Termites. They can cause huge problems in buildings, which can cause huge problems for the professional pest controllers in charge of safeguarding them. Here’s some key information you need to know about the types of termites in Australia, and the termite treatments available.
So, when you’re faced with a termite problem, you can tackle it with even greater confidence.
Types of termites in Australia
Although there are a ton of termite types in existence, only a few cause problems for pesties.
Urban pest control expert and Rapid Training trainer Jay Turner says, “there’s approximately 350 species of termites found in the country. Only around 10% of those cause issues in homes and other buildings.”
Termites, Turner says, can be broken down into three broad categories.
- Drywood termites
- Dampwood termites
- Subterranean termites
Each of these categories then has several species and genus within it. Turner says that both Dampwood and Drywood termites typically exist within one piece of timber and don’t form nests as such, just a colony within a timber.
Subterranean termites, however, do form nests. Turner says the termites travel from these nests through the soil to a food source which they then bring back to the nests. Similar to bees and their hives, really.
And they’re an invasive species of termites that like to keep their nest to themselves, so to speak…
Intrusive termites can be tricky to find
Turner explains, “the termites that attack a building typically don’t make a visible mound or nest like you might see in the Northern Territory. Those are normally grass feeders.
“The invasive species are more likely to make a nest in something like a tree or under the root crown of a tree, or even under a concrete slab, water tank, or timber retaining wall.”
Because of this, the termite nests often aren’t obvious and sometimes aren’t found during pest and building inspections. Sometimes they’re not even found during termite treatments, whether due to access limitations or the pest controller not taking enough time to explore all areas of a property.
When the termite nests aren’t found and treatments focus on eliminating the colony by treating active galleries, this is referred to as indirect treatment. If the termite nest is found and treatments are applied directly to the nest itself, this is called a direct treatment.
The latter approach is obviously more effective in helping you avoid a termite management insurance claim.
Termite treatments and management
Termites are social insects and form colonies, which means they can breed prolifically. According to Turner, for every termite you can see there’s many more you can’t, and that’s always the trickiest part of termite management.
Combine this fact with understanding termite nests can be a reasonable distance from a building (50 to 100 metres) and still cause an infestation within the building itself.
When it comes to termite treatment and management, professional pest controllers work in two broad stages:
- Phase One: Directly treat termites and get them out from the building
- Phase Two: Stop them from returning
In this article, we’ll be tackling termite treatments. After you’re done here, read about phase two treatment of termites and preventing their return
If live termites are found during the inspection, the first phase is implemented to eliminate them.
Indirect treatment options
Where live termites are found to be present at inspection, prior to installing a liquid termiticide treated zone they first must be eradicated. This is achieved by using one of the below methods, or a combination thereof:
How do each of these work, and when would you use them?
Dusting to treat termites
Dusting is one of the “original” termite treatment methods.
In past years, arsenic was a common dusting treatment, but termiticides have advanced. The new generation dusts are more reliable and less toxic, however care should still be taken. If pets, children or adults with certain health issues come into contact with the dust it could have health consequences. (Read more about pet safety during pest treatments here)
Termite dusts are puffed into the sites where termites are, and then sealed. The termites, who are now coated in dust, return to their nest and pass the toxin onto the colony.
This method usually takes at least two weeks to achieve its full effect, but a subsequent treatment (or treatments) might be needed to eliminate the entire colony and nest.
Dusting is less messy than foaming and does have a higher chance of nest elimination. Provided enough termites are coated with the dust in the initial treatment. If the termites aren’t in an accessible area, dusting is impractical and may not be the best treatment option.
Baiting as a termite treatment option
This is a relatively new form of termite treatment, but can be the most obvious option particularly in cases where the termites are difficult to access. Both in-ground and above-ground baiting is possible.
The termite baits are placed over the termite sites, which are then sealed. The bait is near-irresistible to termites and contains a slow-acting poison. The slow action ensures the termites distribute it within the colony.
It’s one of the most effective methods for eliminating entire termite colonies, and has the advantage of being measurable as you can monitor how much bait is being consumed. However, it’s a very slow method of termite elimination. Dependent on the extent of the infestation, colony size, and the time of year, baiting can take six months or more. The bait stations will need to be monitored every 2-3 weeks and topped up or replaced if necessary.
Foaming to treat termites
Where dusting or baiting is not possible or is impractical, foaming may be an alternative.
Pest controllers can foam directly into wall cavities. When applied, the foam expands within the cavity, which means it’s able to coat all the surfaces and termites within the space. It’s particularly useful when the termites and nests are within a cavity that’s difficult to access. For instance, underneath a concrete slab.
The foam kills termites quickly but because of this they often don’t take the foam back to the nests. While the termites within the actual site will quickly be eliminated, the chances of nest elimination are lower.
Foam can also be messy. It returns to a liquid state eventually and can sometimes seep out of walls or cavities.
Important things to know about indirect termite treatments
Robert Prosser, Rapid Solutions Technical Officer says it’s important to know that while liquids and foams are capable of direct colony control, “no liquid termiticide (including foams) registered in Australia has an Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority registered label that says they are capable of remote colony control.”
He goes on to say, “Non-repellent chemicals used in foams and liquid forms do, to some degree, pass between individuals.”
However, the clearest research he’s seen “discusses the fact that, while termites do pass through non-repellent termiticidal treated zones and pass the product to others, the death of workers near the treated zone is dealt with by the colony by excavating side tunnels and depositing the bodies in them then sealing them off. Eventually, the termites choose not to enter these areas, which gives the impression that the treatment is keeping them out or killing the colony.”
“The colony is not necessarily destroyed. Any weakness in the treated zone or structure which allows termite entry – in the worst case scenario, an undetected entry – may be exploited by probing workers.”
It’s key that pest controllers document the situation in detail in reporting when it comes to termites. In fact, Jay Turner’s top tip for dealing with termites is “be meticulous, thorough, and document EVERYTHING.”
That’s where Rapid Inspect can be a lifesaver in helping prevent a claim against you. Read our article Pest and Building Report Writing Made Easy With Rapid Inspect for more details.
Make sure your insurance is up to date before tackling termites
Have you got all the correct insurance in place to handle a termite management claim if termite activity or damage continues after your treatment? Remember that letting your pest control insurance expire can be a very costly exercise.
Our specialised insurance offering means that your business needs never be without adequate cover. And if you ever find yourself needing to make an insurance claim, you’ll have the peace of mind that your business and valuable assets will be protected.
Check out Rapid Solutions’ professional indemnity insurance as a starting point.
Termite treatments – over to you
What methods have you had the most success with when it comes to termite treatment? Let other pest control professionals know in the comments below, or share this article on Facebook!