If we were to go into a lot of detail about termites you would be here for a long time reading so therefore we have designed this page to give you a very basic outline about termites and answer some very common questions that we come across from customers.You should understand that doing a treatment or inspection for termites does require additional levels of competency above a standard pest technicians licence,  so when employing someone to carry out any work you should ensure that they are licensed in this field and insured.

Firstly we are going to break up termites into three categories

  1. Drywood termites: Drywood termites are not very common in Australia and generally do not pose a large economic problem. they are referred to as drywood termites as they do not require any ground contact and can live within a piece of timber therefore colonies are usually very small and take a long time to do damage. occasion of having drywood termites is usually having little pallets laying around on the floor this is due to the termites having what is referred to as kick out holes where they release their faeces. drywood termites are not the easiest termite to treat and often  the affected Timbers are removed and replaced or a fumigation is done this is like what people see on a lot of American cartoons or shows where a house is touched and then gassed.  quite often if drywood termites are detected Australian Quarantine may need to become involved, detection is very hard and requires specialist equipment and this is why Australian Quarantine uses Bugs or Us Pest Control as one of the inspector's.  when we carry out a termite inspection or a pre-purchase timber pest inspection we are not required to inspect for drywood termites as per Australian standard however if they are noticed they will be reported on.
  2. Dampwood termites: Dampwood termites are usually the larger species that we encounter, they generally do not pose much of an economic problem to the householder as as the name suggests they require damp to rotten wood as a preference, therefore these termites a very commonly found in old stumps  and if found in a house it is normally around an area where there is a water leak like the bathroom or kitchen area and the water has caused rotten timber.  these termites are the easiest to treat and can normally just be spot treated or removal of the decaying timber.  in my experience I have only ever had to treat dampwood termites in a house twice that were not attacking decaying timber.
  3. Subterranean termites: As the name suggests Sub meaning under and Terrain meaning ground these termites will generally travel under the ground to commute between the nest and food sources.  there are many species of subterranean termites in these termites pose the largest economic damage of all the termites buy a long way. Their nests maybe underground, in trees or posts  and can even be a aborial  on the ground or up in trees or post.Their nests can be extremely large consisting of millions of termites depending on the age of the nest some species may even have multiple nest sites making them even harder to control.It is this type of termite that you as a house owner and us as an inspector I'm most concerned about is it damage they can cause can be astronomical if they are left to their own devices and not treated properly.

Commonly asked questions about Termites

Are termites hard to kill?

No is a quick answer, normal house fly spray will kill termites however this should never be done. The reason being is that  this will only kill the termites you can see not the rest of the termites that maybe in the wall or in other parts of the house. A termite treatment requires getting control of the colony and trying to prevent them entering the house therefore protecting the whole area and not just one spot, remember you are dealing with a nest not individuals so what you can see will only be a very small percentage of the termite colony.  you should also know that sometimes if you try and do some work yourself you may not fix the problem in can make the job harder for the termite technician to carry out a suitable treatment.

What are flying termites?

Flying termites are referred to as alates. An alate is a future reproductive or king and queen. They are released to try and establish a new colony, of the thousands that may be released only a handful may established a colony. A termite nest will produce alates and the soldiers will drive them out of what is referred to as flight holes from where the termites are currently active this will happen several times usually through Summer and Autumn.

What are the differences between flying ants and flying termites?

There are two very easy ways to tell the difference firstly if you look at their wings both have two pairs flying termites will have both pairs the same length where flying ants have a shorter pear and no longer pair of wings, secondly if you have a look at their bodies a flying termite will have a head and a long abdomen therefore two parts, a flying ant will have a very segmented body usually consisting of a head, thorax and abdomen.

I found flying termites in my house is this a problem?

The answer to this varies depending on what has been found. it is very common especially for people in a bush area to find flying termites or a light in the house after a flight has been done in the area so if you see a small number of alates in your house it is generally not a problem as they are attracted to light and they get in around your doors or windows.  however if you find that your floors are inundated with alates you will generally find what they have been released from within your house which therefore means you have current termite activity in your house and will require a termite treatment.

Do termites moult?

Yes termites do moult and this part of their life cycle can play a very important role in a termite treatment has some treatments involve the use of what is referred to as an insect growth regulator and these treatments prevent the termites from multi and therefore cause them to die and  effectively eradicating a colony.

How did I get termites?

Unfortunately it is just one of those things if the termites are in the area your house especially if it doesn't have a termite management plan in place he is susceptible to being attacked by termites.

What timber do they eat?

A lot of people tell us that they have pine and termites do not eat it or they have hardwood and termites do not eat it both of these statements are incorrect. Softwoods and hardwoods and I haven't even been seen in treated pine and chipboard however there are some timbers that are less susceptible than others like western red cedar.

How fast can a cause damage to my house?

This is like how long is a piece of string, there are many varying factors

  1. How big is the nest, obviously the larger the nest more termites  and the more food they require to sustain the nest.
  2. How close is an s to your house, The closer the termite colony is to your house the more likely they are to be sending larger numbers of termites to feed on  your house.
  3. What is your house made of,  termites are able to eat different Timbers at different rates usually they will consume soft the timbers faster than hardwoods.

How far can termites travel from the nest?

Termites will travel up to about 100 meters in summer from the nest but may only travel 50 meters in the cooler months. The reason they travel a shorter distance through winter is because termites need to maintain a very warm body temperature and they do this by large numbers so the further they get from the nest the colder they get.Iit is common that you can have a termite inspection done in winter where termite damage has been detected but there is no current activity and when it warms up the termites return this may be a reason for recommending a shorter inspection period.

My house is old I've never had termites before can I still get them?

Yes without a termite management plan everyday is another day where termites can attack your house while you have been lucky for many years it can only be a matter of time. Having said this a lot of older houses may have been treated with chemicals known as organochlorines which were banned in the mid 90s.  organochlorines were banned  as they are carcinogenic however on the upside they left and extremely long residual that could last or 25 or 50 years in the soil and it is very hard or most people to know if these treatments have been done on their property.

More information on termite treatments can be found on our termite treatment page or if you have any other questions please send us through an email or give us a call.

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