Australian Subterranean Termites
Australian subterranean termites evolved more than 250 million years ago, which means they inhabited the continent long before flowering plants – and certainly before people!. There are over 300 species of termites in Australia, but only those which damage sound wood are concern to technicians and home owners. They depend on an underground existence to survive, as exposure to light and open air dehydrates and kills these termites .Most termite, nest are completely beneath the earth and invisible to humans. The only time these creatures venture from the darkness is in the active part of their reproductive cycle, when winged termites take to the air to find partners and establish new nests.
Termite Social Structure and Castes
Termites are insect belonging to Order Isoptera. They were often called ‘white ants; however apart from their social habit of living in colonies as seraval forms or castes, IN appearances they do not remble true ants.
Termites are mostly pale brown to WHITE, have no constrction between thorax and abdomen, AND have beaded antennae. Reproductive forms have two pairs of equal wings and one pair of compound eyes. Workers and soldiers are blind, sexless and wingless and have thin cuticles that are susceptible to desiccation in dry or exposed environments.
Every termite has its role in the colony, from the king and queen through to soldiers and workers. There is a strong interdependence between these roles to help the colony survive. Worker termites are the engine room of the colony, and are the only ones that can digest timber. They feed the other termites by regurgitating the wood in liquid form. They tend to be about 3 to 4mm long, wingless, and soft and creamy in color.
Soldiers are a fair bit larger, with pinchers for attacking and orange heads. These are the ones that rush out when the nest has been breached, guarding the nest while workers take care of the repairs.
Winged termites are the reproductive’s – meaning they are possible future kings and queens, looking to set up a new colony. They tend to swarm on humid summer evenings, and their proliferation is a sure indicator that there’s a large colony nest nearby. This represents a high degree of danger for your home – if you’re seeing a swarm of flying termites, you should contact us to immediately to assess the situation.
Worker termites are foragers, always on the look-out for new sources of timber. They are blind but will follow moisture and the lines of solid objects, such as the concrete slab edge of your home.
However, it’s often unlikely that you’ll actually observe termites gaining entry to your home, as they tend to get in by more secretive paths, such as areas inaccessible to inspection like on-ground patios, cracks or expansion joints or around concrete slab flooring – particularly if the slab edge is obscured by pathways or garden beds. Termites can pass through a crack as small as 2 mm and eat through rubber compound between adjoining concrete slabs. They also often travel under parquetry and other floor tiles to get to the wall and roofing framing timbers.
Modern termite control products, such as baits, take advantage of the mutual feeding and regular grooming habits of termites, using this as a means to kill the entire termite colony. Termite bait is formulated as an attractive food source to the insects, and has a delayed lethal effect. Worker termites transfer the bait back to the colony nest to feed other termites. Also, workers cannibalise other dead termites, so if some of these dead insects are infected with the bait, it will further hasten the spread of the poison. If enough workers regurgitate the poison and the queen is killed, the nest goes into rapid decline, leading to the elimination of the entire colony.
Correct identification of your marauders is essential, as some species of subterranean termites prefer to feast on living trees and won’t harm buildings made of seasoned timbers, whilst others can be highly destructive to such buildings, fast. Listed below are some of the most destructive species to keep an eye out for.
Coptotermes acinaciformis is the most widely distributed and destructive timber pest in Australia, accounting for more than 70% of the serious damage to timber buildings. A most voracious timber pest – and one to be taken seriously.
It’s hard to see Coptotermes acinaciformis without the eyes of a professional; they build their nests within the base of an eucalyptus or other susceptible tree, or completely underground, often within an enclosed patio or under concrete on-ground flooring. This is ideal for moisture retention, temperature and humidity control within the colony’s central nest. They can also construct subsidiary nests away from the main colony. A subsidiary white-ant nest can be found in places such as the wall cavity of a building with a reliable moisture source, like a leaking shower recess, faulty guttering or rusted down pipes.
These termites are common in eastern Victoria, and ‘gouge’ the affected timber, especially around nails. Your first indication of their presence may be a sighting of a major soldier (6mm in body length) and a minor soldier (4mm).
If mostly major (larger) soldiers are sighted, this is likely a sign of a large colony with the potential to cause severe and rapid damage to structural timbers of a building or other structure. Nests are commonly found in tree stumps, in the root crown of living, dead and debilitated trees, under houses or within enclosed patios, or in other areas where timber has been stored in contact with the soil.
This species of termite is common throughout the state of Victoria – particularly in urban areas, where buildings are constructed of softwood or Oregon timber framing. This species commonly devours timber framing, leaving behind only a thin veneer. This is the shyest of the termite species; they will immediately retreat from a location if disturbed. However, this exodus is usually only temporary, so don’t be fooled – you will still need to take action to kill these termites.
