There are only a few damaging termite species.
Let’s get right down to it: drywood termites, mound building termites, grass-, leaf litter- and rotten wood-eating termites do less than 1% of the damage to Australian homes. The 99%+ is the result of a couple of species of Coptotermes, a couple of species of Schedorhinotermes and Mastotermes the giant northern termite.
How are you going to pronounce, let alone remember those names? Let’s do what technicians do… call them Coptos, Schedos (pronounced Shed-o s) and Mastos.
Mastos live mostly north of the Tropic of Capricorn — Rockhampton across to Exmouth — and they are 13-16 mm long. Geography and size helps you recognise or eliminate Mastos as your problem. That leave you with Coptos and Schedos as your main threat because they are found all over the continent and they eat solid wood.
Termites have spent millions of years eating Australian hardwood trees. Settlers used this timber for framing and flooring since the First Fleet years ago. When oregon, baltic pine and later radiata pine and other plantation pines became widely used, our termite trio thanked us very much, often building tunnels over these hardwoods to get to the soft, easier to harvest timbers rather than sticking with the hard stuff.
There are termite colonizing flights every year; some are successfully established. Which means there is continual threat.
Even inner city suburbs and yes the CBD have constant termite challenges. How come prehistoric insects are still doing what they’ve always done in the hubs of civilization? One might expect insects with the mobility of cockroaches can adapt and survive in a concrete jungle — but termites?
Your termite risk is really based on geography
The chance of your home being attacked by termites If you live in Tasmania, you’re probably not reading this and there’s no need to.
For the rest of Australia, the only part of the mainland that is rated by the CSIRO as Low to Very Low is the narrow strip along the Great Ocean Road west of Termite Control – CSIRO Hazard Map Melbourne.
Which means the rest of us are in Moderate to High to Very High risk areas.
Another way to put it is that there is a better than 80% chance your home is within 50 metres of a termite colony.
A few years ago, a CSIRO survey reported 32% of homes had a termite presence. This was been confirmed by the Institute of Australian Architects whose survey in essence said: of all the homes inspected prior to sale last year, one third had some termite damage.
Here’s another significant statistic: less than 20% of homes are inspected or serviced by the professional pest control industry. That means more than 80% of us are blithely believing: “it won’t happen to me”.
If 1 in 3 homes are damaged and yours is one of the other 2… shouldn’t you make a little effort and spend just a few dollars to keep it that way?
The damage bill.
The Archicentre website once featured a report that said the annual damage bill to homes was about $1billion. The average cost of professional treatment was around $3000 and the cost of repairs was around $5000… Total $8000. One homeowner I know well, refinanced his home to pay a $70,000 bill.
Sure, the kitchen was one area that had to be completely rebuilt so he went the extra and put in new, more modern appliances at extra cost.
Extrapolating to 2014, the average bill is now probably above $100,000.
Apart from the treatment and repairs, there is also the loss of resale value to be considered. If the prospective buyer receives a report of termite presence or even previous damage, they could easily lose all interest in proceeding — or offer you maybe $50,000 less.
Then, on top of all this, how do you put a cost on the inconvenience and the heartache?
It’s your home; it’s your job to control ‘your’ termites.
The message is plain. Unless you live in Tasmania, you should be concerned about subterranean termites.
Your termite risk based on type of construction
Inner-city tenement style houses have common walls, often common roofs and usually a suspended wooden floor, often very low to the ground.
You’d think that with all the bitumen, concrete and pavers covering the ground in these crowded suburbs there would be no place for the flying colonisers to find a bit of wood in soil to start up.
But they do. And, because the houses adjoin, termites may enter your home from a nest that entered a house a few doors up the street. The same goes for more modern townhouses sharing walls and roofs even though they may be on concrete slab floors.
Homesteads/ Queenslanders may have plenty of space underneath their suspended wooden floors and the piers/stumps with antcaps give you a good chance to observe termite tunnels heading up to the floor.
The temptation for us humans is to stack all sorts of stuff under these houses which often gives termites something to eat at ground level and some cover for tracks heading upwards.
Rural homes are constructed of all styles but property owners have added threats: they have more sheds, cattle or sheep pens and ramps, wooden bridges, timber that ‘will come in handy one day’ etc.
Suburban suspended floor houses are the type which are usually set on the so-called ‘quarter acre block’, with brick piers and foundation walls supporting bearers, joists and flooring boards.
The walls may be double brick, brick veneer, weatherboard, fibro or other cladding and a timber framed roof.
If you crawled under to inspect every year, termite tunnels would be found and treatment applied before much damage was done.
Concrete slab on ground houses began in the early 1960s.
They were cheaper to build and builders paid for physical and chemical termite barriers which lulled many homeowners into a false sense of termite invincibility.
Now, re emphasising that only about 20% of homeowners get their homes inspected, therefore 80% of homes are just sitting there waiting for termites to attack, usually from out of the garden, straight in through a weep hole just above the damp course with disastrous consequences to your finances.
Multi-storey apartments are also attacked but termite defense is usually delegated to a Body Corporate.The BC then delegates the inspection and control to a professional pest management company.
I hope for your sake the company they chose are PestCert accredited… they have reached and are maintaining the highest formal level in pest management.