- 1. Avoid
- 1. Your new home27.02.16More
Hopefully, your home comes with pre-installed termite management and hopefully this will be a least-toxic alternative. A life-of-structure, physical management system that doesn't rely on any poisons is best. If you don’t already know what's been done, please ask the builder or vendor how termite risks have been managed. Simple things can help prevent termite attacks. Without a management system you usually can’t see what termites are attacking. It is very important that you don’t do anything to make life easier for the termites. Make your future life easier instead. If your new home was somebody else's beforehand, you should have had a termite inspection before purchasing but either way, once you are ready to move in, it may be a good idea to get a more thorough inspection than can be done in a house that's dressed-up-for-sale.
- 2. How do we keep garden termites away from the house?28.02.16
- 3. Do termites tunnel through concrete/mortar/cement/cinder blocks etc.?28.02.16More
Termites will put a lot of effort into breaking through something that stands between them and the food or water they desire. Just so long as the prize justifies the effort required, they will appear as if to move mountains. Plaster (drywall etc.) is no barrier to termites. Most mortars slow them down, but lime mortars are readily penetrable. Termites will not usually do any damage to quality mortars with a high cement content, but beware of gaps and shrinkage cracks. Good quality concrete cannot be excavated by termites BUT cracks in poor concrete may be opened with ease. Autoclaved aerated concrete (those lightweight bubbly blocks) were readily penetrated in my field tests. Concrete (cinder) blocks sometimes have gaps in them big enough to interest termites (also observed in my field trials). Masonry is often built with lots of continuous gaps that termites can simply walk through, especially with extruded, hollow-core bricks.
Mud-brick (adobe) can be penetrated but there is most risk between the blocks and at cracks, penetrations and against timber framing.
In general, termites won't damage concrete if they can't pull out the sand (and small aggregate) particles. If the cement has been properly proportioned and the mix allowed to cure, then the particles tend to be well bound and termites are adequately deterred.
Termites can walk through cracks in concrete. The cracks need to be uniformly about 10% wider than the termites' head. Concrete that is properly placed, cured and is reinforced ('rebar') generally won't crack wide enough to be at risk. A properly designed and constructed concrete slab can be a building's main defence against subterranean termites.
Sometimes concrete has big pockets of air (because it was not properly settled), has wooden levelling pegs left in (termite highways) or has been damaged by expanding bolts or following trades cutting to add services. Easy termite paths are commonly found where floor slabs have cut-outs for baths or showers or where there are pipes or conduits passing through from the ground.
- 4. What can I do to keep things dry around my house?28.02.16More
OK, so the subterranean termites are after moisture. What can I do to make life hard for them?
You can do things that reduce the amount of water getting in to the soil near your perimeter walls and under your floor, so that the termites have further to travel between a drink and a feed:
- Make sure that rain falling on the roof does not drain into the soil near the house.
- Grade the soil around the house so that water drains away from, not towards the walls
You can do things to help the water get away:
- Consider having paths surround the walls to increase runoff and reduce soil wetting.
- 5. Are straw bale buildings safe from termites?28.02.16More
Very few termites are likely to be interested in eating the straw bales themselves. Even those that normally eat grass. Lots of subterranean termites will happily travel through the bales to reach unprotected framing timbers (such as door frames and window lintels - see photo).
You won't sit the bales right on the soil anyway (moisture hazard) so all it takes is some attention to design to put a subterranean termite block in the foundation, just as you would with any other house design.
If you've already built without considering, find a well-skilled termite manager to inspect and advise. Keep in mind that the biggest threat to straw bales (after moisture-caused decay) comes from rodents, especially mice.
- 6. Do I have to worry about termites in firewood?28.02.16More
Generally not. You want your firewood dry (so that it burns well). If you cut it, split it and put it outside and up off the ground out of the rain, then it will dry quickly and any termites in it will slowly die. Ants and other predators will help. The only way this doesn't work is if you are in a humid area with a drywood termite risk. Drywoods may persist for a long time as the wood slowly dries. If you do find termites, don't do silly things like this guy who caused a major fire. Cut early, well before the cold weather, and let the sun and the air do the work for you. Unless the wood contains a nest, only a few of the major pest species can rebuild a colony from the workers and soldiers feeding in the wood.
- 7. My builder wants to trim my new house with MDF instead of solid timber. Is this a good idea?05.03.16More
MDF (medium density fibreboard) is basically pulped wood that has been glued back together and pressed into shape. It is much cheaper than plain timber that's been spindle-molded into shape, such as for door trims. Termites don't really like MDF (or most reconstituted wood) because the high glue content makes it strange to eat. It is a counter intuitive thing, but you are actually better off buying the solid timber trim that termites are quick to eat. That way when they do attack your home, they'll quickly be eating where they are easily detected. With tasty timber trims, you have a good chance of finding the damage quickly (like when your vacuum cleaner leaves a dent). That way there isn't time for a lot of concealed damage to happen where you can detect the termites and have them dealt with.
