Termites - White Ants - NSW
The destructive nature of termites in NSW and ACT

Subterranean termites or "white-ants" are a highly destructive timber pest, causing major structural timber damage to domestic and commercial buildings in NSW and ACT.
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 increasing due to more common use of softwood building and landscaping timbers that termites find irresistible; the increased use of automatic watering systems and building designs that encourage termite activity or allow hidden termite entry and infestations within a building.
Destructive termites in Australia
* Based upon CSIRO data and APCA national survey
Termites in Your Home?
Subterranean termites are known to destroy the wall and roofing timbers of a home within 3 months of construction.
Subterranean termites cause more damage to homes in Australia than fire, floods, storms and tempest, combined.
Subterranean termites occur throughout NSW and ACT with a high incidence of attack in virtually all urban areas. Termites are occasionally even found in snow prone areas, such as Thredbo and Perisher Valley.

CONSUMER NOTE: Severe termite damage to a building is not uncommon in NSW and ACT. To compound the problem, your Home or Building Insurance Policy will NOT cover the repair costs of 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
Termites - the silent destroyers of timber
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 there is a regular moisture source inside the wall cavity, say from leaking pipes, shower recess, faulty plumbing, broken roof tiles, etc.
Termites travel in humidified mud-shelter tubes or galleries... as shown in the picture on the left, termites have constructed a mud-shelter tube 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.

Biology & Behaviour of Subterranean Termites


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.
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 soldiers 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.
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 hot humid spring and summer evenings 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, attract a mate by pheromone chemical signal and find a suitable nesting site - usually near decaying timber in the ground. 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 termite infestation.

The workers are by far the largest cast in the termite colony and
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 during their 1 to 2 year life span.

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.
The mutual feeding, constant grooming and close social habits of termites are used to advantage in modern termite control baiting systems.

CONSUMER NOTE: Exterra and Sentricon termite baits, recently introduced into Australia from the USA have a delayed lethal effect on termites. The worker termites consume the bait and feed it to other termites in the central colony nest during the mutual grooming and feeding. This process is explained in detail in the Termite Control section of this website.
termites 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.

Destructive Termite Species in NSW & ACT

CONSUMER NOTE: It is essential to identify the species of termite found in or around a building. Some termite species will only attack living trees or damp decaying timber. Whilst other termites are highly destructive to timbers found in most buildings. In NSW and ACT there are 6 destructive species of termites that may attack buildings. These destructive species are named and discussed below.

termites Coptotermes acinaciformis

Distribution: Commonly found throughout NSW and ACT particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.
Nest Location - Coptotermes acinaciformis are a very secretive termite species; they build their nest out of sight, often within the base of eucalyptus or other susceptible trees, or completely under the 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. Coptotermes acinaciformis can also construct subsidiary nests away from the main colony nest. A subsidiary nest can be contained in a wall cavity of a building where there is a reliable moisture source, for example, from a leaking shower recess or faulty guttering or rusted down pipes.
Destructive Nature - Coptotermes acinaciformis are highly destructive to buildings and other timber structures. They are the most widely distributed and destructive timber pest in Australia, accounting for more than 70% of the serious damage to buildings in New South Wales. A single colony may consist of more than one million termites. A most voracious timber pest ... one to be taken seriously.

termites Schedorhinotermes intermedius

Distribution: Commonly found in eastern NSW particularly along the entire coast-line, the Great Dividing Range and western slopes.
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.
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.

termites Coptotermes frenchi

Distribution: see map - high incidence in most urban areas, particularly as most homes are constructed of highly susceptible softwood and oregon timber framing. This species is responsible the majority of timber pest damage to buildings in the ACT and Gippsland region.
Destructive Nature - Coptotermes frenchi is a highly destructive termite species. They cause severe damage to buildings, bridges and other timber. CONSUMER NOTE: Special care NOT to disturb areas of "active" Coptotermes frenchi termites found in a building, as they are extremely timid and will leave that area and relocate elsewhere, hidden within the building. The professional termite controller can introduce a hi-tech bait to any live termites found. Termite baiting is analysed in the Termite Control section of this website.

Identification: the Coptotermes frenchi soldier is approx. 5mm in length and usually smaller than Coptotermes acinaciformis. However, the size of soldiers of both species may vary, so professional inspection and specialist identification is required. In any case, both species can be highly destructive, so that protective measures are essential if evident in or around a building.

Nest Location - Coptotermes frenchi most often build their nest in the root crown or lower trunk area of living trees, particularly eucalypt's. They may also build their nest as a mound in the dryer areas of western New South Wales.

termites Nasutitermes exitiosus

Distribution: Commonly found throughout NSW and ACT particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.
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.
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.

termites Coptotermes lactues

Distribution: Commonly found in eastern NSW and ACT particularly prevalent along the entire coast-line, along the Great Dividing Range and western slopes.
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.
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.

termites Nasutitermes walkeri

Distribution: Commonly found in eastern NSW particularly prevalent in the coastal and mountain regions along the entire eastern side of NSW.
Nest Location - Nasutitermes walkeri build their nest in trees on the main trunk or in the fork of a large branch.
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.

termites Heterotermes ferox

Distribution: Commonly found throughout NSW and ACT particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.
Nest Location - Heterotermes ferox often build their colony nest next to stumps, logs, or other timber in direct contact with the soil where some wood decay or rotting is prevalent.
Destructive Nature - Heterotermes ferox are destructive to damp timbers and are usually found attacking fences, poles and other timber structures subject to wood decay from weathering or from being in contact with the soil. This species is often confused with the more aggressive and destructive Coptotermes acinaciformis species. Correct identification is essential.
Dampwood termites form small independent nests which often attack sick or dead trees, decaying stumps or mouldy timber in the ground; they are seldom found in dry timbers in buildings.
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. Specialist eradication procedures involve wrapping the entire building in plastic and using methyl bromide fumigation.

termites REMEMBER: If You find termites...do NOT disturb them

CONSUMER NOTE: Termites have acute survival instincts. If they are shaken up or excessively disturbed, they will abandon the immediate area and may relocate to a hidden area within the building.
If you find termites in or around a building, it is essential that you do NOT disturb them and promptly arrange for a professional inspection and advice as to the most appropriate protective measures in the particular circumstances.
You'll find a detailed analysis of the various termite control technologies, Exterra and Sentricon termite baits, Termidor and Premise termiticide soil treatment and what you can do to make your home less susceptible to termite infestation, in the Termite Control section of this website.

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

This picture shows a termite nest found in the Northern Territory of Australia. In cooler climates, most destructive termite species are subterranean termites.
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 an empty shell or veneer.

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