Termites can attack any structure. Periodic maintenance should include measures to minimise possibilities of infestation in and around a property.
Important Maintenance Advice regarding Integrated Pest Management for Protecting against termites
Termites can attack any structure. Periodic maintenance should include measures to minimise possibilities of infestation in and around a property. Factors that may lead to infestation from termites include:
• Situations where the edge of the concrete slab is covered by soil or garden debris.
• Filled areas, areas with less than 400mm clearance.
• Foam insulation at foundations.
• Poor drainage, leaking pipes, damp areas, form-work timbers, scrap timber, tree stumps, mulch, tree branches touching the structure, wood rot and timber retaining walls.
Note: Termites often build nests behind timber retaining walls.
• Gardens, pathways or turf abutting or concealing the edge of a concrete slab will allow for concealed entry by termites.
All timber in contact with soil such as formwork, retaining walls, scrap timbers or stumps must be removed from under and around the buildings and any leaks or poor draining repaired. You should endeavour to ensure such conditions DO NOT occur around your property.
We further advise that you engage a professional pest control firm to provide a termite management program in accord with AS 3660 to minimise the risk of termite attack. There is no way of preventing termite attack. Even AS 3660 advises that:
“A complete termite barrier system constructed in accordance with this Standard cannot prevent termite attack, as barriers can be bridged or breached. Where termites bridge barriers, the evidence can be detected during inspections.”
No property is safe from termites!
Termites are the cause of the greatest economic losses of timber in structures in Australia. Independent data compiled by State Forests shows 1 in every 5 homes is attacked by termites at some stage in its life. However, CSIRO data indicates that it could be as high as 1 in 3. Australia’s subterranean termite species (white ants) are the most destructive termites in the world. In fact, it can take “as little as 3 months for a termite colony to severely damage almost all the timber in a home”.
How termites attack from home:
The most destructive species live in large underground nests containing several million timber destroying insects. The problem arises when a nest matures near your home. You home provides natural shelter and a food source for the termites. The gallery system of a single colony may exploit food sources over as much as one hectare, with individual galleries extending up to 50 metres to enter your home, where there is a smorgasbord of timber to feast upon.
Even concrete slabs do not act as a barrier; they can penetrate through cracks in the slab to gain access to your home. They even build mud tubes to gain access to above ground timbers. In rare cases, termites may create their nest in the cavity wall of the property without making ground contact. In these cases, it may be impossible to determine their presence until extensive timber damage occurs.
Once in contact with the timber they excavate it, often leaving only a thin veneer on the outside. If left undiscovered, the economic species can cause many thousands of dollars damage and may cost two to five thousand dollars (or more) to treat.
Subterranean termite ecology:
These termites are social insects usually living in underground nests. Nests may be in trees or in rare instances, they may be in above ground areas within the property. They tunnel underground to enter the building and then remain hidden within the timber, making it very difficult to locate them. Where timbers are concealed, as in most modern homes, it makes it even more difficult to locate their presence, especially if gardens have been built up around the home and termite management systems are either not in pace or poorly maintained.
Termites form nests in all sorts of locations and they are usually not visible. There may be more than one nest on a property. The diet of termites in the natural environment is the various hardwood and softwood species growing throughout Australia. These same timbers are used in buildings. Worker termites move out from their underground nest into surrounding areas where they obtain food and return to nurture the other casts of termites within the nest.
Termites are extremely sensitive to temperature, humidity and light and hence cannot move over ground like most insects. They travel in mud encrusted tunnels to the source of food. Detection of termites is usually by locating these mud tunnels rising from the ground into the affected structure. This takes an expert eye.
Termite management systems help protect a building by forcing termites to show themselves. Termites can build mud tunnels around termite management systems to reach the timber above. The presence of termite tracks or leads does not necessarily mean that termites have entered the timber. A clear view of walls and piers and easy access to the sub-floor means that detection should be fairly easy. However, many styles of construction do not lend themselves to ready detection of termites. The design of some properties is such that they make the detection by a pest inspector difficult, if not impossible.
The tapping and probing of walls and internal timbers is an adjunct or additional means of detection of termites but is not as reliable as locating tracks. The use of a moisture meter is a useful aid for determining the presence of termites concealed behind thin wall panels, but it only detects high levels of activity. Older damage that has dried out will not be recorded. It may also provide false readings.
Termite tracks may be present in the ceiling space. However, some roofs of a low pitch and with the presence of sisalation, insulation, air conditioning ductwork and hot water services may prevent a full inspection of the timbers in these areas. Therefore, since foolproof and absolute certain detection is not possible, the use of termite management systems and regular inspections is a necessary step in protecting timbers from termite attack.
TIMBER DECAY FUNGI
The fruiting bodies of wood decay fungi vary in size, shape and colour. The type of fungi encountered by pest controllers usually resides in poorly ventilated subfloors, below wet areas of the home, exterior timbres and in areas that retain water in the soil.
The durability and type of timbers are factors along with the temperature and environment. Removal of the moisture source usually alleviates the problem. Fungal decay is attractive to termites and if the problem is not rectified, it may well lead to future termite attack.