Termite.com.au | Destructive Termites | Australia
Expert Advice on Destructive Termites & Termite Control options
Subterranean termites or "white-ants" are a highly destructive timber pest, causing major structural timber damage to domestic / commercial buildings in Australia.
Recent industry surveys suggest that about one third of all unprotected properties are subject to attack by termites. Most homes are at risk ... especially if well established gum trees are nearby the building - within a 100 metre radius.
Severe termite damage to Australian homes is on the increase since the removal in 1995 of the long lasting soil barrier chemicals; the more common use of softwood building and other landscaping timbers that termites find irresistible. Other important factors include building designs, automatic watering systems, landscaping and maintenance that encourage termite activity and allow hidden termite entry and infestation into a building.
 
DESTRUCTIVE TERMITE RISK ASSESSMENT *
* Based upon CSIRO data and APCA national survey
Termites live in the Ground
& can eat Your house down

Termites are known to destroy the wall and roofing timbers of a home within 3 months of construction.
Termites cause more damage to homes in Australia than fire, floods, storms and tempest, combined.
Termites occur throughout New South Wales, with a high incidence of attack in virtually all urban areas.

PLEASE NOTE: Severe termite damage to a building is not uncommon. To compound the problem, your Home or Building Insurance Policy will NOT cover the repair costs of any timber damage caused by termites.
 
 
Termites are small in size (about half the size of match-head) and soft bodied insects. They build a central colony nest from which they construct underground tunnels that radiate in a 100 metre radius from a central colony nest in search of a timber (cellulose) food source.
termites can build a sub-nest in a wall cavity of a home
The picture on the left shows a termite inspector examining an above ground termite subsidiary nest built inside a wall cavity of a home.
Termites often build such nests if moisture is allowed to regularly collects inside the wall cavity, say from leaking pipes, shower recess, faulty plumbing, guttering, broken roof tiles, etc.
 
 
Termites travel in humidified mud-shelter tubes or galleries...
The picture on the left shows a mud shelter tube that termites have constructed over a solid object, in this case, a brick foundation wall in the sub-floor of a cottage.
Termites travel in these mud shelter tubes as protection from predators, sun-burn, dehydration and to maintain a high humidity environment which is essential for their survival.
Termites are highly secretive, preferring to enter a building through areas inaccessible to inspection, such as, through in-fill patios, fire heaths, expansion joints and cracks in concrete slab (on-ground) flooring.
Termites can pass through a 2 mm crack or an expansion joint (eating through the rubber compound) between adjoining concrete on ground flooring. They can also travel under parquetry and floor tiles to get to the wall framing timbers.
 
Termites have a symbiotic digestive system
  Only the worker termite caste can digest timber by the use of symbiotic protozoa in their gut. Worker termites feed their partly digested semi-liquid food, regurgitated from their mouth or passing from their anus, to the other termites, a process known as trophallaxis.
Termites have a well ordered social system with amazing engineering capabilities and an acute survival instinct; they obtain moisture from the soil and moist decaying timber, and communicate using pheromone signals.
The mutual feeding, constant grooming and close social habits of termites are used to advantage in modern termite control baiting systems.

Certain hi-tech termite baits recently introduced on the Australian market from the USA have a delayed lethal effect on termites which readily pass on the bait to other termites in the central colony nest during the mutual grooming and feeding.
Subterranean termites need to maintain a high level of humidity and temperature (25 to 35C) in their central colony nest.
Termites eat through the centre of susceptible timbers leaving nothing but a thin veneer of timber and/or paint. They will pack mud in cracks and joints in timber to prevent loss of humidity and resultant dehydration.
 
The biology and behaviour of subterranean termites
  Subterranean termites or "white ants" are not ants at all. Termites are in fact super specialised cockroaches with a similar 200 to 300 million year evolutionary history.
Within a termite nest there are members of different castes, each with a different role to perform and all interdependent upon each other for survival of the colony. These include the queen, king, the winged reproductive (young kings and queens), soldier and worker termites.


The king, queen and worker termites.

Worker termites - thin external skin.

The queen termite is an egg laying machine; her body is enormous compared to her off-spring; she can live more than 25 years and produce more that 2,000 eggs a day.

