Termites are not really white and are more closely related to cockroaches than ants. Termites are considered a destructive timber pest, however they are part of our natural environment and play an important role in nature. They reduce fallen trees and branches to organic matter, they aerate soil and their nests provide breeding hollows and a food source for a variety of native fauna.
There are three types of termites in a colony, each type is known as a caste. They include a worker caste (responsible for the damage caused to timber as they search for food); soldier caste (repel invaders); and the reproductive caste (winged and once a year usually in early summer they swarm from the nest and then shed their wings in preparation for mating). Most reproductive caste fall prey to predators such as birds, ants, spiders and lizards.
Termites will eat any material containing cellulose. This includes: paper, wood, grass, bark, cardboard and much more. They will forage for up to 80 metres from the nest.
Residents building new houses or adding an extension can use different types of barriers as preventative methods against termites. These include chemical barriers, which are applied beneath and around a building, and physical barriers, such as concrete slabs, termite shielding, stainless steel mesh and graded stone. Termite resistant materials can also be used in construction, but will not deter the entry of termites.
When dealing with termites, prevention is the key.
- A licensed pest controller can carry out routine inspections, to find termite damage in the early stages.
- When installing new fences, termite resistant and preservative treated timber should be used.
- To minimise cracks in concrete slabs, consolidate soil before laying the slab.
- Leaking pipes and inadequate ventilation in sub-floor areas could cause ideal conditions for termites.
- Always inspect second hand timber and furniture before bringing it into your house.
- Avoid placing gardens up against walls.
- Avoid stacking firewood up against your house or garage.
If you do discover termites, prevent further disturbance and contact a timber pest technician.