You want all the timber that's easy to see or bump to be just about as susceptible to termites as is possible. All the stuff that's deep in the walls can be resistant, but not the other way around. Termites often eat MDF only a tiny bit while completely wrecking the normal timber behind it and it just makes their activity much harder to find. MDF looks smooth and paints well, but a clear coat over timber is much prettier and it doesn't add a lot to the cost, well not compared to its early-warning value. Just think of it as another part of your termite management defences.
Oddly, some lower grade MDF is readily eaten. I mostly see this as the backboard in flat-pack kitchen cupboards.
- 8. Can termites eat concrete?
- 9. I knocked down some termite shelter tubes. They were under my house. Where have the termites gone? Will they come back?05.03.16
- 10. Will garden mulch attract termites?05.03.16More
I live in the deep south of the USA. Termites are a problem here but gardens need mulch. What should I do?
The risk from mulches depends a lot on where you live and what types of mulch are used, but yes, generally mulch will be attractive to termites.
The termites like mulch because it gives them much better ways to travel. Think of it, a whole new loose layer over the soil. No more tunneling. The mulch creates a dark, damp and safe set of ready-made roadways which they just love to exploit.
Some mulches are made from types of wood or bark that they don't like. Termites won't use these very much or at all for at least the first season (until they rot and the repellent is lost). Others have boron salt added. This is a great repellent and slows down decay unless the poisoned mulch gets wet, then the boron salt washes into the soil where it can upset your plants. I think your mulch will get wet.
The mulch will only become a problem if it either provides the termites with a hidden path into the house or if it helps their population grow. The best way is to keep it (and the garden beds) away from the exterior walls. If you have a 30 cm to 1 mt wide band of paving or gravel around the house, this will make it harder for them to sneak in unseen. Just don't bury or wreck any perimeter termite work when you put it in.
There's a very small chance that termites my be delivered with mulch, causing a new infestation. Even if you find a few live ones, they are unlikely to re-group and survive. However, it is still theoretically possible for some species in some locations where the mulch has sat for a long time before delivery and then hasn't been mixed around as it was placed. Theoretically possible, but very unlikely to occur.
- 11. What is a termite swarm?05.03.16More
The really odd thing about a termite swarm is that it is the one time when cooperation goes out the window. It is every termite for his- or herself. Even family stop caring for their young.
A swarm is a coordinated flight of winged (alate) termites. It happens several times a year when the local colonies try to release fully grown (fit, healthy, strong, winged and sighted) termites capable of reproduction. They fly off, typically only a 100 m (say 300 feet) or so unless there's a breeze. The aim, if female, is to quickly find a home site and if male, to pair with a female who's already found a good home site and signalled her intentions.
They sometimes seem to fill the sky. Almost all fail but just enough make it so that they keep on surviving. Flights are short, termites only get into one flight. It is all or nothing. There's no going back into the nest. Swarms may happen a few times a year or quite often. They mostly happen late in the day but some species like to let go in the morning.
- 12. How can I stop termites eating the seedlings/ trees/ herbs I have planted?05.03.16
Not long after planting, they're nearly dead from termites eating the roots.
- 13. What should I do to stop my new water tanks increasing the chance of termite attack?05.03.16More
. . . they are made of plastic.
Tanks to catch rainwater from your roof are a great idea but if thoughtlessly placed, can massively increase the risk of subterrranean termite attack.
The tank should not be so close to the wall that you can't see behind it. A sight line and air gap of 150 mm (6 inches) is a good idea. That makes it less likely that termites will be buidling hidden shelter tubes up the wall, and will allow you to spot them if they do. If your tank must go against the wall (design constraints), then it needs to be raised on a platform that you can see behind and which allows for full and easy inspection..
The tank should be securely mounted on a firm surface. If your house relies on termiticides (poisoned-soil) such as is applied with perimeter sprays or reticulation pipes, you must make sure that these are not defeated or damaged by the installation works.
Even if the tank is to be placed well away from the walls, you still need to be sure that excavations for new pipes have not provided an easy path for termites. Subterranean termites like to tunnel in the softer earth of pipe trenches.
