In nature, termites are an important part of the food chain as they help remove dead wood from the bush and forest and turn it into organic matter. They do not eat live trees, although certain types do live in them! Yet let loose on an average home, termites can and do wreak havoc – causing more than $80 million dollars worth of damage to homes in Australia each year (NRMA Report 1994).
Termites live up to 1.5 metres underground in colonies that can be as large as 1,000,000 termites. Like all ants they are social creatures and will look for food sources up to 100 metres from their nest, entering homes through cracks in the concrete slab as small as 0.3mm wide, through weep holes in wall cavities, in-fill patios and enclosed wall cavities. They travel through mud tubes about the diameter of a pencil, that they build and the presence of these is a tell tale sign of termite activity. Of course, no evidence of mud tubes does not necessarily mean that there is no termite activity.
Termites have hard saw toothed jaws that work like shears, biting off tiny fragments of wood, a piece at a time. As they live off the celloluse in wood they will happily chew their way through flooring, timber bearers, floor and ceiling joists, timber trims and wallboards. Over time the most serious damage they cause is loss of structural strength, and repairs of that nature are not necessarily cheap.
A professional inspection, performed to AS3660, will take note of all visible evidence of termite activity found, the details of entry points that are inaccessible to inspection and recommendations for termite control and protection for the future. These would include removal of any termite colonies and possibly the establishment of a barrier in the soil. Please note that it is very important that if a termite colony is found, that they are left undisturbed, as this would affect the treatment to be applied.
Termite Behaviour & Social Structures
Termites are ground-inhabiting, social insects that live in colonies. A colony can number several million individuals. New colonies are formed when winged mates and females from the parent colony emerge in flight and swarm.
Every termite colony consists of 4 castes, each having a specific role within the colony’s social structure. Reproductive, The King and Queen Termite are central to any vibrant termite colony, with the Queen acting as an egg-laying machine.
This caste provides all of the labour for the colony including searching for and collecting food, feeding all other castes and immatures, grooming others within the colony, cleaning, maintenance and building for the colony.
The soldier caste protects the colony from invasion by other insects. Soldier termites are fed by the worker termites as they are unable to feed themselves. Alates are winged reproductives that fly from the nest in their thousands eager to establish a new colony. Because alates are poor flyers they generally only fly some 50 to 100 m from the parent nest.
As such, when observing flying alates you can generally be assured a termite nest is nearby. Worker termites are continuously and randomly foraging for new food sources.
This behaviour means the traditional methods for managing termites, ie. Chemical and physical barriers, are frequently found to be ineffective as the termites find areas of weakness where these barriers may have been inadvertently breached.
The Sentricon II Termite Bait
Designed for both internal and external use, the Sentricon II termite bait contains a highly palatable and flexible cellulose based food substrate impregnated with an active ingredient called Hexaflumuron.
Hexaflumuron, a chitin synthesis inhibitor, inhibits the termites’ ability to produce chitin (skin substance). As worker termites feed on the bait material, they transfer the Hexaflumuron throughout the entire colony via a process known as ‘trophallaxis’. Termites shed their skin a number of times throughout their lives as they grow or as their skin is damaged. When they next moult, the exposure to Hexaflumuron renders them unable to produce chitin. Consequently they die, leading to the elimination of the entire colony.
The size of the colony influences the amount of bait required and the time it takes toe liminate the colony, ie. Older colony’s have a greater number of members hence takes longer to eliminate. Trial work conducted in Australia in 2003 has shown the average termite colony was eliminated within b months of baiting, using 357 grams of Sentricon II termite bait. It was found that feeding on the bait generally ceased 2 months prior to elimination being claimed.
By measuring the quantity of Sentricon II termite bait consumed and noting visual changes to the termites, the Pest Control Professionals can determine, with confidence, when colony elimination has been achieved.
Cockroaches are a common pest in Australia, which can be controlled but certainly not completely eradicated. There are several species of cockroach, and they are pests primarily because of contamination of food from their droppings and the spread of diseases such as Salmonella, Diarrhea and Typhus. A common perception of cockroaches is that they are ‘clean’ insects and have impeccable grooming habits. This is true only if you consider roaming sewers, garbage and compost heaps as clean habits.
Cockroaches are nocturnal insects, hiding in cracks and crevices by day. They even hide inside electrical equipment in search of warmth, and can cause expensive damage this way. Controlling cockroach infestations is best achieved through a regular treatment of your premises.
Generally speaking spiders and their webs can help control other pests such as mosquitoes and flies. There are of course some such as wolf and mouse spiders that can give painful bites, and funnel webs and redback spiders that are poisonous.
Strong garden gloves when working in the garden, and reducing areas where spiders are likely to nest are the best ways for controlling spiders. Don’t allow rubbish to build up, and keep weeds and lawns down.
If there are poisonous spiders about, then they are always best dealt with by a pest control expert. Remember, if unsure of what a spider is, then do not go near it. Funnel web spiders are aggressive when bothered, and will bite. They do not jump, although many people have heard that they do.
Rats and mice carry many diseases and love setting up in homes as they can be close to warmth and food.
They often come indoors during the cooler months, and make their nests inside wall cavities and roofs. They are generally easy to detect as they leave they’re droppings wherever they go.
In Australia you are most likely to encounter the roof rat, the house mouse or the Norway rat. It must be remembered that its not just the rodents that carries disease but also the fleas that they carry. Over 25 million people died from the bubonic plague in Europe in the 1400’s, but it was the Oriental rat flea that actually transferred the disease! Rodent control is achieved through a combination of denying access to buildings, baiting and capture.