The king and queen live in a central chamber and are tended by the workers.

The workers are by far the largest cast in the termite colony and
worker-termites
the one that does the damage; they are a creamy translucent colour, soft bodied and carry out all work in the nest, including gathering food (timber and other cellulose); constructing tunnels; repairing and enlarging the colony nest; grooming each other and feeding the soldiers, the king, queen and also caring for the young nymphs until mature.

Worker termites are 3 mm to 4 mm long, have no wings, are sterile and blind; work 24 hours a day for several years life span in some species.

The soldiers commonly have an orange coloured armoured head
termites
with mandibulate pinchers which they use to crush an attacker, such as ants; some have hard pointed snout which eject a white sticky latex to ensnare their enemies.

The soldier termite is usually the first to be seen in large numbers when any active termite workings (shelter tubes or damaged timber) are opened. Soldier termites will rush out to guard the opening whilst worker termites repair the breach.

The swarmers (reproductives) are called "alates"
and are commonly seen when they swarm on a hot humid summer evening around dusk; they have eyes; are poor fliers but are swept along by the wind; they land, drop their wings, find a mate to become king and queen of a new termite colony.

The swarmers are emitted in their thousands when a mature termite nest is large and well established. They land, shed their wings and attract a mate by pheromone chemical signal. If you find swarming termites, it is a sure DANGER sign that a large termite colony nest is close by. Contact Us immediately to assess the situation.
 
The life-cycle of subterranean termites
 
As noted above, termites constantly groom and feed each other. A valuable technique for the termite controller is to instal and monitor a termite baiting system next to any live activity found in and around the premises where termite foraging is most likely to occur. Subsequent inspections (preferably monthly) may reveal dead or sick worker termites, they change colour to a mottle look, and spread of the termite bait to other termites leading to elimination of the colony.
The termite baits are designed to be non-repellant to the termites and has a unique delayed effect. Time enough to be passed onto the other termites in the colony including the queen, with a sufficient dosage leading to the elimination of the entire colony. This process is explained in detail in the Termite Control section of this website.
 
The Main Destructive Species of Termites in Australia
     
  Proper identification is essential - some species of termites in NSW will attack only living trees and will not attack dry seasoned timbers in a building - whilst others are highly destructive to such buildings in a short amount of time - please see below an outline of the main destructive termites in NSW:

  Coptotermes acinaciformis

Commonly found throughout Australia
- particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.
  Destructive Nature - Coptotermes acinaciformis are highly destructive to buildings and other timber structures - the most widely distributed and destructive timber pest in Australia - accounts for more than 70% of the serious damage to buildings in Australia. A single colony may consist of more than one million termites. A most voracious timber pest ... one to be taken seriously.
Nest Location - Coptotermes acinaciformis are very secretive termite species; they build their nest out of sight - often within the base of eucalyptus or other susceptible trees - or completely under ground - often within an enclosed patio or under concrete on ground flooring which is ideal for moisture retention, temperature and humidity control within the termite colony's central nest.

Sub-nest in your wall ? Coptotermes acinaciformis may construct a subsidiary nests away from the main colony nest - often in a wall cavity of a building where there is a reliable moisture source - say from a leaking shower recess or faulty guttering or rusted down pipes.

  Schedorhinotermes intermedius

Area of Distribution - Commonly found in eastern NSW and south eastern Queensland - particularly along the entire coast-line, the Great Dividing Range and adjoining slopes.
  Identification - this species tends to "gouge" the affected timber and has a fetish around nails used in construction. When you first find them, you will often see a major soldier (6mm in body length) and a minor soldier (4mm in body length).
Destructive Nature - Schedorhinotermes intermedius are highly destructive to buildings and other timber structures. If mostly major (larger) soldiers are sighted, then they will most likely be a large colony with the potential to cause severe and rapid damage to structural timbers of a building or other timber structures.

Nest Location - Schedorhinotermes intermedius commonly build their nest in tree stumps, in the root crown of the living, dead and debilitated trees, under houses or within enclosed patios or other areas where timber has been buried or stored in contact with the soil.

