ABOUT TERMITES IN MELBOURNE AND VICTORIA
Though small, subterranean termites are a mighty pest in Melbourne and regional Victoria. Left untreated, they can cause serious and irreparable damage to wooden buildings and structures. Even worse, a standard home and building insurance policy will not cover the repair costs of a termite infestation.
Thanks to the destructiveness of these insects, it’s best to remain informed about their looks, habits and behaviour so you can recognise when your home or premises might be under threat. This will enable you to take timely action and contact an expert extermination service such as Fumapest to Remove termites before they can cause any serious destruction.
Termite Risk Factors for Melbourne and regional Victoria
There are a variety of factors that can render your building at risk of termite infestation. These include:
- The presence of well-established gum trees within 100 metres of your premises.
- Use of softwood and other landscaping timbers such as mulch and sleepers that are attractive to termites.
- Automatic watering systems, timber landscaping and particular building design can all allow hidden termite entry.
Though city living may seem to offer some measure of protection, built-up areas can also present risk, as termite infestation can spread from house to house.
Alarming Termite Facts
It’s hard to believe such a tiny creature can cause so much damage – but the following statistics are very sobering:
- Termites have been recorded as destroying the wall and roofing of a house within three months of building.
- Fire, flood and storms combined have caused less damage to Australian homes than termites.
- Termites are found throughout Victoria, and the incidence of termite invasion is high in most urban areas.
- A colony may contain over a million termites.
- The Queen termite can live for over 25 years, producing over 2000 eggs a day.
The banning of soil barrier chemicals containing organochlorines such as such as DDT has been necessary to protect the health of the environment and of human beings. However, one negative side effect of this has been an increase in termite infestation and damage. For the protection of your building, it’s important to contact a professional extermination service to Remove termites as soon as you suspect they could be a problem.
For more specific and detailed information about these timber-devouring pests, keep reading below.
A History of 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! They depend on an underground existence to survive, as exposure to light and open air dehydrates and Removes these termites. The most destructive species in Victoria have this quality honed to a fine point, with a nest that is 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
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 colour.
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 reproductives – 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.
It takes many years of termite control field-work experience to obtain a proper understanding of the habits of the destructive termite species. However, there exist termite specialists who can identify their likely foraging areas in a variety of building types and environmental circumstances. If you suspect you may have a problem with these insects, you should call in experts such as Fumapest to get an inspection and Remove termites as soon as possible.
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 Remove 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 Removed, 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.
These are common throughout Melbourne – particularly in urban areas – in areas dense with eucalypt gum trees. 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 Remove 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 drywood termite, Cryptotermes brevis, is rarely seen in Victoria – just as well, as methods used to Remove these termites are specialised and extreme, involving wrapping the entire building in plastic and using methyl bromide fumigation.
IF YOU FIND TERMITES, DON’T DISTURB THEM!
Though this might seem counter-intuitive, it’s best to let termites be if you find them on your property. If shaken up or disturbed, termites’ survival instincts will prompt them to abandon the area, which may initially seem like a good thing. However, instead of departing completely, they will simply move to other areas in the building, causing more damage.
If you find termites in or around your premises, it’s essential that you do NOT disturb them and promptly contact us to get professional assistance. Fumapest Termite & Pest Control has more than 35 years of practical experience protecting buildings in Melbourne and regional Victoria from termites. Phone 1800 113 112 to arrange for a termite inspection, or to obtain professional advice on how to best protect your home or business and eliminated termites.