There are many species of termite each with its own unique characteristics. There are termite species that eat just grass or vegetation and there are other species that eat timber. These include the dry wood, damp wood and subterranean termites. Some species are shy while others are aggressive. This is why identifying the species is vital as the solutions for each species is different.
Termites are usually found close to Australian homes and there are sometimes one or two nests within 50 metres of your home's perimeter, which places your home within the termites' range. To find out if your home is in danger of being breached by termites, you should get an inspection done by a qualified and licenced pest control professional.
Subterranean termites have to keep a link to their nest and usually die quickly after that link to the nest is broken.
Termites and ants are natural enemies, but the secretive termites usually travel via mud tunnels (leads or galleries) that protect them from getting attacked by ants. In cases where ants do access the tunnels, they will attack and kill the termites in the colony as they search for the queen's chamber.
Even if they get in on the rare occasion, locating the queen's chamber is challenging and she can lay as many as 2,000 eggs daily. Basically, in the event of an ant invasion, a termite colony can quickly replace any losses with a fertile queen.
TERMITE INFORMATION FACT SHEET
Why do termites exist?
In the environment, timber and debris are broken down by termites, which are also a great nutritional source for birds, lizards as well as other insects and small mammals. Termites have their place in our environment, as do all creatures.
Environments that exist without termites are not usually healthy and although homeowners don't want them attacking their homes, they provide a necessary and important natural function in their environment.
Where are termites usually found?
They can be found mostly throughout Australian mainland, on the majority of offshore islands but are rare in Tasmania. They are more prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions. Over the last couple of years, there has been an increase in the termite population in parts of Victoria, where there were low populations before. Changes to the climate seem to be providing favourable conditions to termite populations.
How often should termite inspections be done?
In warmer climates that favour termite activity, inspections should be done at least 2 times a year and in other areas a minimum of once per year. Be sure to ask the pest technician what signals to look for with termite activity. That way you can do basic inspections in between the professional ones.
Termites don’t attack steel framed houses, right?
Not true! Steel frame homes are not termite-proof, just termite-resistant! Termites can attack steel frame houses and eat the paper attached to gyprock. When the termite's waste (acrid) is excreted onto the steel frame, it could result in corrosion and weaken the steel frame. Furthermore, steel frame homes have soft wood in their construction which is also vulnerable to termite attacks. Other wood fittings like wardrobes and kitchen cupboard are great food sources for termites. In most cases, termites can do more damage to steel frame homes than they could to a one that is timber framed.
If I find termites in my home, what should I do?
Don't disturb the movement of the termites as it could impact the eventual treatment. Certain species might retreat into their nest or sub-nest which can make finding and treating the infection very difficult. You might even have multiple species invading your home. If you see signs of termites, contact a qualified, licensed pest control company to identify and treat the specific termite species.
How much damage can termites do?
Various studies show the different impact of termites, with one study by CSIRO (The Double Helix Study) done several years ago showing that 1 out of every 5 homes experiences a termite infestation throughout its lifetime. The accuracy of these figures has been questioned because homeowners don't readily report termite infestations because they fear doing so would negatively impact their home value. Some studies have suggested that a more accurate figure for termite infestation might be one in every two homes.
Some financial estimates show that termites result in more damage in Australia than all other natural disasters like flood, drought, fire and storm combined. Almost 910 million per year have been spent on treatment and repairs resulting from termite damage, according to a study done several years ago by Archicentre.