This weeks podcast answers some of the questions we’ve been getting from readers of our How to Guide.

Specifically:

1:20: Paul from the Gold Coast in Queensland: What should I do to get rid of the termites which are in sleepers?

6:50 Ross from WA – Are termites slowing in the heat of the day?

8:20 John from Buderim in Qld – How to I find where termites entered a property?

10:20 Grant: Does termite bait in contact with the earth loses its effectiveness?

12:30 Terry-Lynn in WA – “I’d like to know if the termites will build their nest in the walls or do they go underground”

16:20 Ken: How do you reduce termite interest in your home?

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Transcript:

SS: Welcome to this episode of the DIY Termite Control Podcast. My name is Simon Strachan. I’m speaking with Ion Staunton. Ion is an entomologist. He is a former trainer of Pest Technicians here in Australia. He’s a textbook author. He has probably seen more termite infestations than I’ve had hot dinners. He’s also the developer of a DIY termite baiting and control system – and you can learn more about that at termitetrap.com.au. G’day, Ion.

IS: G’day, How are you doing today?

SS: I’m doing very well. Thank you. So dear listeners, today’s episode is a Q&A session. These are questions that we have received from readers of Ion’s free how to guide and if you’d like a copy of that – it’s only 16 pages long. It has heaps of no nonsense practical tips and advice in there, lots of friendly illustrations. You can head on over to termitetrap.com.au/htg and you can grab your free copy there. So Ion, I’m just going to get straight on into it. We’ve got about half a dozen questions that have come through to us and I’m going to start with Paul from the Gold Coast in Queensland 1:20 Paul says this, “We’ve been replacing our plain internal doors throughout the house with panel doors. Last week, I stacked several of the old internal doors against the deteriorating sleeper wall. When I came back a week later to take the doors up to the tip, I noticed mud tunnels running up the sleeper and into the cracks in the sleepers. Trying not to disturb things too much, I scraped away some of the sleeper and find live but very small termites in the sleepers. There were no termites in the doors. I think perhaps the doors provided temporary cover or protection for the termites to build their mud tunnels. Also, there were more black ends around the normal. I intend to replace the sleeper walls with H4 new sleepers in the next four weeks. So my questions are, what should I do to get rid of the termites? Is replacing the old sleepers with new sleepers sufficient? Number two, what methods would you advice for poisoning the termites before I place the new wall? “ There’s another question, but let’s address those couple first, Ion.

IS: Okay. Well no, you shouldn’t just replace the sleepers because the termite pest is behind the sleepers in the soil, and therefore just tearing that out and replacing it with new sleepers even though they’re H4 which means the preservative level that is resistant to termites but the termite colony is still there. We know that that’s pretty close to his house so there’s a good chance that they could get from their current nest into the house. So you do need to do something differently.

The poisoning the termites in behind the sleepers is one of two ways. You can use a lot of insecticide which I’m talking about 1000 litres or depends how long this retaining wall is, but there is a lot of insecticide or alternatively they could be baited before you remove the old sleepers. By having baited to the activity within the sleepers, the termites eating the sleepers themselves will actually tie the stuff back to their nest behind the wall, somewhere there, underground, and that will kill that colony.

However, he said they are very small termites. Now small is a relative term and it’s a bit hard to know which species of termites is on the Gold Coast. There are the two main serious types of termites, but there’s a couple of nuisance ones that just generally eat the fungus on timber, but don’t do really lot of damage to them.

So it will be a good idea if you could get samples and use our ID service or send them in and that way we can identify the particular termite and give you a better idea of what to do about it.

SS: Sounds good. You referred to there as you might need to use 1000 litres of insecticide. That’s an enormous amount of juice to have to spread around. It’s probably very nasty stuff, is it?

IS: It’s nasty to termites. It’s not that good for human beings, but it’s not that dangerous either. It’s a low volatile material so it’s not bad.

SS: But if there are safe alternatives, you’re better to go that way?

IS: Yes, yes. It’s better.

SS: Okay. The third part of his question has actually been answered. He says, “The retaining wall is only 2 metres away from the house. Now I feel some concern that termites may have made their way into our house.” So, he’s right to be concerned about that, isn’t he?

IS: Yes, he certainly is. He should inspect his house. The termites may be in there and they may already be doing some damage to mouldings inside that he can find easily by tapping with a head of a screwdriver, tapping and listening to hollow sounds that he might find in skirting boards, window frames, door architraves all those things that are easily filing dust. If there is a hollow sound, then you investigate it.

All that information is on our website of how to make a little hole and then put bait outside of that hole and then they do the baiting and take it back to the colony to kill the nest. So yes, he should inspect his house and yes he should be concerned. It sounds like a sales spiel. I suppose it is. He probably should have some of our termite traps around these properties so that it gives something easy to find while they are still outside.

SS: So there are a couple of things there. If you found insects in and around the garden or in garden mulch or in your home that you think are termites, Ion has a free termite identification service and you can find details of that on his website.

Also when you receive your free how to guide from Ion, there is a part of that – a section on how to do a home inspection as well. So let’s move onto the next question. This is from Ross.