  Coptotermes frenchi

Area of Distribution - Commonly found throughout NSW, ACT, Victoria and south eastern South Australia; particularly in urban areas, where buildings are constructed of softwood or oregon timber framing. This species is responsible for most of the timber pest damage to buildings in the NSW region.
Destructive Nature - Coptotermes frenchi can cause severe damage to buildings and other wooden structures. It is common for this species to devour timber framing leaving only a thin veneer. This species is the most shy of the destructive species; they will retreat from a location immediately (for the time being) if disturbed.
Nest Location - Coptotermes frenchi most often build their nest in the root crown or lower trunk area of living trees, particularly eucalypts. They may also build their nest as a mound in the dryer areas.

  Nasutitermes exitiosus

  Area of Distribution - Commonly found throughout NSW, aCT, Victoria and southern areas of Queensland and Western Australia - particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.
Destructive Nature - Nasutitermes exitiosus are destructive to buildings and other timber structures. Sometimes severe damage may occur, but not so commonly as the other species listed above.
Nest Location - Nasutitermes exitiosus build a mound nest which protrudes 30cm to 75cm above the ground. Control can be as easy as knocking the top off the nest and a follow up insecticide treatment inside the nest.

  Coptotermes lacteus

  Area of Distribution - Commonly found in eastern NSW, ACT and south eastern areas of Queensland including Brisbane and coastal region to Rockhampton - particularly prevalent along the entire coast-line, along the Great Dividing Range and western slopes.
Destructive Nature - Coptotermes lacteus attacks stumps, dead trees, timber fences, poles and other timber structures that are in contact with the soil, being softened by weathering or decay. These termites are also known to attack such timber in damp sub-floor areas.
Nest Location - this termite species, most often builds it's nest as a mound up to 2m above ground level, with hard clay walls, so control is easily effected once located by knocking the top off and insecticide treatment of the nest.

  Nasutitermes walkeri

  Area of Distribution - Commonly found in eastern NSW and south eastern Queensland - particularly prevalent in the coastal and mountain regions along the entire eastern side of NSW.
Destructive Nature - Nasutitermes walkeri can be destructive to damp timbers often a serious problem where the sub-floor of a building is damp and ventilation is poor with resulting wood decay or fungal growth.
Nest Location - Nasutitermes walkeri build their nest in trees on the main trunk or in the fork of a large branch.

  Heterotermes ferox

  Area of Distribution - Commonly found throughout NSW, ACT and southern parts of South Australia and Western Australia - particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.
Destructive Nature - Heterotermes ferox prefer damp timbers - are usually found in fences - poles - other timber structures with wood decay from weathering or soil contact - often confused with the more destructive Coptotermes acinaciformis species. Correct identification is essential.
Nest Location - Heterotermes ferox often build their nest next to stumps, logs, or other timber with soil contact where some wood decay or rotting is prevalent.

  Dampwood termites

Dampwood termites form small independent nests which often attack sick or dead trees, decaying stumps or mould timber in the ground; they are seldom found in dry timbers in buildings.

  Drywood termites

Drywood termites occur mostly in tropical areas, where the atmospheric humidity is constantly above 75 percent. The introduced and highly destructive West Indian drywood termite, Cryptotermes brevis, is rarely located in NSW, once in Sydney in the early 1980's. Specialist eradication procedures involve wrapping the entire building in plastic and using methyl bromide fumigation.
 
     
If You find termites do NOT disturb them
  CONSUMER NOTE: certain termite species if left uncontrolled can cause a severe amount of damage to a building in a short amount of time. If you find termites in or around your property, it is essential that you do NOT disturb them and promptly contact your local termite specialist for and inspection of the property and advice on the protective measures available.

Subterranean Termites...
Mother Nature's most prolific builders

This picture shows a large above ground termite nest found in the Northern Territory of Australia. In cooler climates, most of the destructive termite species build their nest completely below ground level.

A large colony in an urban environment is most often unseen, being totally below ground level with a nest containing more than a million termites - secretly eating the inside of your timbers leaving you an empty shell.
 
Learn about other common household pests
 
Ants Borers Silverfish
Bed Bugs Cockroaches Spiders
Bees Fleas Termites
Rats & Mice Wasps
 
Find a Pest Control Professional in Your State
Termite Control - Domestic Pest Control - Commercial Pest Control - Consumer Advice