Termite Treatment: How to Keep Termites at Bay

Termite Treatment: How to Keep Termites at Bay

An introduction to termites

Termites are ‘eusocial’ insects which, similar to ants and bees, live in “colonies”. Typical termite habitats are subtropical and tropical regions – but in Australia, some of the highest termite activity zones also exist in cooler areas (like much of Melbourne).

Their diet includes dead plant material, predominantly cellulose; generally they prefer to get this in the form of wood, leaf litter and soil. Termites are important to the natural ecosystem, due to their ability to decompose waste. However, when it comes to your house termites are certainly foe, rather than friend, as they are notorious for their ability to destroy anything made out of wood. In Australia, up to 1 in 3 houses is suffering from a termite infestation and while infestations are more common in Queensland and other warmer subtropical and tropical areas, termites are found in all States and Territories.  

What do termites eat?

Termites feed on wood and anything that contains cellulose in general (cellulose is the dream food for termites – which is the reason why our termite attractant tablets contain pure cellulose!). When it comes to considering risks of termite infestation, your checklist should contain everything that has even the slightest amount of cellulose in them. Termite infestation is not limited to wooden furniture and structural components in your house. Termites can nest in and infest soil, wallpaper, books, magazines, plaster and even boxes.

How and why do termites get inside our homes?

Termites might give you a nasty surprise when you discover them in your home. But before we jump onto the reasons for termite infestation, we need to understand the categories of termites that infest households.

The table below highlights three different categories of termites. As you can see, every type of termite has its own preference for wood, moisture and a unique way of making a habitat in your house. 

Aspect

Drywood Termites

Dampwood Termites

Subterranean Termites

Type of Wood

Dry wood

Moist or damp wood

Softwood

Infesting Site

House framing, structural timbers, hardwood floors, furniture

Rotting or decomposing logs, stumps, wood piles, utility poles

Any wooden structure including furniture and walls (exterior and interior)

Contact with Soil

No

No

Yes (live underground)

Moisture Source

Infested wood

Infested wood

Habitat (soil)

Features

The wood is bored from inside-out; hence the outer surface may not show symptoms of infestation and appear undamaged

Faecal pellets, dead swarmers, and soft spots

Mud tubes, accumulation of soil in infested sites, damaged wood sounds hollow when tapped

 

There are a number of reasons that termites might be attracted to your home. Geographical and environmental factors come into play, which is why only having a clean house or a perfectly trimmed garden doesn’t always keep you safe. Below we explore some of the common reasons why termites infest your home:

  1. Moisture is one of the most common causes of termite infestation. Termites may live on wood but they need water to be able to digest the cellulose they obtain from food. Now, you might be thinking “I live in an area where rainfall hardly occurs. I also make sure to get rid of any stagnant water that may attract insects. Why do I still have termites?”. Rain or stagnant water are not the only sources of moisture. Some other moisture culprits in the house include:
    1. Leaking pipes
    2. Drainage blocks
    3. Attics and crawl spaces
    4. Poorly ventilated areas
  2. Cracks and gaps can also serve as termite habitats. If the concrete foundation of your house has fissures, these provide for a perfectly moist and dark home for termites to nest in. Once termites get settled in these areas, finding a food source follows suit and suffice to say, food sources for termites are plentiful inside your home. Termites can easily channel into wooden frames, doors, windowsills and even furniture.
  3. Wooden foundations that provide some homes with structural integrity also facilitate termite infestations. Any wooden foundation that comes in contact with your home and a termite habitat acts not only as a potential food source, but as a bridge for termites to infest your home.

What are the signs of termite infestation?

Termite nests are often hard to notice, especially because they adhere to the insides of walls and wooden frames. We often discover a termite nest in our house only when the colony has grown quite large. In the worst cases, by the time we discover colonies of termites nesting and eating away valuable assets, the damage has become widespread and difficult to restore. In Australia, termite infestation alone is responsible for property damage of at least $800 million each year.

It is best if you can identify a termite nest and take action before the infestation grows. These are some of the tell tale signs of termite infestation:

  • Mud tubes on walls that look like accumulation of soil and dirt
  • Peeling pale from damaged walls
  • Wood tunnels that can be found in infested wooden panes and other areas
  • Discarded wings and faeces near the infested site
  • Hollow sound on wooden panels, doors and window sills when tapped.   