Ross is saying, “We have found where it’s dry and hot inland in Western Australia, during the summer, the baits tend to be left and dry out. Even after there has been some evidence of activity, the ants are still active in shaded areas nor exposed to the direct sun and wind as in the scenery suggestions.”

IS: Okay. This is just the same for the timber. Termites like to live in an environment of something like about around 30 degrees. But it could be a bit cooler and the humidity they can control preferably up around the 80%. In the hot, dry and inland Western Australia, there is precious little of that around so what they do is they will feed often during the nighttime and not so much when it’s hot.

So therefore, he’s had our bait and its dried out . But that’s okay because the termites are used to eating dried timber which is even harder, more effort to harvest timber than it is to harvest our bait. But if it’s too hot there, they just won’t go there when their set bait. But as he said, around the shaded sides when it’s not exposed to the direct sun and the wind, the termites just get busy that would be in timber and in their baits.

SS: Okay, got it. Ross, I hope that clears that one up.

Now Ion, the next question is from John. John says, “I’m currently using your termite baiting system, but I cannot locate where exactly termites enter the building in the first place. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might go about locating the point of entry?” That’s from John up in the beautiful sunshine coast in Buderim in Queensland.

IS: Well, John, it’s a problem for professional pest controllers of many years standing. You can’t always find where the termites got in. Sometimes, you’re lucky you can see or find out but in many cases you can’t. This is especially so on buildings which have a solid concrete slab floor. If there’s an expansion joint between an addition or if there’s a crack in the concrete for some reason rather, then the termites can get through that. You won’t know about it. They will be up somewhere through that crack. They will begin to way bottom plate of a wall. From there of course, all the pieces of timber in a house join up. So they can go from the bottom plate, up through the stump, up into the roof and across to the window frames, door frames. As I said, it all joins up. How they get in and where they get in is very difficult to pin down, but it’s not necessary.

You’re using our baiting system and the termites know their way in and they also know their way home again so if you are actually baiting inside and you’re not actually saying that, but if you are, the termites are harvesting that bait and taking it back to the nest wherever it is and the point of entry is not that important.

SS: Got it. So we’ve found out that they’ve made their way in, what we’re going to do is just make sure that they make their way out, kill the nest, kill the colony, and they’ll make their way in again.

IS: Well, I know they could make their way in again because they dead. The colonies dead.

SS: They will find it very difficult to make their way in again. Okay.

The next one is from is Grant. Grant says this, “Hi, Ion, I want to know if termite bait in contact with the earth loses its effectiveness? Reason is I have been baiting a colony chewing on a stump in my yard for 9 weeks. I placed the bait under the stump. It reduces in size and I’m adding more bait weekly. The number of termites seems to be the same to date. Recently, I placed a foil under the bait with a hole for them to pass through.”

IS: Grant, the termite bait doesn’t lose effectiveness in contact with the earth. The chemical unit is quite stable and it doesn’t lose its power or ability to kill the colony, but the problem we’re trying to bait where the stump is that the termites are already eating wood in the stump and they may not be all that interested in something that’s only a few inches or centimeters away from them. It’s much easier and much faster and lesser costly to buy some Permethrin insecticide or concentrate which is one of the most safe insecticides that homeowners can buy which is effective and to actually make some holes in the stump or break it open a bit and pour the Permethrin down into the stump. That will kill the colony in 5 or 10 minutes and you don’t have to worry about the baiting.

SS: Okay. As you’re listening to Ion, if questions come to mind that you’d like to ask, feel free to send them through to us. We’d love to hear from you. You can send them through on the form. They will be on the website page wherever you’ve found this podcast. You can also email them through to podcast@termitetrap.com.au. If you found this recording somewhere out in the internet and you like what you hear, you can subscribe to it on iTunes and you can also just listen to it under our website as well. On the website pages, there is normally a transcript of everything that we talk about there.

So Ion, I’ve got another question here and this question is from Teri-Lyn.

Teri-Lyn says, “Hi, I’d like to know if the termites will build their nest in the walls or do they go underground. We live in the Southwest of Western Australia on a bush block. I’ve had a terrible plague of termites 18 months ago and I’m paranoid they’re still in the house even though the green bricks around the house show no activity. Thank goodness we built in steel frame. It took 5 months before the activity inside subsided using your system.” So the question there is, do they live in the walls or do they always go underground?

IS: Okay. Well in Southwest Western Australia, there’s two main pest species of termites. They’re both there and one of them is the Schedos, the Schedorhinotermes.

Feeding them is a long-term process. Six months is not out of the question and sometimes it’s longer especially if that 6 months is over winter. Yes, it can take a while for that to happen.

Answer to your question about the nesting the walls, usually it’s not a nest. What happens is the termites have come out of the ground and they found their way into the building and their tunnel goes on back to the nest from outside the building. But inside where the termites are busy eating timber in the roof for instance, it’s hot and it’s dry and they need the re-hydration so that they don’t dry up before they get all these food that they’ve harvested back to the nest.