The soil down below a tank will be at a more constant temperature and will tend to retain moisture. This makes it a nicer place to be a termite. If your tank sits right on the soil or sand, termites can come up beneath it searching for condensing moisture. They'll take a bite out of any soft materials they find. In some eastern States of the USA, tanks (and above ground pools) may occasionally be sat on an organic material, such as peat moss. This is not a great way to defeat termites. Much better to sit the tanks on a bead of fine crushed rock or coarse sand.
Be careful with where your overflows go. Once a tank is full, you want any excess water to drain away far away from your house. Water soaking in against walls or under a house is a prime factor driving termite infestation.
Oh, and make sure your tank's input and output pipes are well screened so it doesn't become a mosquito farm.
- 14. My neighbor has termites. What should I do?05.03.16More
They say I need a treatment too.
This is a tricky one, and this answer is only for subterranean termites (not for drywoods and not for dampwoods).
Let's say the termites are in your neighbor's house. A nearby infestation means that local conditions are suitable for the termites and so it tells you that your place is also at some risk. If baits or another colony-killing method is used, then that immediate risk to your house is gone as that colony will be controlled. But there may well be many nearby colonies. If they just repair the damage or poison the ground with a repellent chemical (like bifenthrin), then the termites may be 'pushed' towards feeding at your place. That isn't good.
On the other hand, the termites may be living in your house and have spread to your neighbor's. Or they may be nesting in your yard.
In any case, this is not the time to sign up for a treatment. You should get a proper timber pest inspection done so that you can assess your options. Then talk to your neighbor about the best way to do things.
- 15. Why are the termites attacking MY home?05.03.16More
My house looks just like the ones that don't have termites.
Termites have no capacity for malice, so it is definitely nothing personal. Their needs are simple. Food and shelter are almost always freely available for them in what we build. Water is the big issue and often we can build termites out by making it harder for them to get the water they need so that they can eat.
The best thing you can do is to get a professional inspection report done and read the report carefully. Next best is to keep reading and try and work it out for yourself. What has changed? In what subtle ways is my house differently exposed? Did anything make it easy for them? How are they getting in? Why is water available? If you can answer these, you're most of the way to selecting a solution.
- 16. Will termites living nearby attack my house?05.03.16More
They might. Subterranean termites, of most types, will travel at least 50 metres through the soil from their nest to exploit good food. Termites flying from colonies can sometimes spread a thousand metres. If your house is well maintained and has a termite management plan, the risk can be reduced to something quite acceptable (but the risk is never totally removed). Apart from known colonies of major pests very close to a building, there is usually little to be gained from trying to wipe out all the possible colonies in your area. This is especially true if the termites are local native species and you live in a wooded area. Relax, follow your management plan and be sure to have regular inspections so that if they do get through, nothing much has time to happen. Do keep in mind that not all types of termites are pests and the ones you find outside my not be at all interested in your house.
- 17. Will a baiting system ensure that my home is not attacked?05.03.16More
- 18. We've had flooding rain. How will that affect the termites?05.03.16More
A flood or heavy rain can seriously upset your termite defenses.
If you rely on soil chemical chemicals around or under your home, these can be buried by silt and debris making a bridge for the termites. The chemicals can also be washed out, so when the water goes away, check and organise a termite inspection a few weeks later.
Water that gets into your house (but not out again) tends to soak into timbers. Termites love to eat timber that's damp. Fungi (rot) also has a better time and wood that's partly rotted by fungi is often tastier for termites.
Subterranean termites have trouble getting around when their tunnels are full of water. If you scale it up, it is a bit like you or me trying to walk through honey. So they stay home or move to wherever is high and dry(ish). When the water drains away some of their tunnels will need repair and may be abandoned. They'll move quickly to patch up access to their best food resources. Scary thing is that all that moisture in the soil makes their tunneling so much easier as they no longer need to carry in water to work. So, once re-established, subterraneans will go exploring and your barriers will be tested. After a flood or after drought-breaking rains, you should schedule an inspection the next Spring or Fall (Autumn), certainly before six months are up.
Floods can also move big bits of wood around. Sometimes these bits arrive with termite colonies inside. Sometimes floods cause timbers to be buried or mostly buried. Timbers that are in the soil are much nicer for termites as they don't dry out quickly and the soil buffers temperature changes. Floods change things.
If flood waters sit around for extended periods, weeks or months, then termites populations may be reduced for a time.
- 19. How do we design structures to manage the risks of termite attack?06.03.16More
Every building should be designed to reduce the chances of problems with all the local pests, not just pest termites. Here's a basic scheme:
- Pests are discouraged from gaining easy entrance.
- Door should fit snugly with weather stripping and sweeps that close tightly.
- All metal window and door frames shall have joints sealed with a suitable elastomeric sealant.
- All pests need somewhere to live and somewhere to rest.
