Are all termites the same?

No. There are many different types of termites. Some termites only eat grass or vegetation whilst others eat timber. These include dampwood termites, drywood termites and subterranean termites. That is why it is important to identify the species of termite as there are varying solutions for different species. Some species are aggressive and some are shy. Identifying and treating termite infestation has become a very exacting science which requires extensive skills and knowledge from pest technicians.

What is the difference between subterranean termites, drywood termites and dampwood termites and are termite management systems able to stop all these termite species?

Termite management systems generally ONLY deal with the movement of subterranean termites because these species are the only termites recognised by the Building Code of Australia. Dampwood termites are generally not a major threat to buildings, but drywood termites such as the West Indian drywood termite can provide huge problems as has been noted with the Queensland Parliament and Treasury buildings. This particular termite species is a reportable pest that has been noted to cause extensive damage in areas of
Queensland, NSW and the ACT. Timber treatment with borates are the ONLY effective preventative form of treatment for this virulent species of termite.

Are borers the same as termites?

A. No. These are timber pests that are an entirely different species of insect to termites. This species of highly destructive timber pests are not recognised by
the Building Code of Australia and therefore are not managed in current building practises. The best available current means of protection against these insects is timber borate treatments.

What do termites do in the environment?

A. Termites are both necessary and beneficial to the environment. In colder climates, worms perform similar functions to termites in both aerating and fertilizing soil. Termites break down timber and debris in the environment and are nutritional food for lizards, birds and other insects and mammals. An environment where there are no termites becomes very unhealthy and whilst Homeowners do not want them eating their homes, we certainly need them in the environment to perform their important and necessary function in nature.

Are ‘white ants’ termites?

Yes. What people refer to as ‘white ants’ are termites,
and the term ‘white ants’ is a misnomer that is simply descriptive of their appearance. Termites are a different species to ants and are more closely related to cockroaches than ants. If you look carefully at a termite, you will notice a number of distinct variances from ants which are more closely related to bees.

Are termites found everywhere in Australia?

No. They are rarely found in Tasmania. However, termites are found in most areas throughout mainland Australia and on most offshore islands. The incidence rate is higher in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Parts of Victoria which previously had relatively few termites have noticed a recent upsurge in the incidence rate over the last few years. This may be attributable to variations in climatic conditions which provide conditions that are more favourable to termites.

Are termite management systems and products effective in stopping termites and protecting my home?

You need to understand the limitations of your termite management system or product as all systems and products are subject to an ongoing regime of inspection and maintenance. It is not a set and forget scenario and ‘management’ is the key word that should replace the word ‘protection’ whenever it is used in relation to termites.

How do I obtain the professional services of a fully licensed and qualified pest technician who has the appropriate licences and insurances to perform quality pest management services in accordance with the Australian Standard?

This can be a very difficult exercise, especially given that pest technicians often provide a raft of affiliations with Industry Associations such as AEPMA and their supposed professionalism in providing the PestCert Scheme. You will often find far greater professionalism in pest technicians that are no part of either of these organisations. Many smaller family businesses are often able to provide far better and more competent services than large companies. AEPMA has indeed not been proactive in having changes affected to Australian Standards that would benefit Homeowners whilst their members profit at Homeowners’ expense. The Pest Management Industry is divided and many pest technicians say that they do not wish to be part of an Industry Association that does not benefit the needs of their customers – Homeowners!

I have termites in my yard and in my perimeter fences. Does that mean I have termites in my home?

Not necessarily. Termites are commonly found near Australian homes and generally there are one or two nests within fifty metres of the perimeter of your home which places your home in the range of termites. An appropriate inspection by a fully qualified and licensed professional pest technician should determine as to whether your home has been breached by termites.

How do I identify what form of termite management has been used in my home?

Generally, there is a treatment notice sticker in the electrical fuse and meter box which is generally located on the side of the house near the front of the property. In some cases the sticker can be located in the kitchen in cupboards under the sink.

How often should I have my home inspected for termite ingress?

At a very minimum you should have at least one inspection every 12 months and two inspections a year in warmer climates where termite activity is increased by the favourable conditions. You should also ask your pest technician as to what signs you should observe around the perimeter of your home that identifies termite movement so that you are able to do basic inspections between regular professional inspections.

If I build my home from steel, will I be protected against termites?

No! Steel frames are not termite-proof. They are only termite-resistant! Termites can invade steel framed homes and consume the paper on the back of gyprock. The acrid (waste product) faeces expelled on to a galvanized steel frame can react to cause the frame to corrode. Also, most of the internal linings of steel framed homes are generally softwoods that can be consumed by termites. Kitchen and wardrobe fittings can also provide food for termites. Often, you will find that termites can do greater damage to a steel framed home than a timber framed home.

If I bring firewood into my home which has termites in the timber, will these termites damage my home?

No! Subterranean termites need to maintain a link to the nest and will generally die soon after they are separated from their links to the nest.

What should I do if I discover termites in my home?

