Termites - White Ants - Victoria
The destructive nature of termites in Victoria

Subterranean termites are a highly destructive timber pest, causing major structural timber damage to domestic and commercial buildings in Victoria.
Recent industry surveys suggest that about one third of all unprotected properties are subject to attack by termites. Severe termite damage to Australian homes is on the increase due to recent changes in the type of chemicals allowed to be used, building construction materials and designs that encourage hidden termite entry and infestation.
* Based upon CSIRO data and APCA national survey
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.
Home insurance does NOT cover the repair costs of damage caused by termites to a home or commercial building.
Termites occur throughout Victoria, with a high incidence of attack in virtually all urban areas.
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 above ground nests, where moisture collects in the wall cavity, from leaking pipes, shower recess, guttering, etc.
termite activity Termites travel in mud shelter tubes...
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 mud shelter tubes as protection from predators, sun-burn and dehydration. Termites 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.

The symbiotic digestive system that can destroy your home

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 of Subterranean Termites

Subterranean termites or "white ants" as they are often called are not ants at all. They are in fact related to cockroaches with a similar two hundred million year history.
Within a termite nest there are members of different castes, each with a different role to perform. These include the queen, king, the winged reproductive (young kings and queens), soldiers and workers.

The King and Queen with worker termites

Close-up picture of worker termites

The queen following her hazardous flight and after mating becomes an egg laying machine; her body becomes hugely enlarged; she can live more than 25 years producing more that 2,000 eggs a day.
king termite
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
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 by the home owner when the termite workings (shelter tubes or damaged timber) are opened and the soldiers rush out to guard the opening whilst the workers repair the damage.

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 and thorough inspection of the property by a termite control expert is essential.

The Life Cycle of Subterranean Termites

Life Cycle - 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 Victoria

It is essential for your termite control professional to properly identify the species of termite found in your property. Some species of termites found in trees, for example, will not attack dry seasoned timbers in a building, whilst others can be are highly destructive to such buildings in a short amount of time.
Coptotermes acinaciformis

Commonly found throughout Victoria - 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 nest. This species often build 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 Victoria. A single colony may consist of more than one million termites. A most voracious timber pest ... one to be taken seriously.
Coptotermes frenchi

Commonly found throughout Victoria; the most prevalent destructive termite species in the Gippsland and other regions where eucalypt gum trees are present. They are highly active in Melbourne and other urban areas in Victoria, where buildings are constructed of softwood or oregon timber framing.

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 of Victoria.

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. Requires expert knowledge and a sensitive touch to gain effective control.
Nasutitermes exitiosus

Commonly found throughout Victoria - 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.
Coptotermes lacteus

Commonly found in eastern Victoria - particularly prevalent in Melbourne, Gippsland and Albury-Wodonga regions.

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.
Heterotermes ferox

Commonly found throughout Victoria - 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 be 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.

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.

Find Out How to Protect Your Property
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