Why is termite treatment necessary?

Wood is an essential component of infrastructure – and primarily our homes. It’s in a termite’s nature to be attracted to wood as a meal, but what’s natural for them is debilitating and expensive for us. Moreover, termites have the potential to make the basic structure of your home weak and unstable. Subterranean termites can eat through your house’s infrastructure in about three years, while drywood termites can do the same in five to eight years. It’s critical to deploy a system to prevent termites to save your precious property from being eaten away.

What are some ways of termite treatment and control?

Methods of dealing with a termite colony are very different to deterring other types of bugs like cockroaches or flies. Termite colonies have an approximate radius ranging from 50 to 100 meters. Each termite colony can be the home of from 60,000 to 1 million termites. Yes, you read that right! 

Therefore, when controlling and treating termite infestations, you’re not thinking about one insect here, you’re confronting an army. Treatment solutions for termites need to be on a large scale.

Before we consider the treatment options, here are some ways to prevent termite infestations in the first place:

  • Get rid of any damaged wood, wooden debris, logs and stumps around your house
  • Try to avoid getting wooden structures into close contact with soil
  • Ensure proper ventilation at your home to minimize moisture
  • Fix pipe leaks, decayed roofs and moisture-laden walls
  • Declutter your home and dispose of any unnecessary materials that may attract termites.

Below we’ve summarised the treatment options out there on the market.

Chemicals

Known as termiticides, these chemicals are used to destroy existing termite nests in the soil. Termiticides can be applied pre and post construction and have been found to be an effective solution against termites, although it is advised to be used under supervision or by professional termite exterminators, due to the potential dangers of using toxic chemicals.

Some termiticides, including surface sprays, injected sprays and foams, and Borate are also used to treat wood to prevent further colonies from forming and to get rid of any termite colonies that exist. The biggest issue with products of this kind is that termiticides are toxic and can be hazardous to children and pets, as well as having a negative ecological impact. Since they are sprayed indiscriminately, it’s also not possible to control their spread beyond the target area.

DIY Termite Treatment

DIY termite treatment options can be adapted by almost anyone and have comparatively lower risks of mishandling as with chemicals. DIY termite treatment options are cheap, accessible and come in a variety of categories ranging from baits to barriers to treatment packages. These come in the form of kits that can be set up easily by following step by step instructions.

For many homeowners, the biggest advantage of DIY systems (like the EnviroBug Termite Ninja) is that they cost only a fraction of a commercial solution, because you aren’t paying an overpriced fee for an expert installer, or proprietary systems that achieve the same result, but lock you into annual inspection fees. With the Envirobug Termite Ninja system it’s very easy to undertake regular visual inspections of the traps to ensure they aren’t affected, and to act quickly if they are.

Moreover (and to us the most important point of difference), our DIY termite management system is eco-friendly so you won’t be presenting any threat to the environment. The traps are especially made to monitor for termite activity and, if activity is spotted, for you to easily apply a safe to use termite growth inhibitor killer bait that worker termites eat and take back to the nest, killing them, and ultimately taking out the Queen – triggering a colony collapse in the process. DIY termite treatment systems do not contain any nasty chemicals, which makes it safe for you, for kids, for pets and for the environment. But they are extremely effective.

How much does termite treatment cost?

Depending on the size of your house, your choice of treatment option and the degree of infestation, termite treatment cost can start from $300 (for a small DIY kit) and extend to as much as $5000 for a commercial solution in a large house. Professional pest control services in Australia charge a large initial fee for pest control and removal – we have had conversations with many customers who were quoted over $3,000 for an exterminator to apply chemicals to the ground, only to achieve the same result with one of our kits – without harming the environment – for under $300. The difference can be stark:

Termite treatment comparison table

Conclusion

All insects, even termites, have their own role to play in our ecosystem and environment. As termites survive on wood, they act as efficient natural decomposers of wooden debris in the environment. However, when these insects make their way inside our house, that is way too close for comfort. In order to protect valuable assets from the attack of these insects, proper management plans should be implemented in our homes. Of course, prevention is better than cure – so an effective baiting and monitoring system is essential – but once you see any termite activity, you need to act quickly and decisively to take them out.

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