What Are Termites And Where Do They Come From?

September 1, 2021

Termites are small insects ranging between ¼ and ½ an inch long. They are soft bodied and vary in color and size depending on species and habitat. They live in colonies as subterranean, drywood or dampwood termites. Members of a colony are divided into classes known as castes which perform different roles in the colony. Castes are uniquely different and possess features that enable them perform their colony roles efficiently.

These insects exhibit a true social behaviour and they build large nests that accommodate an entire colony consisting of reproductive adults (a king and a queen), workers, soldiers and alates and are mostly associated with tropical and subtropical climates.

Environments that provide shelter from predators and rich food resources are preferred by termites. Our homes seem to provide suitable nests for termite colonies. Subterranean, drywood or dampwood termites are attracted to different types of environments even though they all come to our houses to feed on wood besides getting shelter. Once they find your home conducive, they colonise it, mostly in areas that require experts to identify.

Mature termites which have reached the reproductive age leave the nest to start new colonies. They will always nest in areas that provide favourable living conditions. Some of these conditions have been highlighted in this article.

Why Termite Control In Australia Is Important

There are about 7 families and over 2000 species of termites worldwide. Australia has hundreds of species of termites which may look similar but have quite distinct characteristics. While it is easy to confuse termites with ants, they are not related. Unlike ants, termites have a broader junction between thorax and abdomen.

Different species of termites live in different habitats and are categorised as drywood termites, dampwood termites and subterranean termites. Even though they have some economic values, the damage caused by termites is in the billions of dollars annually. Termite nests are common in homes and a number of factors are associated with increased risk of home infestations.

In Australia, nests of subterranean termites may be 20-25 feet tall and 10-12 feet in diameter with millions of individuals. Termites forage on wood cellulose which is digested by a special bacterium in their digestive system. They are the most dominant organisms in the tropical and subtropical forest floors alongside wood roaches.

Because buildings in Australia are at a high risk of termite attack, regular professional inspection and treatments are essential as most home insurance policies do not cover termite damage. Working with experts is important because they do their best to prevent termite damages to your house by providing customised control and prevention measures.

Identifying Termites And Distinguishing Them From Ants

Australia has hundreds of species of termites which may look similar but have quite distinct characteristics. Species vary in size and color and sometimes even within the same species, different castes can be very distinct.

Termites can be identified by castes, habitat and by species. There are 3 different castes in a termite colony: soldiers, workers and alates.

  • Soldiers – They have large heads that are dark in color and large mandibles for protecting the colony. Soldiers can either be male or female termites. While among termites, it is only the soldier caste that is capable of fighting, all ants fight to protect the colony.
  • Workers – They are the smallest of the 3 castes, look like larva and are white in color.
  • Alates – These are winged termites with hard exoskeleton that are dark in color. They are encountered quite often during mating season when looking for new nesting sites. This is the reason for the sudden appearance of flying termites.

Subterranean termite soldiers have yellowish heads while drywood termite soldiers have reddish brown heads. Dampwood and drywood termites tend to be larger than subterranean termites.

While it is easy to confuse termites with ants, they are not related. Whenever you are in doubt, consult expert pest control workers to help you identify and distinguish ant from termite infestations.

Termites are however believed to be closely related to wood roaches which live in fallen timber in the forest floors. Like termites, wood roaches live in colonies and take care of their young, both insects feed on similar food resources and prefer the same habitat.

Ecological Significance Of Termites

Termites help in the breakdown and recycling of dead and decaying wood/timber. This results in quick turn-over of minerals that enrich the surrounding soils. Burrowing and creation of tunnels by subterranean termites helps in creation of soil profiles that has a direct impact on agricultural production.

However, when termites are attracted to wood and wood products in our homes, they cause significant damages. Annual global damages caused by termite infestations run into billions of dollars. Buildings lose their values and are brought down by termite infestations. They also chew living trees and crops causing desertification and food losses; their mounds limit infrastructural developments and farming.  Termites also destroy clothes, furniture, paper and home carpets.

