Termites can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damages to your property if you don’t kill them fast. So book your termite inspection today.
One in every five households has active termites or a termite history (1982-83 survey NSW). It is therefore essential to understand how these destructive pests live, be able to identify activity in your home, and be able to prevent or minimalise the development of any termite activity.
Mostly pale brown to white in colour, no constriction between thorax & abdomen, have beaded antennae.
Reproductive termites have 2 pairs of wings & 1 pair of compound eyes. Workers and soldiers are blind, sexless, wingless and have thin cuticles that are sensitive to desiccation in dry or exposed environments.
Termites live in colonies which contain various sections, each with a different function or task. The size of a colony varies from a few hundred, to hundreds of thousands or even millions. Some species build mounds, some nest underground and some live in small colonies in the wood of trees. There are 5 main forms:
- Ground mound: these are built on the ground, mostly with a hardened outer casting, an extensive layer with tunnels & an inner central area of softer, often papery material which forms the nursery where the queen, eggs & young are located. A humidity of about 100% is required to prevent desiccation of the termites, and to support the fungi on which termites feed.
- Arboreal mound (tree nest): these are nests built on trees, and can be quite large and contain many thousands of individuals. These nests have internal contact with a cavity inside the tree. Such nests often act as a nesting place for birds – food is plentiful and cool conditions are suitable for young.
- Pole nest: a small, round nest built on top of fence posts and even transmission poles, as well as on the ground and on trees.
- Subterranean nest: mostly found underground, but can be found above ground provided there is a constant water source. These nests have been found between floors in large city buildings, inside trees and tree stumps. They lack the outer hard casing of ground and arboreal mounds, and contain softer nursery material at the centre. Those found in trees can weaken the tree and its stability, sometimes causing the tree to collapse.
- Tree wood: these are smaller colonies built throughout the branches and trunks of trees, often preferring the softer growth rings. The species of these colonies often attack damp wood, mostly that in houses where timber is in contact with the ground.
Most termite species are grass & debris feeders, and these are not usually pests of buildings. Some species eat cellulose, starches & sugars, which they obtain from wood. Termites obtain their protein from fungi that grow in and on the surface of wood, usually in moist soil situations or in the confines of the colony (which are also moist).
In general, termites prefer warm, moist conditions, so they may be found in the basement or in between floors of buildings, near plumbing leaks or faulty roofing, in or around moist soil, around scrap-wood piles, etc.
Termites go through the developmental stages of egg, nymph & adult. The nymphs become either workers, soldiers or reproductives (‘alates’).
The developmental period may take up to 2-4 months depending on food availability, temperature and the vigour of the colony. A colony requires 2-5 years before it has sufficient strength in numbers to seriously damage timber of a building. Depending on the species, however, the damage can occur a lot sooner. Termites exist in a colony of several ‘forms’ or castes, each with a specific function related to the survival and maintenance of the colony.
Queen: as a fully winged alate, the queen leaves the original colony during colonising to set up new colonies with the king. The queen’s main role is reproduction, but in the early stages the queen and king work together to tend to their young until the workers are numerous enough to take over these nursery duties. In some species the queen may have a life span of up to 20yrs. Macropterous queens are the primary queens who set up the colony with the king, and are more prolific, producing many more eggs and young than the supplementary queens (neotenics), which are originally reproductives selected to replace the dead or degenerated primary queen. Since neotenics do not produce as many eggs as the primary queen, many may be selected to perform this task simultaneously.
King: the original king, along with the queen, tends the young during the early life of the colony. He fertilises the queen from time to time and, like the queen, is long-lived. Supplementary kings may also be formed for similar reasons as the selection of supplementary queens.
Workers: usually constitute the greatest number of individuals in a colony. They do the work of the colony: gathering food, feeding the young, repairing damage, tending & feeding the queen.
Soldiers: are darker and larger than workers. Their main function is to defend the colony against invaders such as ants and other insects. There are two main types of soldiers: the mandibulate (well-developed jaws) and the nasute (has a snout-like head with tiny mouthparts beneath).
Reproductives: are the sexual forms of a colony – the future kings & queens of colonies yet to be established. They are darker than workers & soldiers and are able to resist the outside environment more effectively.
Most prevention procedures must be carried out by professional pest controllers in order to be effective. There are methods of control, however, that can be carried out around the home in order to reduce the risk of attack. These include:
- Making sure all plumbing and pipe leaks are repaired.
- Repairing any roof damage which may create damp areas suitable for termites.
- Good ventilation will deter termites, which require humidity and warmth for survival and breeding.
- Removing any scrap wood from in or around the foundations of the home.
- Using timber which show varying degrees of resistance to most termite species. These include: American redwood, Black bean (heartwood), Bloodwood, Jam acacia, River red gum, Southern cypress (USA), White cypress pine.
These methods will only reduce the risk of possible attack, for there are many species of termites, each with its own specific method of prevention (usually carried out by professional pest controllers).