Railroad ties are thick, durable, cheap, recycled wood. The wood, though, is treated by soaking it in creosote, which is composed of over 300 chemicals, many of them toxic and persistent in soil.
Because of that, most people think they are protected from wood-boring insect infestations. Unfortunately this is not true, in fact, railroad ties are one of the major sources of colonies of carpenter ants infesting structures.
If you are thinking of using railroad ties in your garden, think twice.
Railroad ties seem like an inexpensive option, and they’ve been used a lot in the past, but unfortunately that was a mistake. Using railroad ties for garden beds can pose a threat to your soil, pets and children, as well as the food you grow because chemicals can leach into the soil.
What are Wood-boring insects?
Wood-boring termites are a selection of arthropods that damage wooden structures. This group of insects consists of both larvae and adults.
The most common wood-boring termites are:
- Carpenter ants
- Bark beetles and wood borers
- Powderpost beetles
The insects are not known to cause any harm or health problems to people, however, are dangerous and damaging to property. They feed on and nest inside the wooden structure, eventually damaging and weakening the structure they’ve invaded.
The damage that wood-damaging insects can cause can be quite costly to repair.
Formosan subterranean termites can eat the untreated centers of creosote-treated railroad ties. The penetration of the creosote is only about ½ inch deep. Carpenter ants or termites enter through these cracks and dredge the wood in the interior.
Infested railroad ties have the potential to spread a colony.
How to know if you have a termites problem?
The best way to see if you have termites is to look for them under any moist wood. Make a thorough inspection looking for termites, damaged wood, soil, mud tubes and carton nest. If you suspect you have termites of either variety, you can also call a professional pest control company to investigate.
Also the question is, how do you kill termites in railroad ties?
Once you know you have termites, and didn’t hire professionals, you’ll need to determine the type of termite you are dealing with.
There are three main types:
- Subterranean (the most common)
Some can be treated with liquid insecticide like borates (disodium octaborate tetrahydrate), bait or fumigation. But this won’t guarantee you will get rid of them entirely. Unfortunately, treatment of railroad ties is often difficult if not nearly impossible.
The simplest way to get rid of termites is to remove and/or replace infested railroad ties. When doing that, keep in mind that all timbers are not equally attractive to termites and get, when possible, Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata), Native Pine (Callitris spp.) or Jam (Acacia acuminata) for building or fencing.
Alternatives to Railroad Ties - Some of the naturally durable woods that can be used to replace the creosote-soaked logs are redwood, cedar, cypress and black locust.