Quite often, termites will build this sort of mud mass between the studs in the wall. Everybody calls it a nest but it’s not really a nest unless it’s got a queen in it. You did say you built it in steel frame. This is outside the question a bit, but even steel frame houses sometimes have timber inside. Not very much, but sometimes there is. Quite often, it might only be the little small smooth inch around the edge where you hold the carpet down and it’s attached to the floor but they’ll be known to eat that ply smooth edge. Sometimes, people put timber moldings in their house just for pure sight, and termites some way or another seem to find that and they do and they eat it. So even steel frame houses are not entirely outside the jurisdiction of whatever termite wants to get to.

SS: Okay. This is also slightly off topic of Terry-Lynn’s question but she is down on the Southwest of Western Australia which is not too far away from where I am and one thing I was thinking about a couple of days ago at this time of the year where currently it’s just moving into June into the cold and wet – well, relatively cold and wet, season of Western Australia, does termite activity slow at all in the wetter, cooler months?

IS: Yes, it does. That’s why I said the termites that are slow eaters and take a long time, they actually slow down even more in the cold wet period of the year and that’s why it takes longer. Certainly, as I said earlier in this podcast, they like the temperature of getting up around 30 degrees and 80% humidity. If the ambient temperature is around 22 and 3 which isn’t all that cold but if that’s all it gets to, they are going to slow down.

SS: Now into our final question here. It is from Ken, Ion, and Ken has a very succinct question. His question is, “Reducing termite interest in your home.” So what I think he’s asking there is, what’s the best way to reduce termite interest in your home if in fact you can?

IS: Well, termites are always looking for food sources and they don’t get into your house because there is a piece of wood that leads into your house – they get into your house because they find a gap and they find some reason to investigate. Even if they don’t have a reason, they still investigate. But if on investigation, they get inside and they find timber in there, then they might get little tunnels to that timber from way outside the house.

So they are always looking for food. One way you can reduce their interest in your home is to give them interest in something else. That’s one of the reasons we designed the termite traps. These are plastic boxes, brick shape, containing a timber that termites like and if you put those around your house, they don’t encourage termites to come looking. The termites, if they are in the vicinity, are already looking but they’re more likely to find one or several of the termite traps around the house before they find their way inside. If you kill that colony that found it, then you replenish the timber and put back again. Over the next 10 or 20 years, you just keep doing that for any new colonies that are investigating. Sure, you can do other things. You can make sure you don’t have any stack timber or other wooden garden furniture or wooden steps that are not treated or all those sorts of things around your building. So reduce the food. I suppose termites are more likely to be interested in more soil than so on the Southern side of your house which is away from the hot sun. This soil is a little more adept and so that’s where termites are more likely to be investigating or looking for food because they want to live in an area that’s at least a walkout start for them. That’s important not to have any attractive timber, furniture, or stumps or whatever else around that side of the house. That word ‘stumps’ reminds me that trees are also very important to termites so if you have a whole old tree, this is a mature tree that might have a hole around the middle of it, it might almost be certain to say that there would be a termite colony in it. If you have any hole on trees, they should be drilled and they should be flooded with the Permethrin insecticide which is not toxic to human beings and it will work quite satisfactorily to protect the inside of that tree for the next 10 years probably. Permethrin would last. So that’s the basic things. Just don’t give them anything to go on and reduce the incidence of timber around the house and treat any of your trees which may be hollow. By the way, the Permethrin does not affect or kill the tree. It has no effect on living trees.

SS: Just on one of your tips on termite sheets – that is sent out to subscribers, I remember there was a mention there of termites tucking into paper and magazines and so forth. You made reference to the fact that they don’t mind tucking into a box of tax records. Now we know for example that the tax commissioner doesn’t have a sense of humour, I think this has been proven many times, it’s very worthwhile keeping in mind that the cellulose that’s in paper, termites aren’t going to look at them any differently to normal cellulose, are they?

IS: No, they’re not. Yes, that’s good memory. Quite often, old magazines or tax records or books that you’re not going to read anymore, people often put them in cardboard cartons and stick them in the garage or the shade. Now, if there is an expansion joint in the shade and they come up through the concrete expansion joint which might have a gap of anything over 3 mm, the termites will perhaps get into the bottom of the cardboard carton and eat away and clean it right out so there’s virtually nothing to read when you go take the box out. It all falls apart in your hands.

SS: Incredible.

IS: Yes and it looks really quite good up until you touch it.

SS: There you go. Cunning little critters.

IS: Yes.

SS: On that one, we might call it a show for the day, Ion, unless there’s other things that you like to add.

IS: No. I think we’ll keep taking questions and they’re all good questions and we’ll do it again.

SS: Excellent. They are very good questions. If you have a question for Ion that you’d like him to go through on our next episode, just send those through to podcast@termitetrap.com.au. There’s also a form on the page on termitetrap.com.au where you can submit your question. We would love to hear any questions that you have. Thank you for listening. Ion, thank you for all that information, and I will catch you next week.

IS: Yes, indeed. Thanks, Simon.