Termite.com ... white-ants in Australia
A consumer guide to white-ants and pest control methods

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Subterranean termites are often called white ants in Australia. The white-ant is a highly destructive timber pest, causing major structural timber damage to domestic and commercial buildings throughout Australia, USA, Japan and South East Asia.

Recent industry surveys suggest that about one third of all unprotected properties in Australia are subject to attack by white-ants. Severe structural timber damage by whiteants to Australian homes is on the increase due to more homes being built of materials and designs that encourage hidden termite entry and infestation.

Risk assessment of local

white-ant infestations

* Based upon CSIRO data and APCA national survey
White-ants are highly destructive timber pests
White-ants in Australia are known to destroy most of the wall and roof frame structural timbers of a home within 3 months of construction.

White-ants are estimated cause more damage to homes in Australia than from fire, floods, storms and tempest, combined.

Home insurance does NOT cover the repair costs of damage caused by white-ant infestations in a home and commercial buildings in Australia.

White-ants occur throughout Australia, with a high incidence of attack in virtually all urban areas.

White-ants are small soft bodied insects - about half the size of a match-head.

White-ants build a central colony nest from which they construct underground tunnels that radiate in a 100 metre radius in serach of cellulose timber food sources.

white-ants can build a sub-nest in a wall cavity of a home Picture on left has a white-ant inspector examining an above ground white-ant subsidiary nest inside a wall cavity.
White-ants often build such above ground nests, where moisture collects in the wall cavity, such as, from leaking pipes, shower recess or faulty guttering, etc.

Picture shows a mud shelter tube that white-ants have constructed over a solid object, in this case, a brick foundation wall in sub-floor of a cottage.
White-ants 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.
White-ants 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.

The smallest of gaps white-ants can pass through a 2 mm crack or expansion joint eating through rubber compound between adjoining concrete (on ground)n flooring. White-ants often travel under parquetry and floor tiles to get to the wall framing timbers.

White-ants symbiotic digestive system to destroy your home

Worker white-ants digest timber by the use of symbiotic protozoa in their gut. Worker white-ants feed their partly digested semi-liquid food, regurgitated from their mouth or passing from their anus, to the other white-ants, a process known as trophallaxis.
White-ants have a well ordered social system with amazing engineering capabilities and acute survival instincts. White-ants get moiisture from soil and decaying timber and communicate using pheromone signals.
The mutual feeding, constant grooming and close social habits of white-ants are used to advantage in modern white-ant control baiting systems and strategies.

Hi-tech baits for white-ants were recently introduced into the Australian market from the USA which have a delayed lethal effect on white-ants. The bait is readily passed to other white-ants in the central colony nest during their mutual grooming and feeding.
White-ants need to maintain a high level of humidity and temperature (25 to 35c) in their central colony nest.
White-ants eat through the centre of susceptible timbers leaving nothing but a thin veneer of timber and paint.
White-ants will pack mud in cracks and joints in timber to prevent loss of humidity and resultant dehydration.

The biology of white-Ants in Australia

White-ants are not "ants" at all - white-ants are ground dwelling timber eating insects originating from prehistoric cockroaches. The oldest termite ever found was in Arizona preserved in amber fluid and dated at 220 million years old (been dead along time!).
Interdependent caste system within a white-ant nest there are members of different castes, each with a different role but interdependent role to perform including the queen, king, the winged swarmer or reproductive (young king and queen), soldiers and workers.

The King and Queen with worker white-ants

Close-up picture of worker white-ants

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.

The king and queen live in a central chamber and are tended by the workers.

Worker white-ants are by far the largest cast in the White-ants 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 White-ants colony nest; grooming each other and feeding the soldiers, the king, queen and also caring for the young nymphs until mature.
Worker white-ants 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.

Soldier white-ants 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 White-ants are 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 worker White-ants repair the damage.

Swarmers white-ants also called alates are
commonly seen when they swarm on a hot humid summer evening around dusk - they have eyes and 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 white-ant colony.
The swarmers are emitted in their thousands when a mature white-ant nest is large and well established - they land, shed their wings and attract a mate by pheromone chemical signal.
PLEASE NOTE if you find swarming white-ants, it is a sure DANGER sign that a large white-ant nest is close by and a thorough inspection and report to Australian Standard 3660 by a termite control expert is essential .... more details.

The life cycle and habits of white-ants in Australia

Life Cycle - Subterranean white-ants

White-ants constantly groom and feed each other. A valuable technique for the white-ant pest controller is to instal and monitor a white-ant baiting system next to any live activity found in and around the premises where white-ants are foraging. Subsequent inspections (preferably monthly) may reveal dead or sick worker white-ants, they change colour to a mottle look as they spread the white-ant bait to other white-ants leading to the eventual elimination of the entire wqhite-ant colony ... more details.

White-ant baits are designed to be non-repellant to the white-ants and has a unique delayed effect. Time enough for the poison to be passed onto other white-ants in the colony including the queen. With a sufficient dosage taken back to the nest can lead to the elimination of the entire white-ant colony ... more details.

The main destructive species of white-ants in Australia

It is essential for the white ant inspector to properly identify the species of white ant found in a building or surrounds. Some white ant species will not attack dry seasoned timbers, whilst others are highly destructive to building timbers in a short amount of time.
Coptotermes acinaciformis

Commonly found throughout Australia
- particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.