The nests of this species are most often found in the root crown or lower trunk area of living trees, particularly eucalypts. They may also build a ‘mound’ nest in dryer areas.
This species of termite is common throughout Victoria, particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are dense. They can cause severe damage to timber buildings and structures, but not so commonly as the other species listed above.
The nest of this species is a mound which protrudes 30cm to 75cm above the ground. Control can be as easy as knocking the top off the nest and placing a follow-up insecticide treatment inside.
This termite species is common in eastern Victoria, particularly along the eastern coastline. They prefer stumps, dead trees, timber fences, poles and other timber structures that are in contact with the soil, causing the wood to become softened by weathering or decay. This species is also attracted to timber in damp, sub-floor areas.
Coptotermes lacteus tend to have a mound nest, with hard clay walls extending up to 2m above ground. Once the nest is located, control is easy to effect by knocking the top off and applying insecticide treatment to the inside.
This species is common in eastern Victoria, particularly within coastal and mountain regions. They prefer to feed on damp timbers, causing a serious problem where the sub-floor of a building is damp and ventilation is poor, resulting in wood that’s affected by decay or fungal growth.
These termites build their nest in trees on the main trunk or in the fork of a large branch.
Hetertermes ferox are common throughout Victoria, particularly in urban areas or places with a high number of eucalypt gum trees. These termites prefer damp timbers, fences and poles with wood decay. Due to a resemblance to the more destructive Coptotermes acinaciformis species, they are often confused, but correct identification is essential, as the treatment approach and danger level is quite different.
These termites often build their colony nests next to stumps, logs, or other timber which has direct contact with the soil, causing wood decay or rotting.
These termites form small, independent nests which tend to attack sick or dead trees, decaying stumps or mould timber in the ground. They are seldom found in dry timbers in buildings, and are of less concern than drywood species.
These termites are found mostly in tropical areas with an atmospheric humidity constantly above 75 percent. This preference means that the introduced and highly destructive West Indian dry wood termite, Cryptotermes brevis, is rarely seen in Victoria – just as well, as methods used to kill these termites are specialized and extreme, involving wrapping the entire building in plastic and using methyl bromide fumigation.
Alates are reproductives which are released from the colony during periods of warm temperatures and high humidity. Durning this release (commonly known as a conlonising flight), up to a couple of thousand of these alates will be released from the nest. They are very poor fliers and rely heavily on wind to spread further from the colony. Once they land they will drop their wings (or De-alate ), pair up start a new colony as new kings and queens.
The main fuction of the Queen is to reproduction.
Some Queens become enlarged and distented with eggs. This condition is know as physogasty.
Remove stored timber, debris and cellulose materials from under, in and around the property and under the house – Storing timber against or under your house or property on a soil sub-floor will provide an attractive food source and nesting site for subterranean termites. It can also hide evidence of termites invading your home. Remove any timber and/or debris (dead leaves) away from the house.
Repair leaking taps and pipes– these include leaking taps and pipes and hot water overflow pipes under or around taps, pipes around your home. Repairing theses will reduce moisture levels, which attract subterranean termites close to or under your property.
Ensure that your subfloor is never blocked and is well ventilated. Substandard ventilation in the sub-floor areas of your property will result in high humidity, and high moisture levels. Good ventilation and extraction fans where necessary are essential to reduce the risk from subterranean termites.
Divert all hot water services & air conditioning and overflow away from side of the house. Ensure stormwater runoff is properly connected.
Use only termite treated timber in garden beds, retaining walls or fence posts – Do not use untreated timbers to form garden beds or retaining walls, as these will attract termites around your property.
Timber fences and support post with a 50mm clearance between the timbers and the soil- Make shore none of these timbers around your house are in touch with the ground. As this can attract termites and this allows termites to gain access without detection.
Don’t allow climbing plants or bushy gardens to grow against the structure – Climbing plants growing against the.
Ensure all construction timbers and forms worked are removed.
Where a house is a concrete slab on ground construction, Australian Standards state that you should leave a minimum of 75mm of slab edge exposed – Weep holes in between brickwork, found immediately above the slab, should also be left exposed. If you construct gardens, allow soil to be deposited above the edge of the slab, or above pavers over the slab face, otherwise termites can gain entry undetected into your property and breach the previously applied termite barriers.
Or ways have termite inspection every 12 months. We all ways seemed to find termites after they have done thousands of dollars damage to your home. 1 in 3 homes in Australia will be prone to attack from termites.
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