Subterranean termites are commonly known as white ants. However, they are distinctly different in their lifetyle and appearance.
In nature, termites have an important role in recycling rotten timber in the forest and returning nutrients to the soil. When they get into our homes they are then declared pests and the damage they can cause to a home is substantial.
Termites are social insects and have a cast structure which differentiates soldiers from reproductives and workers.
The reproductives, when sexually mature, are winged, in the warmer, more humid months, they swarm and can often be seen in early evening, flying out of bushland to colonise new areas, sometimes your home. The Queen lays her eggs and once the nest is established, does nothing else. She can lay up to 2000 eggs per day. These eggs develop into workers, soldiers and reproductives.
The workers are the ones who do all the damage. They are wingless, blind and sterile and are responsible for foraging for food, constructing tunnels, building the nest and feeding the colony. They feed on wood and other cellulose materials, but have a preference for some timbers over others. As they feed they hollow out timbers and move from one area to another in small tunnels made from a mud like combination of faeces and saliva.
They make these tunnels to protect themselves from predators, the head and light of the outside environment. The soldiers are responsible for the protection of the nest and in some species have a pair of mandible on their head to attack predators.
Termites will travel long distances to find food. The nest may be fifty metres away from where the workers are foraging. They will work their way into a house from under the floor, up the wall cavity or even through cracks in concrete.
The first stage of any pest management program is inspection. This should be carried out by an experience technician. The inspection will determine the extent of the infestation, if present, identification of the termite species, where the termites are entering the building and also what steps need to be carried out to eradicate any termites present and protect the building from any further attack.
Eradication of any existing termite infestation is important to stop the damage spreading. This is usually done by applying an insecticidal dust to the active workings. The termites then take this back to their nest and as they groom themselves, pass it through the nest. Once the Queen is killed, the nest will quickly die off. Please click here to read through our 15 steps in termite treatment for your home.
If the nest can be located by the technician, an insecticide can be applied to the nest killing it directly.
Once the nest is killed, the infestation within the home should die out quickly. However, the home is not protected against re-infestation especially if other nests are located nearby.
The best protection your home can have is an insecticidal barrier to prevent the entry of termites into your home. This should be carried out in accordance with Australian Standard AS 2178 for existing buildings and AS 2057 for buildings under construction. The technician should use an insecticide approved by the State Government authorities and be licenced to carry out pest control work.
With new homes built on concrete slabs, the termites can still come around the outside edge of the slab. A perimeter treatment should be carried out on these once construction is completed.
As a home owner or builder, there are many things that can be done to reduce the risk of termite attack to your home. These include removing all loose construction timbers from the around and under the house, don't stack timber or fire wood next to the house, ensure ventilation is adequate beneath the suspended floors. If the soil is dry, termites will not be attracted to this area. Ensure you have a termite inspection carried out by an experienced technician at least every twelve months.