The risk of termite damage should not be underestimated. Of all the pests we are likely to encounter, this one has by far the greatest capacity to damage our homes. Annual inspections by a qualified professional are strongly recommended.
Why are they considered to be pests?
While termites are harmless to our personal health they can be an extremely destructive pest of our homes and other timber structures. Termites are said to cause more damage to property than flood, fire and storms combined. They are inconspicuous but voracious feeders and homes can be structurally destroyed within months of their initial ingress into the building. Termite damage is excluded from most insurance policies and economic hardship is therefore a significant risk.
What can home owners do to control them?
Building codes ensure that our homes are initially protected from termite ingress with chemical or physical barriers. Ongoing protection relies on maintaining those barriers, renewing barriers over time and continued vigilance (termite inspections) to discover termite activity before significant damage occurs. Home owners should avoid removal of treated soil from the perimeter and avoid covering treated soil with untreated soil around the perimeter of the house. Keep all untreated timber off the ground and repair any leaking storm water, hot water or air conditioning systems that are causing water to pond against the building.
In buildings with many expansion joins in a concrete floor, floors with split levels and other more intricate construction methods baiting becomes a more logical choice. For buildings with a simple construction method it will generally be more cost effective to carry out a chemical treatment however a baiting and interception system is still considered as better long term protection.
Chemical Termite Treatment
Termite treatment and protection in homes or in commercial premises is undertaken using chemical treatments barriers to stop termites entering the building to be protected. A localised treatment our full perimeter treatments are offered. A localised treatment is designed to prevent termites from entering a localised area of the building, a full perimeter treatment is designed to protect the whole building. A localised treatment does not prevent the termites finding an alternate route into the building – one where chemicals have not been applied.
There are two types of chemicals that can be used on your termite treatment. Either a non-repellent chemical or a repellent. Termites can detect the presence of a repellent chemical, meaning they learn to avoid those areas, increasing the chance of finding an unprotected route into your building. Non-repellent chemicals are undetectable by termites, ensuring their fatality upon contact. Two popular non-repellent chemicals are Premise (3 years residual life) and Termidor (Up to 8 years residual life) or a (Repellant) Bifenthrin which can last up to 8 years residual life.
Termites are classified in the order Blattodea together with cockroaches but belong to a highly specialised sub order called Isoptera (equal wing). This characteristic is an important feature when distinguishing flying termites from flying ants.
Termites live in large colonies, sometimes with millions of individuals. Some build mounds above the ground; others build their homes below ground or in trees. Many species eat only grass and are not considered to be pests while others feed on cellulose that they obtain from wood. They all full fill a vital role in nature by returning nutrients to the soil but the cellulose feeders can be extremely destructive pests of our homes and other timber structures.
Colonies are made up of different forms called castes, each of which has specific functions.
King and Queen: The fertile reproductive’s of the colony. Queens can live for up to 20 years.
Reproductive’s: The potential future Kings and Queens of colonies yet to be established. Colonising flights take place when conditions are suitable. Usually in spring and autumn. Flying termites have four wings of equal size and shape.
Soldiers: Main function is the defence of the colony, particularly against ants. They usually have larger and darker heads than the workers.
Workers: Make up by far the largest numbers in the colony. Gather food, build and repair the “mud” workings and feed all the other castes. It is the workers that do all the damage to our homes.
When termites are forced to the outside of a structure they build mud shelter tubes made of soil (or other available materials) and their own excretions to protect themselves from light, desiccation and predators. If the structure is made of wood they will eat their way through it and can remain undetected.
There are many species and identification to species level can be difficult. Only soldier castes are used for this purpose. There are two main types of soldiers; mandibulate, with well developed jaws and nasute with heads drawn to a pointed snout.
Common in South Western Australia. Attacks buildings and can cause significant damage. Soldiers 5–6 mm length. Makes small mounds near or on trees and tree stumps.
Nasutitermes exitiosus: Occurs in most southern areas of Australia. Attacks buildings and can cause significant damage. Soldiers 3.6-4.8mm length. Builds mounds but also nests in tree stumps or below ground, sometimes under houses.