What are Termite ?
|Color||most termites are typically whitish, often almost clear–you can usually see the food in their gut, but the winged ones are usually much darker (as above)||many possible colours, usually black or dark red or brown|
|Shape||six-legged grub, fairly short legs||six-legged grub with narrow waist, legs longer.|
|Wings||if present, 4, twice as long as body, all roughly the same size and shape, deciduous. If winged, the body is darker||if present, 4, about the same length as body, rear wings obviously smaller, wings retained. Winged ants are typically about the same colour.|
|Head||no eyes unless winged form||usually obvious eyes|
|Antennae||like a string of pearls||definitely elbowed, with longer segments|
Termites belong to the Order Isoptera
Why termite mounds?
Not all types of ground-nesting termites build mounds.
Some termites, particularly some that only eat grass, always seem to build big obvious mounds. Many subterranean termites only build mounds when their original nest tree/stump/log is lost or outgrown. Mounds may persist for decades. Some mounds in African savannas have been dated (from accumulated salts in their air-conditioning ducts) as being over 4,000 years. More than that, they are said to have been continuously occupied for that time. In an architectural sense, that’s quite an achievement.
As well as the temperature, they constantly manage gas exchange and moisture content. All of this in castles made of clay and their own faeces.
And the safest, moist and tasty bits are usually underground or right in the middle of big pieces of timber. If your home/building/structure has big bits of wood that are dark or damp or close to the soil . . . .
Subterranean & Dampwood Termites
|All types of termites need moisture. Keep your structure dry and well ventilated.|
|Ventilate all possible subfloor areas and ensure the vents are kept free and clear. Make sure you wet areas inside (kitchen/bathroom/dungeon) are well vented. Wood can get wet, but must not stay wet.|
|Fix all plumbing leaks. Particularly showers and baths. These often have leaks supplying constant moisture that makes the wood just right to be eaten.|
|Check all gutters and down spouts, make sure that the water ends up well away from the house. Ideally down spouts should connect to stormwater drains. If you don’t have these, at least redirect the water well away from the house. Down spouts which regularly splash near the structure may be supplying an irresistible source of moisture.|
|Avoid having gardens directly against walls–if you must do this, provide space for air movement between the vegetation and the wall and an inspection zone of at least 100 mm. Never have sprinklers wetting the soil near a building or deck. Termites have even been known to enter a building through branches touching walls.|
|Make sure that any paving is angled to drain surface water away from the structure. You’d be amazed how often this is done wrong. Some people even build outdoor paving higher than the interior floor level . . like in this photo of the paving around house.|
Be careful with timber in ground contact:
|Remove any timber or cellulose material stored on the ground beneath a suspended floor. That includes cardboard boxes and old newspapers, even cotton materials. Clean up any off cuts left during construction. The aim is to maximize the distance between termites and their potential meal.|
|Don’t store any firewood in ground contact. This attracts termites. It also prevents the wood drying properly and hence reduces the heat yield on burning (it takes energy to boil water). Set your firewood at least 100 mm above ground (a shelf or trench-mesh sitting on cinder blocks is a cheap solution).|
|Structural wood in ground contact should be either termite resistant or treated with a preservative. Better yet, cut it off and mount it on a metal stirrup set in concrete. High and dry is always best.|
|Keeping timber very dry will make it impossible for termites to live, but this is impractical in many tropical and coastal areas where the natural humidity is sufficient to keep the wood moist enough for drywood termites. Do what you can to keep timber as dry as possible.|
|If they don’t know it is wood, they may not find it. Keep all exterior wood well coated with paint or varnish, especially the larger bits and at the joins and ends. Drywood termites begin their attack with just two termites. First the female selects a likely place to live and then pairs up with a male before they start tunnelling. So if you can make the wood unattractive, the termites won’t even try. A bit of preservative can go a long way. If it doesn’t taste good, the termites won’t hang around.|
|If they can’t get to the wood they can’t eat it. Seal up any cracks or fissures (these make it easy for them to get in). Cover vents with fine mesh screening (about 0.8 to 1.0 mm openings–but remember, you may need to increase the vent size to make up for this restriction of air flow). Pay particular attention to the roof and wall frames.|
Reduce your Termite Hazard
So, how are termites in houses detected?
Your New Home
Basic termite info – subterraneans