Signs Of Termite Infestation And Damage In Homes

You need the knowledge of the kind of habitat termites prefer in order to be able to identify infestation in your home. They will mostly nest in environments that fulfill their specific food and shelter needs. Some are found in moist environments and others in dry environments. It is unfortunate that termites find such suitable environments in our homes.

For example, dampwood termites nest in damp basements or bathrooms and are mostly found in moist climates whereas drywood termites are associated with dry climates.

Termites forage on cellulose found in wood. As a result, they damage any wooden component or structures of your home. Look out for the following signs of termite infestation and damage in your home:

  • Sagging floor or ceilings
  • Wet damaged woods
  • Piles of sawdust, mud
  • Shed wings of alate caste
  • Old tree stumps and fallen branches
  • Frames or wood with hollow sound when tapped

Termites that live in drywood invade furniture and dry firewood in our homes. Because they live deeply inside wood, spotting invasion by drywood termites is always difficult. Dampwood termites on the other hand will nest in moist wood and damp soil. Such an environment is mostly as a result of leaking gutters and humidity in the kitchen and basements.

You need to check your yard where moist soil is in plenty for possible infestation by subterranean termites. They are capable of creating long tunnels to food sources and their population may be up to 10,000 individuals per square meter.

It is recommended that you regularly monitor your home for signs of termite infestation or damage. Contact experts for professional termite control and prevention services. This is because experts know where to look as well as identify termites by species and deploy targeted treatment techniques.

What Factors Increase The Risk Of Termite Infestation In Homes?

The risk of termite infestation in our homes is high because unfortunately, that is where they find sustainable nesting sites. There are a number of factors that increase the possibility of termite infestation in our homes:

  • High levels of moisture, which favours dampwood termites
  • The availability of wood
  • Protective shelter from predators

Look out for conditions that favour termite attack in your home to avoid the cost that comes with repairing termite-related damages.

Preventing Termite Damages And Getting Insurance Cover

Damages resulting from termite infestation are not a sudden phenomenon. It takes a considerable amount of time for termites to cause appreciable damage.

Controlling termite infestation and repairing damages can cost you huge amounts of money. Preventing termite infestation is your responsibility as a home owner because home insurance policies do not cover termite damage. You will require routine home inspection and treatment to prevent termite infestation.

However, if termites chew your home wiring resulting to fire, your insurance company may compensate for the loss.

Other ways to prevent termite damages include:

  • Do not expose your home to water/moisture. You can avoid moisture accumulation by diverting water away from your home’s foundation. You should also make sure there are no leaking gutters
  • Carry out regular inspections to identify changes on your wooden areas, like windows, ceilings, floors and door frames
  • Watch out for woods that produce hollow sounds when you tap
  • Construct barriers between the wood portions of your home and the soil to deter termites from accessing your home

Even though insurance companies do not cover termite damage, you have safety in pest control companies who offer plans for annual inspection and treatment. Contact pest control professionals to inspect your house regularly to catch any damages before termites bring it down.

Pest control companies also provide termite warranties which is a termite control contract. Such a contract entails regular inspections and termite treatment services.

Importance Of Termite Inspection And Treatment

Termite damage can be extensive and costly if it happens without you realising. Because termites will invade a home made of any material (brick, wood or any other material), a regular professional termite inspection and protection plan is recommended for homeowners.

The importance of regular inspection and treatment of homes for termites include:

  • It allows early identification and eradication of termite infestations
  • It prevents termite related damages and reduces or eliminates the repair costs

Termite Control Specialists

You need professional termite management for your commercial building, residential home and other construction projects from a company that specialises in household, commercial and pre-construction pest control services. They should be a service provider whose service delivery is anchored on:

  • Fair pricing
  • Rapid response
  • Professionalism, honesty, and integrity
  • Eco-friendly termite prevention, control, and treatment processes

Because buildings are at high risk of termite infestation, it is recommended that all properties in termite infested regions have a termite protection plan in place. Therefore, get in touch with an expert termite inspection and control service.

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