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Termites - what you need to know

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Termites - what you need to know

by Megan Macpherson

Termites can do thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home, before you even know they are there. They do more damage to homes in Australia than extreme weather conditions such as floods. White ants, as they are sometimes called due to their appearance, like to live in the dark, and multiply faster than rabbits. Its important to know how to prevent termites from eating your home, and how to get rid of them if they have already set up camp.

Termites are found in most areas of Australia; however there are not many problems with destructive termites in Tasmania. They have a central nest, which can be home to over one million termites. It is populated by a Queen termite, and a king termite, as well as worker, solider and swarmers- the reproductive winged termites often known as alates. The queen can produce 2000 termites per day. This means a rapidly multiplying nest, and ultimately the creation of more nests in time.

A nest can be found in trees, wooden poles, stumps and posts. They can also be in a building if there is access, in sleeper retaining walls, and other timber landscaping. They can crawl into cracks and crevices, and make a nest in a dark damp place. They not only eat wood, but also any cellulose food available, for example electrical wire cables.

A termite inspection can let you know whether you have termites in your home and yard or not. If you suspect termites, or have seen their damage, then don’t disturb them, call in a professional to remove them. Preventative termite control is covered by Australian Standard AS 3660.1 (1995). Remedial termite control is covered by AS 3660.2 (2000).

Building and maintaining your home in a certain way will help prevent termites. Physical barriers such as stainless steel, granite stones and metal shielding prevent termites from gaining access to the building. Remove all moisture and dampness from wall cavities and under the floor. Dampness will encourage termites to build a nest. Remove any timber which has contact with the soil around your home.

Termites can be removed by chemical barriers and soil treatments. The termites will not be able to return to a nest through chemically treated soil, as they regularly try to do to look for moisture. Soil is usually treated around the base of the home, such as around the external concrete slab edge, and under patios, and near any common entry points. Using chemicals is only available to licensed pest controllers. A nest can be destroyed directly by using a short lived insecticide, or where the nest cant be found, arsenic trioxide can be placed in a working area, and carried by a worker termite back to the nest to be spread through the colony. A technique developed by the CSIRO is the bait box technique. This is used to amass termites at a point source. Then, large numbers of termites can be treated with a dust toxicant.

Composite termite management systems can be installed under the entire building, and are two layers of moisture proof membranes which sandwich highly repellent termiticides. Termite resistant timbers and other materials can also be used in the home, which will help reduce termite damage.

None of these remedial or preventative measures should be operated alone; they should be followed by regular termite inspections. This will help to identify any more treatments needed, or any additional termite activity present.

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