What happened to the termites?

When we bought our house in south-west France nine years ago people seemed to talk of little else but termites and the dangers they presented to house and home.

Tales abounded of armies of termites creeping underground and devouring everything in their way, with a special preference for house foundations and woodwork. It was said they would eat a house (or at least the timbers within a house) from the inside out, so that the unfortunate owner wouldn’t even realise their was a problem until a strong wind came along and blew their house away, it now having less strength than a pile of dust.

Since they live in happy communities of 200,000 termites you’d think they’d be hard to miss, but they are very good at playing hide-and-seek, and might be five metres below ground until they discover your property and come running up for lunch.

Anyway, that was then, this is now. I haven’t seen any houses demolished by termites, and don’t recall any houses going missing overnight. (Incidentally that picture above wasn’t taken by me in our own festering property, it is copyright Hans Hillewaert, and was taken in Catalonia.) I don’t even remember anyone saying they had a problem with them. Did they all go away, I was wondering, or are they now just ‘part of the furniture’?!

I only came to be thinking about termites at all because someone we met is buying a house a few kilometres away and seemed very nonchalant about the fact it has termites, because the existing owner has to have them treated before the property can be sold to them (no property can be sold in a ‘termite region’, which includes all south-west France, without a certificate that it is free of termites).

Have things changed so much over the last 10 years that termites are just like the many other pests we like to battle with in the countryside?  (Speaking of which, when we arrived we were also told that three hornet stings at the same time and you drop dead on the spot. Turns out that’s an old wife’s tale, unless you are highly allergic to wasp stings…)

Anyway, question is, would you be concerned if you found you had termites in your property (or should I say ex-property)? Would you be concerned if you were buying a property that had termites or just laugh it off as ‘one of those things’?

Note by the way, if you have termites you have to notify the local mairie – although I’m not sure what they do. Probably just send you back a stern note telling you to get them treated, although perhaps they also send a note to your neighbours to warn them about your condition. Must make you very popular, I’m sure.



  1. France Living July 12, 2010 at 9:56 am |

    How can anyone risk buying a property that is full of termites? Even if it gets treated, damage to the building is already done, isnt it?

  2. Boris July 12, 2010 at 10:00 am |

    Well, I suppose as long as you know what damage has been done and the property is priced according to any corrective work needed perhaps you would still be OK to go ahead?

  3. simmy July 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm |

    Termites come in many forms and eat into all kinds of things. Since moving to France I have been fighting them off, but i suspect like you Boris, the wife and kids are still around, devouring there way through everything I own. House seems pretty solid, just the bank account which seems to have been blown away!! Can these type of termites be sold with the house??

  4. Boris July 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm |

    Show no mercy, some invasions can go on for years if not treated. The recommended treatment is to fill your wallet with something very toxic but if that fails just feed the kids to the termites and kill the two birds with one stone.

  5. Johnny Norfolk July 12, 2010 at 11:58 pm |

    For termite read civil servant, Thats the type we have in Britain.

  6. fly in the web July 13, 2010 at 3:07 am |

    Local advice is to stick twigs in the bare ground which will attract them..then kill them.
    Never done, never seen it done, but that{s what the local council advises too.

  7. Boris July 13, 2010 at 3:56 am |

    Johnny, it’s not very easy to find exact numbers to compare but I reckon France beats Britain hands down on number of civil servants!
    FITW, that’s an interesting idea, I hope I don’t have to try it – is it just any old twigs or a particular type I wonder?

  8. Johnny Norfolk July 13, 2010 at 8:41 am |

    Boris you are probably right but the numbers here are double yes double to what we had 10 years ago.All set to change i hope. They have started with the NHS. Shifting the funds to GPs to organise there own services and then taking out thousands of termites.

  9. susan Reid April 22, 2012 at 2:24 pm |

    brilliant writing and such a joy to read- made me feel more lighthearted about the termites here :)

  10. Boris April 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm |

    It’s always nice to hear of termites bringing a little happiness into someone’s life!