A pest controller friend of mine occasionally refers to the beautiful seaside area of Mount Eliza as ‘termite hill’. I thought this a little harsh of him since although Mt Eliza does, of course, suffer from termite damage in buildings, it is by no means the worst area for termites around Melbourne.
So why ‘termite hill’?
Well – have a look at the photo which shows a healthy tree (E.viminalis) just above the beach in Mount Eliza. It has the high tide flotsam tangled around it’s base – but what is all that chocolate coloured mud? That’s right, termite mudding indicates that this tree contains a significantly large termite colony nest site. I was able to open up a small amount of the rock-hard mudding and found a termite soldier which was clearly a very unhappy Coptotermes acinaciformis species – Australia’s most damaging termite, and the one that plays havoc in buildings in Mount Eliza and nearby Frankston.
We all know that termites travel from termite mounds to forage on cellulose such as timber, but we just don’t actually see these mounds in Melbourne termite inspections – or only in the outback. Well actually, it is thought that prior to settlement, the Melbourne area had many such free-standing termite mounds, but these have been destroyed by homeowners who are not wanting to risk sharing their homes with termites. Hence, the termites have been driven to conceal their mounds by hollowing out the trunk of a large tree and building their mud-mound inside the tree.
Tree based colony nests of such nature, often display very little evidence of their location and perhaps a little mud spilling out from the tree (see the photo of tree nest in Frankston South). However, there is something about the trees in Mount Eliza that encourages termites to build their colony nests in hollowed trunks and then also around the outside of the trees so that they can be quite obvious termite mounds.
Perhaps my friend offering pest and termite treatment, has spent some time wandering the foreshore of Mount Eliza looking at all the overt termite mounds and conjured up the term ’termite hill’ in his poetic mind.