Consumer Guide to TERMITES in NSW
Subterranean termites aka "white-ants" are a highly destructive timber pest, causing major structural timber damage to buildings in NSW HOME INSURANCE does NOT cover the repair costs which can be severe for wall and roofing timbers.

     
             
     

A serious economic pest: CSIRO & NSW Industry surveys indicate about 1 in 3 dwellings in NSW have termites on the property. Most homes rare at high risk especially if large gum trees are within 100 metre radius of the building.
The problem is getting worse since the removal of the long lasting soil barrier chemicals; the more common use of softwood building and other landscaping timbers that termites find irresistible, such as, landscaping timber mulch and railway sleepers on ground.
Other important factors promoting termite colony development include automatic watering systems, landscaping and maintenance that encourage termite activity and inappropriate building design that allow hidden termite entry into a building.
DESTRUCTIVE TERMITE
RISK ASSESSMENT *
* Based upon CSIRO data
and APCA national survey
Termites live in the ground
and 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 NSW, with a high incidence of attack in virtually all urban areas.
Consumer Note: The standard Home and Building Insurance Policy will NOT cover the repair costs of termite infested structural and decorative timbers.

Fascinating biology: Australian subterranean termites evolved about 250 million year ago, long before flowering plants. Their survival success depends on living in a protective underground environment. In some species, their colony nest has a hardened shell, exposed above ground level. In most destructive species in NSW their nest is totally out of sight, below ground level.
The worker termites build mud-tubes over hard objects. The tubes or "galleries" are made up of partly digested timber and mud excrete, and is moist if currently in active use. The termites keep it's colony nest and galleries at 25 to 35oC with high humidity. If they are exposed to light or open air they will desiccate (dehydrate) and die. They live in constant darkness, excepting for the annual summer swarms of the winged reproductives.
A million termites in the nest: In some destructive species, a termite colony nest may contain more than a million termites, consisting of a queen, king, young immature nymphs, workers, soldiers and winged reproductives (called alates). They are delicate, soft bodied and small in stature, about half the size of match-head. But they are also highly efficient timber recyclers, and often described as Mother nature's best builders.
The worker termites are blind and forage in a largely random criss-cross fashion looking for new timber food sources. However, they may encounter and follow moisture zones and trail along solid objects, such as, the concrete slab edge of your home. The soldiers accompany the workers in their constant search for new timber food sources. If you find termites active in timber framing, it is the soldiers that rush out to defend the workers.
Experience counts: It takes many years of termite control field-work experience to get a proper understanding of the habits of the destructive termite species habits and their likely foraging areas in a variety of building types and environmental circumstances.

termites can build a sub-nest in a wall cavity of a home Termites - the silent destroyers of timber

Look who's coming to dinner ... and whose home is on the menu ?

Picture on top left shows FUMAPEST inspector examining a subsidiary termite nest inside a wall cavity of a home termites build such nests if they have a reliable moisture source eg caused by faulty plumbing leaking pipes shower recess guttering broken roof tiles and the like.
Look for tell-tale termite mud-tubes picture above on right shows a mud-shelter tube termites have built over a brick foundation wall to the flooring timbers in a sub-floor of a home.

Termites are highly secretive they may enter a building through areas inaccessible to inspection such as via on-ground patios cracks expansion joints around concrete slab flooring particularly if the slab edge is obscured by pathways or garden beds.


Tiny termite entry points around your home? Termites can pass through a 2 mm crack in concrete slab on-gound flooring and will readily eat through the rubber compound between the adjoining concrete slabs to gain access termites can then travel under parquetry and other floor tiles to get to the wall and roofing framing timbers.

The worker termites have a symbiotic digestive system
Workers feed the rest of the colony: Only the worker termite caste can digest timber by the use of symbiotic protozoa in their gut. The worker termites digest and then regurgitate the partly digested timber as a semi-liquid food for the other termite castes. Even the workers excrete is eaten by the other termites as it high in cellulose content. This feeding by mouth and anus is technically known as trophallaxis.
Modern termite control products take advantage of the mutual feeding and regular grooming habits of termites as a means to kill the entire colony.
Workers termites readily ingest the bait and transfer it back to the colony nest to feed other termites. If sufficient workers ingest the bait and the queen is killed, then the collapse and death of the colony is highly likely.