You should try not to disturb the termite movement as this can effect the subsequent treatment. Some species when discovered will retreat back to their nest or sub-nest and there can be difficulty in locating and treating the infestation. In some cases there may be more than one species attacking your home. You should immediately call a fully qualified licensed pest manager to identify and treat the infestation.

If I have ants around, will they stop termites from invading my home?

Ants are the natural enemy of termites. However, termites are secretive and generally travel through mud tunnels called ‘leads’ or ‘galleries’ which generally provide protection against ants. However, sometimes ants manage to gain access to a lead or a nest and they attack the termite colony. It is however a rare event that the ants discover the chamber where the queen resides and she is generally able to produce about 2,000 eggs per day. This means that the termite colony can quickly replenish any losses caused by an ant incursion. Therefore, the answer is no in nearly all instances.

Will bait stations protect my home against termites?

No. They may assist in preventing termites attacking your home but should not be relied upon as a primary form of defence against termites. Baits are continuing to improve in quality and efficacy as are the attractants that lure termites to the stations. However, much the same as fishing, termites can bypass baits for other food sources such as the timber in a home.

How many homes in Australia are affected by termites?

There have been varying figures on this with one study done by the CSIRO (The Double Helix Study) several years ago providing an incidence rate of one in every five homes becoming infested during its lifetime. It is difficult to determine the accuracy of these figures because homeowners often try to hide the fact that they have been affected by termites for fear of decreasing the value of their home. It has been suggested that as many as one out of every two houses is a more accurate figure. The rate is on the increase with the demise of the potent and persistent organochlorine chemical termiticides that were used prior to mid-1995 in treating termites. The increased rate of attack is also due to the wrongful description of ‘termite barrier’ status provided to physical termite management systems built into the construction of a home. These systems are ‘termite monitoring systems’ that survive by constant inspections and regular monitoring, especially given that they can be bridged in hours.

How much damage do termites cause?

There are varying estimates in relation to the damage bill with one financial estimate stating that termites cause more damage each year than the combined total of all natural (drought, flood, fire and storm) disasters in Australia. Several years ago, the Archicentre provided an estimate of approximately 910 million dollars per annum in treatment and repairs. The incidence rate is continuing to increase for a variety of factors. This figure could be multiplied five times and may still be short of accurately assessing the real size of the problem, as evidenced by the vast numbers of termite treatment vehicles on the roads. There is a school of thought that bureaucrats are working on behalf of termites and ‘white-anting’ Homeowners by providing standards and regulations that certainly do the Homeowners no favours!

Will physical termite management systems such as ant caps, graded stone, metal plate shielding, etc. stop termites accessing my home?

No. The purpose of these systems is to prevent concealed entry and they therefore should be considered as a monitoring system that diverts termite movement to where it can be observed and chemically treated to remove the infestation. “THEY ARE NOT BARRIERS TO TERMITE MOVEMENT”. If the termite movement is not observed and treated, the termites can continue around or over the physical termite management system and access your home. If you carefully read your warranty conditions you will note that where ‘bridging’ of the system occurs there will be absolutely no warranty provided by the manufacturer!

Is there anything other than chemical that can kill termites?

The short answer is No. There are some form of tiny worms (nematodes) and also certain fungi that have been used which have had some small success. However, they are very ineffective in comparison with chemicals and presently cannot be relied upon as an effective means of controlling termites.

What is the most effective means of preventing termites gaining access to your home?

This depends on the type of construction, soil type and the type of termites that are prevalent in the area. Generally, an undisturbed continuous chemical soil barrier provides the best means of defence for the commonly constructed ‘slab on ground’ style home. However, often a combination of systems can provide the best outcome. The best system is a multi-biocide timber treatment utilising the mineral salt boron as a timber treatment as this stops termites eating structural timber.

Will rain diminish the efficacy of a chemical soil treatment?

No. Chemical soil treatments generally rely upon the active constituent becoming covalently bonded to the soil particles thereby being effectively ‘locked on’ to the soil to form a barrier. Floods will have an effect on a chemical soil treatment by washing out soil that has been impregnated with chemical active.

Do termites eat concrete?

No, termites do not eat concrete. They can however squeeze through very small cracks in concrete which gave people the belief that they ate concrete. The size of the crack might be only a millimetre wide and yet termites were often able to negotiate a passage through the slab. Access is generally determined by the size of the head of the termite. Termites can often make their way through mortar by moving particles of sand in the mix.

2 Comments (Leave a Reply)

  1. Franz Knapp (July 9, 2011)

    Does using a woodchip mulch near yor house increase the chance of termite attack

    • andrew (July 13, 2011)

      Dependent on a number of factors. Some timbers such as Cypress pine are termite resistant and if that was the timber being mulched, obviously it would not increase the chances of termite attack. However, as a rule of thumb, you are generally placing termite food stocks around a house when you put a woodchip mulch near your home. Therefore, you would obviously be increasing the chance of termite attack.