as woodpiles, for bugs to hide. If there aren’t any bugs in the vicinity, the spiders will go elsewhere to look for food.


Richard Fagerlund, a 40-year veteran of pest management, is a columnist and pest management consultant. Reach him with your bug questions at



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