Cannibal like efficiency: Worker termites cannibalise other dead termites, which if they carry the bait in their system, will further hasten the demise of the colony.
Modern termite control products, preventive barriers, termite baiting and other recommendations are discussed in detail in the Termite Control section of this website.
The biology and behaviour of Subterranean Termites
Ants vs Termites ...all out War for 250 million years
Termites live in undergroud nests and travel in mud tubes to protect them from their arch enemy...the ants. Termites descended from the cockroach family, whereas ants descended from the wasp family.
Ants will not protect you from termites: The termite defense system is too strong. The soldier termites has a hard helmet-style head with large cutting pincers and a frontal pore to squirt sticky latex to ensnare the ants.

Social interdependence: Sir Winston Churchill once said "Communism is OK if you have the mentality of a termite". And so it is with termites - within the colony nest you'll find 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.



Picture of QUEEN and WORKER termites



WORKERS have thin delicate skin


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.
King termite stays by the side of the Queen all it's life locked away in the central nursery chamber tended to by worker termites, around the clock.

Worker termites are most numerous in the termite colony. They are usually about 3 to 4 mm long, soft bodied, creamy translucent colour, have no wings, are sterile and blind.
worker-termites Worker termites work 24 hours a day and carry out all work in the nest, including food gathering, building, repairing and maintaining the colony nest structure including the foreaging tunnel system.
Only the workers can digest timber which they regurgitate and feed in liquid form to the queen and other termites in the colony.

termites Soldier termites commonly have an orange coloured armoured head 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.
Soldier termites are often seen in large numbers when an active shelter tubes or damaged timber, is opened. Soldier termites will rush out to guard the opening whilst worker termites repair the breach.

Alates or winged reproductives are commonly seen when they swarm on a hot humid summer evening around dusk, often in their thousands from a large mature colony nest. Unlike the other caste, they have eyes but are , are poor fliers. The hover and are swept along by prevailing winds.
The swarmers when they land, they drop their wings, and use a pheromone chemical signal attract a mate to start up a new colony of termites.
Consumer note: If you find swarming termites, it is a sure DANGER sign that a large termite colony nest is close-by, and your home is at high risk of a severe termite infestation. Is so, you should contact us to immediately to assess the situation.
The life-cycle of Subterranean Termites

Termites constantly groom and feed each other. A valuable technique for the termite controller is to install 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 regular inspections indicate the amount of bait consumed and the condition of any termites observed. They may appear sick, exhibit a change of colour to a mottle look, indicating the effect of the termite bait over time.
Nemesis termite bait is formulated as an attractive food source to the termites. The bait has a delayed lethal effect. Time enough to be transferred to other termites in the colony nest. If the queen is killed, the nest goes into rapid decline leading to the elimination of the entire colony. This process is explained in detail in the Termite Control section of this website.
Main destructive species of Termites in NSW
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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 in a short amount of time - please see below a summary of the main destructive termites in NSW:

Coptotermes acinaciformis

Commonly found throughout NSW - 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 - 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; 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.
Destructive Nature - Heterotermes ferox prefer damp timber; are usually found in fences, poles other timber structures with wood decay from weathering or soil contact; and are often confused with the 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 and some wood decay.

Dampwood termites

  Dampwood termites form small independent nests; they feed on sick or dead trees, decaying decaying wood in the ground or in buildings and fences; they are seldom found in dry timbers in buildings; and are normally larger in size than other termite species.
Area of Distribution - Dampwood termites are found across highland and coastal Victoria, NSW, Queensland, NT and SA.

Drywood termites

  Drywood termites occur mostly in tropical areas, where the atmospheric humidity is constantly above 75 percent.
Cryptotermes brevis - the introduced and highly destructive West Indian drywood termite, is rarely located in Australia.
Specialist eradication procedures involve wrapping the entire building in plastic and using methyl bromide fumigation.
If You find termites do NOT disturb them
Termites have acute survival instincts. If shaken or disturbed, termites will abandon the associated area and move on to secretly cause damage in other areas in the building.
If you find termites in or around your property, it is essential that you do NOT disturb them and promptly arrange for a professional inspection and application of a termite bait to the live termites, if present in abundance.
FAQ - Is DIY termite baiting worth the risk ?
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