Termites – Tough or Tender?


Termites have soft fragile bodies that can dry out when they face humidity below 80 percent and extremes in temperature. Most termites lack eyes. Termites compensate for these tender features by resiliency and tight colony socialization. Understanding termite characteristics can help you control their spread.

Everyone Plays a Role in Termite Colonies

From the reproducing queen and king to the young nymphs, every termite plays an important role in the colony. Workers forage for food so they can feed the entire colony. Soldiers help guard tunnel break-ins so workers can repair the breach. And of course the queen is busily churning out eggs by the thousands. Some nymphs eventually acquire reproductive organs so that they can either take over if the queen dies or they can fly off in tandem to form a new nest.

The More You Know the More You Can Control Termites

Homeowners can control termites using their knowledge along with termite monitors and household safe bait. Corrugated cardboard in monitors placed in damp soil near suspected termite activity attracts forager termites seeking additional food sources for a growing nest. Worker termites build a new tunnel to the monitor and use pheromones to mark the route. Just add household safe termite bait to the monitors and replenish as needed.

Prevent Termites Before You Build

To control termites before you build your home, consider building a suspended floor rather than a concrete slab. The additional upfront expense is often compensated by the potential of less termite damage since foundation inspections are easier with suspended floors than concrete slabs. If you decide on a concrete foundation, consider installing a reticulation system that allows you to reapply chemical barriers as needed. Make sure you take hydraulics into account so that liquid can be distributed equally among all lines.

Framing Options Can Help Control Termites

Pre-treated timber and steel frames provide barriers to control termites. Make sure to choose the appropriate level of pre-treated timber, since some levels resist only mould and decay rather than termite invasion.

Physical Barriers Can Deter Termites

Physical barriers such as ant caps on piers and metal flanges where utility pipes go through the concrete slabs help control termites, but should still be regularly inspected for termite tunnels. A termite only needs a 3 mm to 4 mm opening to penetrate.

Chemical Barriers Can Control Termites

Chemical barriers are required by Australian standards, but only last 10 years, and that guarantee often requires that you have the professional who laid the chemical barrier inspect your property annually. Homeowners should make sure that the builder complies with Australians Standards to apply a perimeter barrier before laying paths and the driveway.



When to Treat for Termites

When to Treat for Termites

Immediate treatment is the best response to termite detection on your property. While termites damage a home very slowly, you do not know how long they have been at work before discovery. Control termites expeditiously, but do not cower under any scare tactics of pest control professionals to act before you have researched your termite control options.

Treat Quickly Following Any Termite Swarm

Large numbers of winged termites emerge from their nests in early summer to launch new colonies. They typically do not fly more than 100 metres before landing to seek a mate, shed wings, and build a new nest. Indoor termite swarmers are doomed to die because there is no soil to burrow under after they mate and they cannot eat wood. However, they indicate a termite infestation in the house. Outdoor swarmers have slightly more success with less than 5 percent surviving to form a new colony.

Play Detective to Control Termites when you uncover a Few Foraging Scouts

As a colony grows, termites are constantly on the lookout for additional food sources. You may unearth a few scouts searching for new cellulose. Once they find new food, the workers build a mud tunnel to the food supply that ants cannot penetrate. Control termites by looking for mud tunnels to place a termite monitor near and add bait for the workers to carry back to the nest.

Types of Termites

While Australia has more than 350 species of termites, fewer than ten species inflict the most damage. Subterranean termites that live in the soil and eat cellulose found in wood, paper, and cardboard cause the most destruction. These species fall into three families: Coptotermes (Coptos), Schedorhinotermes (Schedos) and huge northern Mastotermes (Mastos). Mastos live primarily north of the Tropic of Capricorn while Coptos and Schedos are found throughout Australia with the exception of Tasmania. Homeowners should focus on controlling the termites that cause the most damage to homes.

Common Termite Features

Most termites are small (less than 10 mm), with pale bodies, thick waists, and oval abdomens. They lack eyes and have straight beaded antennae. Termite soldiers are usually larger than workers and have dark brown heads with black mandibles extending from their heads like claws. Soldiers can emit a milky substance from their heads that repels ants. The termite queen is the largest in the colony with an abdomen that can extend to 30 mm to lay more than 1,000 eggs a day when she is mature. Schedos are the most fearful and rapidly hide when exposed.

Most Termites Die from Household Safe Bait

Coptos and Schedos are more populous than Mastos and can die from eating household safe bait that homeowners place in monitors around their property to control termites.  Mastos are larger and require professional termite control with stronger chemicals.


Why Treat Termites? Don’t They Just Die Off?

Why Treat Termites? Don’t They Just Die Off?

Termite damage of homes runs into multiple billions of dollars worldwide. The Australian damage estimate is $1.5 billion in treatment and repair costs to control termites. Since termites do not live alone but in large colonies, spotting a termite typically means detecting a forager who has left the nest to find food. You can control potential termite issues by baiting their food source.

Termite Colonies Start with Just Two Termites

Young reproductive termites leave their nest about 4 to 5 years after that nest was started to begin their own colony. You may see a termite swarm in early summer when the warm, humid weather matches the nest temperature. These adventurous termites fly less than 200 metres from home and then descend to seek a mate. Only a small percentage gets this far and even fewer find the damp soil they need to nest before being eaten by a predator.

Less than five percent of the original swarm manages to mate and form a new colony. The reproductive pair becomes the royal queen and king, tending their eggs which grow into a range of castes to create a functioning termite colony. Workers, soldiers, and young nymphs have different jobs to support the nest. Termite treatment capitalizes on termite instincts and socialization to control the spread of termites in your home.

Who Can Treat Termites?

Pest control professionals once claimed termite treatment as their exclusive realm. Years ago, only industry professionals were able to buy and use termite control chemicals and bait. The good news for do-it-yourselfers is that household safe termite bait is now available for public purchase. Homeowners now have the option to call a professional or choose to control termites themselves.

DIY Termite Monitors and Bait are Straightforward and Safe

Do-It-Yourself termite trap and bait systems have three simple steps to control termites.

Step 1 – Place termite traps around your property.

Step 2 – Inspect the traps for termite activity evident in termite mud

Step 3 – Mix termite bait with water and add the bait to the top of the trap. Proper bait is not toxic to humans, pets or wildlife, but is fatal to humans.

Worker termites harvesting at the trap carry the bait back to the nest to feed the whole colony. As the termites die, gases from their decomposing bodies destroy the rest of the nest. Any unused jars of bait remain an effective termite control option for years in their powder form.