Destructive Nature - Coptotermes acinaciformis white-ants are highly destructive to buildings and other timber structures - most widely distributed and destructive timber pest in Australia - estimated to cause more than 70% of the serious damage to buildings in Australia - a single colony may consist of more than one million white ants - a most voracious white-ant.

White-ant nest Location - Coptotermes acinaciformis white-ants are a very secretive timber pest - 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 white ant colony's central nest.

Coptotermes acinaciformis white-ants may construct subsidiary white-ant colony nests away from the main colony nest. A subsidiary white-ant nest are often found 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.

Mastotermes darwiniensis

Area of Distribution - Commonly found in tropical Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia - generally north of the tropic of Capricorn.

Destructive nature - Mastotermes darwiniensis white-ants are a highly most destructive white-ant species - causes severe damage to houses, buildings, bridges, posts, poles - responsible for ringbarking and killing living trees, shrubs, fruit, vegetable crops, sugarcane and rubber trees - will to attack rubber tyres on tractors and cause damage to leather, hide, plastic or lead-sheathed cables, bitumen, bagged salt, flour, even glass.

Mastotermes darwiniensis is the most ancient of white-ants in the world and occur only in Australia.

White-ant nest location
- Mastotermes darwiniensis white-ants build their nest (secretively) totally below the soil surface; or in the trunks and root crowns of trees and stumps. Once a nest is mature (over 100,000 or much higher) they can 'split off' to form other nests over a wide ranging area. These sub nests are formed constantly and can sustain life for along period of time without contact to the original nest.

Schedorhinotermes intermedius

Area of Distribution - Commonly found in eastern NSW and south eastern Queensland - 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 white-ants are highly destructive to buildings and timber structures. If mostly major (larger) soldiers are sighted it is a large colony with the potential to cause severe and rapid damage to structural timbers of a building or other timber structures.

White-ant nest location - Schedorhinotermes intermedius white-ants often build their nest in tree stumps, in root crown of living, dead and debilitated trees, under houses or enclosed patios or areas where timber has been buried or stored in contact with the soil.
Coptotermes frenchi

Area of Distribution - Commonly found throughout NSW, ACT, Victoria and south eastern South Australia; 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 ACT region.

Destructive Nature - Coptotermes frenchi white-ants 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 white-ants 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, ACT, Victoria and the southern areas of Queensland and Western Australia - particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.

Destructive Nature - Nasutitermes exitiosus white-ants are destructive to buildings and other timber structures. Sometimes severe damage may occur, but not so commonly as the other species listed above.

White-ant nest location - Nasutitermes exitiosus white-ants 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, the ACT, and the south eastern areas of Queensland including Brisbane and coastal region to Rockhampton - particularly prevalent along the entire coast-line, along the Great Dividing Range and western slopes.

Destructive Nature - Coptotermes lacteus white-ants attack stumps, dead trees, timber fences, poles and other timber structures that are in contact with the soil, being softened by weathering or decay. These white ants are also known to attack such timber in damp sub-floor areas.

White-ant nest location - this white ant 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 and south eastern Queensland - particularly prevalent in the coastal and mountain regions along the entire eastern side of NSW.

Destructive Nature - Nasutitermes walkeri white-ants 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.

White-ant nest location - Nasutitermes walkeri white-ants build their nest in trees on main trunk or fork of a large branch.
Heterotermes ferox

Area of Distribution - Commonly found throughout NSW, the ACT, Victoria, and southern parts of South Australia and Western Australia - particularly in urban areas or where eucalypt gum trees are highly prevalent.

Destructive Nature - Heterotermes ferox white-ants 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.

White-ant nest locationn - Heterotermes ferox white-ants may build their nest in stumps, logs, or other timber in direct contact with soil if some wood decay or rotting is prevalent.
Dampwood white ants 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 white ants occur mostly in tropical areas, where the atmospheric humidity is constantly above 75 percent. The introduced and highly destructive West Indian drywood white ant, Cryptotermes brevis, is rarely located in NSW, once in Sydney in the early 1980's. Specialist eradication procedures involve wrapping the entire building in plastic and using methyl bromide fumigation.

If you find white-ants do NOT disturb them

White-ants have acute survival instincts - if severely shaken up or disturbed the white-ants will abandon that particular area and move on to other unknown areas of the building where you cannot see them.
If you find white-ants in or around your property, it is essential that you do NOT disturb them and promptly arrange for a professional inspection to AS 3660.
Find a Pest Control expert CLICK HERE NSW Sydney Campbelltown Gosford Katoomba Kiama Maitland Muswellbrook Newcastle Nowra Penrith Scone Singleton Mittagong Southern Highlands Windsor Wollongong Wyong VIC ACT QLD SA WA NT

White-ants a prolific builders

Picture shows a large above ground white-ant nest found in the Northern Territory of Australia.

In cooler climates most of the destructive white-ant species build their nest completely below ground level.
A large white-ant nest in an urban environment is often hidden totally below ground level and contains more than a million worker white-ants ... secretly eating the inside of your timbers leaving you an empty shell.

Find a Pest Control Expert in Australia  CLICK HERE

NSW Sydney Campbelltown Gosford Katoomba Kiama Maitland Muswellbrook Newcastle Nowra Penrith Scone Singleton Mittagong Southern Highlands Windsor Wollongong Wyong VIC ACT QLD SA WA NT

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