A. Most home owners only find out they have termite damage when the damage is severe and their foot goes through the floor or a door falls off its jamb. The short answer, particularly if you live in a termite susceptible area, is to have the home inspected by a termite technician every 12 months.
Q. Can I carry out my own termite inspection?
A. You will never see a termite running around your home like a black ant – never. Termites always keep themselves concealed and eat timbers from the inside. They hollow out timbers from the inside – visualise a didgeridoo, a musical instrument hollowed out naturally in the bush complements of termites. Termite damaged timbers do not have holes or dust.
Q. What is the best kind of termite control?
Are termite sprays better that termite baits?
A. Termite sprays and termite baits are used for entirely different purposes, but both have a valuable role in the control of termites.
If a building is infested by termites, the first thing to do is have a professional termite inspection. The second thing to do is to kill the termite colony that is infesting the building. This does not mean just killing a few termites that you can detect in a building, it means destroying the entire termite colony including the termite Queen (or Queens) who lays all the eggs. The nest could be as far away as 75 metres from your building.
A termite baiting system in skilled hands is an excellent method of termite colony control. A termite chemical ‘soil treatment’ does not achieve colony control, is not intended for this purpose (despite the misleading and unsubstantiated claims of some chemical suppliers).
Once termite colony control has been achieved, and some evidence to support this has been recorded, then a ‘protective’ termite treatment should be applied. A termite spray (soil treatment) can be an excellent way of doing this, provided the building can be accessed in all areas. If the structure of a building does not lend itself to termite spray treatment, perhaps because of lack of access under a floor, then a termite monitoring system can be an effective alternative method of termite protection into the future.
Q. Are white ants different from termites?
A. White ant is an Australian name for termite. Termites and white ants are the same insect, and so white ant treatment is no different to that of termites!
Q. Should I remove trees from my garden to stop termites?
A. Opinions may vary, however the opinion of our termite specialists is very clear – NO. The main thing that affects termite pressure on a home is the presence or absence of a termite colony nest near your home. If a termite nest is located in a tree on your property, it is likely that our technicians will be able to find it and destroy it – without cutting down any trees.
In fact, cutting down trees may reduce the foraging area for termites without getting rid of the actual termite colony nest – and this won’t reduce the risk from termites to your home.
Q. How do I find a good termite controller?
Someone who will give me balanced advice and look after me?
A. We recommend that you invite three pest companies to offer you advice and provide you with a free treatment proposal. It’s important to select companies that are local to you because most termite work involves repeat visits and check-ups.
You could also ask friends and neighbours or the local council for a referral to a local trusted company.
Any companies you ask to come out and look at your property should be able to provide the following:
Membership of the trade association AEPMA (this means they are insured and are not of disrepute)
Technicians who hold a Government license to apply insecticide
A “Pest cert”.
A “Pest cert” is a new system of industry self regulation currently being rolled out. The standards required for running a “Pest cert” business are high, and if you select a company who has achieved this, then you can be sure that the company is well managed.
In addition, with termite work it is not enough just for the company to be insured. Each individual operator should have accreditation with their insurance company specifically to do termite work and termite inspections. This is not easy to get, and typically requires two years shoulder to shoulder supervised experience with termite work and 40 supervised termite inspections. Once they demonstrate to insurance company that they have the required experience, the operator is given an individual insurance accreditation number.
If your termite technician can provide to you such a number (which should be written on his paper work), you can be sure they are well qualified for the job. This accreditation is much harder to get than a license, and you should be choosy and select only from those that provide you with an “insurance accreditation” number.
It’s also important to remember that termite work is very different for general pest control. It needs experience to have the wisdom and confidence to give clients clear and balanced advice, and skilled treatments. Sometimes tough and expensive decisions need to be made about re-detailing buildings or landscaping in the longer term interest of the client. Don’t ask a general pest controller to do this – ask a termite specialist.
Q. What termite attack prevention measures can I take myself?
A. You can reduce the risk yourself by obtaining expert advice. Call a termite specialist and request a free advisory meeting. It is likely that you will be advised to have some kind of ‘protective’ treatment, but you should also be given advice about how your home can be re-detailed so as to reduce the risk. This can really make a difference.
Typically, in an average home in Melbourne, we find the following ‘conducive conditions’ which, if fixed, will reduce the termite risk:
Lower the finished ground level around the walls of your home
A high finished ground level (FGL) is by far the most common fault and greatly increases the termite risk. As a guide, your FGL should be about 150mm below your floor level. You should step UP into your home. For homes on slabs, this usually means that the slab edge is just covered but the weep holes are free of garden beds. For homes on timber floors, this usually means that the air vents become free and the sub-floor can breathe.
Don’t use railway sleepers for retaining walls
A sleeper retaining wall provide nesting harbourage ideal for termites. If you have one just a few metres from your home, you should consider removing it.
Inappropriate building extensions and conversions
A high proportion of the infestations we attend are caused by inappropriate add-ons to buildings. The main offenders are new concrete slabs poured against existing timber floors, and garages and underfloor basements converted to living areas.
Never combine timber floors with concrete slabs and always show your plans to a termite specialist before you build.
Remember, termites require water to maintain the high humidity within the nest in addition to food, or wood. By removing these needs homeowners can do their part to prevent these pests from becoming a problem in their home.
You can do this by:
ensuring soil is not in contact with susceptible building timbers
ensuring subfloors are well ventilated and remain dry
using only resistant timbers below floor level
avoiding storage of wood in contact with the soil under, or around buildings
improving drainage and fixing leaky plumbing in order to reduce available soil moisture.