- Pests should not find easy hiding places inside.
- Skirting boards, and floor coverings shall provide no open cavities.
- Floor drains require removable coarse mesh screens or similar devices to prevent cockroach passage.
- Pests should not find easy resting places outside.
Roof should be designed to shed booth water and litter.
- Exterior landscaping can create ideal pest environments.
- Plants, including grasses, should not encroach on perimeter paving.
- Buildings should be intrinsically termite resistant.
- 20. How can I avoid termite problems?06.03.16More
Simple ways to avoid meeting termites
In the wild, pest termites usually get by quite happily eating sickly trees or the leftover bits of trees, and the safest, moist and tasty bits are usually underground or right in the middle of big pieces of timber. If your home/building/structure has big bits of wood that are dark or damp or close to the soil then your chances of avoiding termite problems are reduced.
Subterranean & dampwood termites
Subterranean termites usually get about by tunneling underground and entering their food from below. Tree roots are usually attached to trees and termites often travel from root to root great distances underground (there's almost always a small air gap under a big root, so they don't even have to dig as much). Timber waste buried around buildings usually leads to better food inside. Sometimes the termites just fly in and start up a fresh colony, but tunnelling is more common, because big bits of damp wood suitable for nesting are more often outside, not in. Dampwood termites don't tunnel nearly as much but can fly in just as easily.
Since the termites are most likely to try to get in via the soil, there are some simple things you can do:
- All types of termites need moisture. Keep your structure dry and well ventilated.
- Check all gutters and down spouts, make sure that the water ends up well away from the house. Ideally down spouts should connect to stormwater drains. If you don't have these, at least redirect the water well away from the house. Down spouts which regularly splash near the structure may be supplying an irresistible source of moisture.
Be careful with timber in ground contact:
- Remove any timber or cellulose material stored on the ground beneath a suspended floor. That includes cardboard boxes and old newspapers, even cotton materials. Clean up any off cuts left during construction. The aim is to maximize the distance between termites and their potential meal.
- Don't provide hidden entry points where temites can walk in unseen. Stucco can hide termite freeways and rigid foam slab-edge insulation can be a nightmare, providing termites with easy and secure tunnel space where you can't see them. Instead, provide an impervious inspection zone. Use long-life physical barriers in all new construction.
Drywood termites can live in small pieces of wood so long as it is a little moist and not too hot or cold. They'll fly in and start their colonies right in that wood. Best way to keep them at bay is to disguise your timber.
Following these simple points will greatly reduce your termite hazard. Best of all is to design your structure to be termite resistant from the very beginning. Remember too, that regular inspections can locate termites before they do any major damage.
- All types of termites need moisture. Keep your structure dry and well ventilated.
- 21. How do I choose the right pest manager?06.03.16More
Here's a few simple pointers. I hope they help.
- The Business: The preferred way to find the right business is by talking with your friends and finding out who they have used successfully. Word-of-mouth keeps many successful businesses thriving.
How secure is the business?
Does it have a bad name?
Are they afraid to answer your questions?
Does the mention of their name ring alarm bells at your local consumer advocacy/complaints group?
Can they provide the names of satisfied customers as referees?
Don't necessarily feel that big is better; an apparently large company may turn out to be just loosely controlled franchises, offering at best no better service than their smaller competition.
- 22. How are termites detected?06.03.16More
Detecting termites is hard because they like to hide
Termites are little white, soft-bodied weaklings. Termites avoid light and rarely come out into the open. Termite attack can escape anyone's notice for a very long time, which can be horribly expensive, not to mention dangerous. A lot of houses that collapse during hurricanes or earthquakes really break due to weakening by termites.
So, how are termites in houses detected?
1. Dumb Luck. Often termites are detected . . . .
- when the vacuum cleaner leaves a dent in the skirting board
- when someone makes a dent in the floor
- when the door falls off
- when termites fly (in huge numbers) inside the house
when you notice strange bits of mud in the plasterwork
- when the light/fan in the toilet/laundry won't turn off
- when the wood in the window frames looks mottled through the varnish
- when you notice strange bubbles in the paint
- when you lie awake at night and wonder what those quiet noises might be
2. When Other Trades are . . . .
- repairing a springy floor
- fixing leaky plumbing
working in the garden
- putting in new cupboards
- installing your home theatre
3. Regular Inspections . . . .
- when you look under the floor and see tell tale shelter tubes
- when you look near all the wet areas and notice bubbled or uneven surfaces
- when you crawl around in the roof space and the wood seems hollow
- when you look at all those wings you keep vacuuming away . .
- when you hire a competent someone to do the looking for you
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