Are Termites White Ants?
Termites are secretive insects and often spend their entire lives out of the sun.
Being difficult to find contributes to the termite problem. By the time you know they are there it could be too late.
As a result, they can develop a whitish color and, because they are around the same size as ants, they came to be known as "white ants".
They are, however, not related to ants at all and belong in the same species classification as cockroaches! Like ants, they are territorial and aggressive and termite and ant colonies have been known to fight to the death.
Ants have long viewed termites as a food source and so termites have evolved to defend their nests by breeding a soldier cast with large mandibles to fight off enemies such as ants.
Video: Ants Vs Termites
How Destructive Are Termites?
If you have a termite problem in your home and don't get a pest control expert in to fix it, you'll soon discover how destructive they can be.
Drywood Termite Damage
Drywood termites build their colonies within wooden structures like your house. Then they feed on the wooden structure. They can be found inside walls and furniture.
Drywood termite infestations may only become apparent after a colony has burrowed so deeply into an infested item that the veneer cracks and the maze of tunnels inside can then be seen. Such damage is common in antique furniture pieces.
If this occurs in new furniture, under the floors or inside the walls of your home, contact a pest control professional immediately. They will ascertain the severity of your infestation and explain the various extermination options.
Interior damage may not become apparent until infestations are full-blown. Termite damage sometimes appears similar to water damage.
Outward signs of termite damage include buckling wood, swollen floors and ceilings, areas that appear to be suffering from slight water damage and visible mazes within walls or furniture. Termite infestations also can exude a scent similar to mildew or mold.
Subterranean termites also access above-ground food sources through mud tunnels they create from saliva, mud and feces. These tunnels are located near the foundation of infested homes.
Video: Termites Destroy a Model Home
How to Recognize a Termite Problem
Honestly, the best way is to use a professional pest control expert.
If you're buying a house, get it inspected for termites before you commit to the purchase. Then have it reinspected every year. It's a small insurance premium to pay against the major cost of termite damage. Watch the Total Loss video above to understand how a termite problem can escalate into total destruction.
Here are some things to watch out for yourself:
- Mud shelter tubes the termites build for protection. These can sometimes be seen in brick foundations or in architraves.
- Hollow sounding timber. This can mean it's full of termite problem tunnels.
- Sagging floors or doors.
- Easily damaged skirting boards, door jambs or architraves Because termites take away the structural integrity of timber, a small knock to these areas can cause partial collapse.
- Cracked paint or plaster. As the termites eat away at the timber, they reduce its structural integrity causing cracks in the timber decorations, such as paint or plaster.
- Power failures can be caused by termite damage to electrical fittings as the termites are attracted to the warmth.
Temperature and rainfall seem to have the largest impact on termite activity, followed by the house's age.
If you stumble across a termite nest on your property, don't disturb it until you've determined an appropriate termite management plan with a qualified pest control manager. Once disturbed, termites might abandon the area, move elsewhere and remain undetected.
Termites don't just eat away at structural timbers. They can also chomp their way through furniture, paper products, fabrics, clothing, footwear and even non-cellulose materials like soft plastics, building sealants and rigid foam insulation.
Reduce the Risk of a Termite Infestation
Here are some of the things you should do:
If you're building a new home, certain construction methods and materials can reduce the termite risk considerably. Consider treated pine or steel as your framing material.
Fix any moisture problems like poor drainage, leaking pipes or inadequate ventilation.
Keep the area surrounding your home clear. Shrubs or garden beds should be well clear of the building edge. Make sure that weep holes (the small gaps left between bricks to let water drain out) are not covered. These can provide entry points for a termite infestation and also create moisture traps under your house. Termites love moisture.
Keep all areas under your house clear. Don't store items that can reduce the ventilation space under the house. Adequate ventilation is one of your best weapons against a termite problem.
Remove any wood that's in contact with the ground and close to the house. The wood can be invaded by termites. The termite nest then uses it as a staging post into the house.
Get regular professional pest inspection and follow their advice to reduce your termite risk.
Questions to Ask Your Termite Pest Control Company
It's recommended you have a thorough pest inspection at least once a year, or more often if you live in areas with high termite risk.
It's also important that you're present during the inspection.
Before engaging your pest control expert, ask these questions:
How long has your company been established? A new company isn't necessarily bad, but they should be willing to bid for your business and do everything they can to get a good recommendation from you.
Are you a member of an industry association? Which one? Then Google them.
Do you have a current licence and up-to-date professional indemnity and public liability insurance certificates?
What are the qualifications, skills and experience of the pest inspector?
Will the pest inspector also do the termite treatment, if one is required? If not, how experienced is the person who is doing the termite treatment?
Will they meet, or exceed, the requirements of the standards imposed by your state's and national guidelines?
How long will the inspection take? (An average house should take two to three hours to inspect, including the time the inspector spends discussing the issues with you.)
Will the inspection also cover borers and wood-decay fungi?
Will you provide a report in writing? (This is an absolute essential.)
If termites are found, what treatment methods do you recommend?
Will you explain the products you're likely to use and list them in the written report? (This is so you'll know about any chemicals they'll use, their toxicity and and safety concerns and precautions.)
Termites Are a Dangerous Problem
Only termites can single-handedly destroy a house and ruin its very foundation and character in just a few short years. The first destructive handiwork of termites may not even be noticeable for the first five years after their infestation. It is necessary to take the proper steps to protect your home from termites, and to rid your house of them immediately if they have already invaded your property. You must take a termite infestation problem seriously.