Since the withdrawal of soil barrier chemicals in 1995, termite damage have increased.
Studies undertaken by CSIRO, indicate that every 1 in 3 homes in high risk areas are suspectable to termite attack.
As seen by this termite risk assessment map devised by CSIRO, a large proportion of Australia is at high risk. It is costing an estimated $780 million damage to Australian houses annually. National Archicentre estimates that "650,000 homes around Australia have been damaged by termites costing $3.9 million in treatment and repair typically over a five year cycle."
Keeping these figures in mind, it is evident that Australian's need to become more aware of termites and learn how to protect their properties from termite destruction, especially since home owners can not insure their homes against termite damage.
Australia is inhabited by over 350 species of termites. Around 20 of these can damage timber in homes. Termites are commonly associated with ants, but this in incorrect. Termites are closely related to cockroaches and grasshoppers. Termites only resemble ants in that they are the same size and have similar habitats.
Termites love warm, moist, dark areas. They rarely come out into the open and therefore travel underground. Some termites build hgh mounds of up to 6 metres high and other temites lives in 18-20 feet below surface. A colony may exist up to 300 metres away from the point of termite food source. This makes it hard to track down the source of the colony. Termites digest wood, paper and any material containing cellulose.
Termites have the ability to change from one caste to another, depending on the need of the colony to re-establish.The termite lifecycle depicts the different castes.
Worker -Antennae are beadlike, no eyes, no constrictionbetween thorax andabdomen.Workers represent the majority of the colony. They do the work needed in the colony such as gathering food, cleaning the young, repairing damage, tending to and feeding the queen. The don't reproduce. Workers are mostly white and are often coloured via the food they have eaten. The life of a worker is short and the dead in the colony are eaten.
Soldier -Antennae are elbowed, eyes present, constrictionbetween thorax and abdomen. Soliders defend the colony against any invaders i.e. ants. They are darker in colour than workers and have larger darker heads.
Reproductives -Antennae are beadlike, wings, compound eyes, no constriction between thorax and abdomen.Winged termites are the reproducers of the colony. They develop in the colony until they are fully winged and are present within the colony in various stages of development depending on the time of year. Some have no wings, where others have rounded wings. If the queen dies or degenerates some of the reproductives are selected to carry on the colony.
The King -tends to the young and fertilizes the queen from time to time. The king is long lived.
The Queen -left the first colony as a fully formed alate (fully winged reproductive) and set up a new colony with a king. The queen is long lived and can live over 20 years in some species. Some queens become distended and enlarged with eggs and may produce 3,000 or more eggs a day.
Most common termite families within Australia
Kalotermitidae (Dry wood termite)
Gaint Termite. Occurs North of Capricorn. Most destructive termite in Australia, but because of its limited distribution to Northern Australia its reputation is virtually unkown. It attacks any wood in contact with the ground i.e. shrubs, trees. It also eats leather, certain clothing, paper and other articles.
Kalotermitidae (Dry wood termite)
Cryptotermes spp. (native)
Live in dry wood such as dead or decayed tress, stumps and logs. They never require contact with the ground and live where the atmoshperic conditions are humid and the wood is around 20% for most of the time.
Cryptotermes brevis (introduced)
Live in dry wood. Detected in Brisbane, Maryborough, Sydney and other areas. Has the ability to attack very small portions of wood. Is considered the world's most serious termite pest.
Ring-ant termite. Occurs over Eastern Australia from Victoria to Torres Strait Island. It is a tree and forest pest as it resides in the softer growth rings of living trees. Also found in trunks and tree stumps. Eucalyptus are their main host. They rarely attack timber in houses.
Dampwood termite. It is a pest of the forrest, forming pipes degrading the log for various timber uses. The pipes are filled with mud-like material. It will attack any wood in contact with the ground i.e. fences, poles, weatherboards. It doesn't usually attack buildings unless there is timber-soil contact.
Attacks posts, poles, paling fences, flooring and weatherboard flooring in particular is favoured by this termite. Found throughout Australia but only causes superficial damage.
Occurs all over Australia. This termite is the most destructive termite of wooden buildings structures in Australia. Mastotermes darwiniensis is more destructive than this termite but because it occurs over most of Australia it is the more destructive species. It nests in various locations such as any tree (living or dead), under filled-in patios and walls of houses.
Occurs from northern Queensland to South Australia. This termite is a forrest pest, nesting in trees. It attacks houses in Melbourne but with less destructive force as C.acinaciformis.
Occurs in Victoria, New South Wales, ACT and Southern Queensland. This termite builds large mounds and attacks any timber on the ground. Doesn't usually attack buildings.
Occurs in South-Western Australia, South Australia and the Murray River Valley Region in NSW. It builds low dome-shaped mounds and doesn't attack buildings.
Occurs in South-Western Australia. It is a pest species attacking buildings. It builds small mounds near trees or stumps.
Occurs over most of Australia. Is a subterranean termite nesting in trees, under patios, and in tree stumps. Often found in the ground immediately under fireplace foundations. It is the 2nd most destructive termite species in Australia (where it occurs).
Occurs North of Port Macquarie and through to coastal Queensland. It builds arboreal nests, nests on poles and posts, mounds on the ground and also underground.
Occurs in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, some parts of NSW. Has similar habits as M. turneri.
Occurs in most areas of Southern Australia and south of NSW-Queensland border. This termite builds mounds except in drier areas where it nests in tress stumps or below ground. It often builds its nest under houses although it is not regarded as a serious termite pest, it is capable of serious damage if the nest goes unnoticed.
Occurs in coastal South Australia to central Queensland. They are a subterrean species that attack decaying wood that is mostly in contact with the ground. It is considered a termite pest in regards to badly ventilated subfloor areas.
Occurs in coastal Eastern Australia from Sydney to Cairns. It builds arboreal nests mainly in stressed trees in the root crowns and in trees some years after bushfires. When colonies are well established and numbers are large it builds 'nigerhead' nests higher up on the trees. Attack of buildings is rare although damage may be done to fences, poles and wood in ground contact. They usually attack decaying wood and when the moisture is high.