Simon : This is the D.I.Y. Termite Control Podcast. My name is Simon Strachan. I’m speaking with entomologist, textbook author, and inventor of the world’s first D.I.Y. termite control system for homeowners. And that’s Ion Staunton. And today, we start with a very serious topic. Termite damage in Australian homes is very real. Termite damage amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars in cost, annually. It causes untold amount of stress and sleepless nights for those unlucky enough to have to go through it. And many of us, I have to admit, I was one, have a “she’ll be right” attitude. We assume that these stories of termites causing five, ten, twenty, fifty thousand dollars worth of damage to homes. Well, that’s going to happen to some poor other bloke and, although I feel for him, “she’ll be right”. And anyway, even if it does happen to me, I’ve got insurance that will cover that. Haven’t I? Unfortunately, in 99% of cases it seems the answer is no, you haven’t. Ion, is this the case?

Homeowners dont have termite insurance

Ion: It is the case, absolutely no insurance: from household contents – no; from landlord insurance, for rental properties – no. However, there is a Professional Indemnity Insurance that the pest control professionals can offer. But there is a catch – you have to accept every part of their quotation, which could be many thousands of dollars and you must also have the, at least, annual inspection. Sometimes, twice annual inspection. And if you miss out on one of those inspections, your insurance policy is null and void and cannot be reinstated. So, I guess the answer is: no.

Simon: Okay, so there is protection with the professionals that comes at a cost. And as you said that cost is in the thousands of dollars to set up, and at a minimum of  a thousand a year to manage. Would that be fair to say?

Ion: That’s about the story, yes.

Simon: You’ve had thousands of customers over the years, just in termite trap itself. Have you come across some people who have had a nasty shock awakening when they realize that they’re not insured the way they thought they might have been?

Ion: Yes, there’s been that, and there have been other factors, too. A person had bought their house new from the builder, and they thought that the builder’s seven year warranty would cover it. And it doesn’t, because the builders they outsource the termite protection to a pest control company and the fine print in the pest control company’s thing says, among other things, you must have an annual inspection and if the first or the second year or whatever year they missed out on that inspection, it’s null and void. So, the people that thought that the builder’s warranty would cover it, it doesn’t. The other people that have talked to me about it and said something wrong along the lines of “But I thought that the standards or the building codes would make sure that I never had termites,” and of course that doesn’t either, because the Australian standard requires that an annual inspection be carried out to determine if termites have come over a barrier, around a barrier or across a barrier and if you haven’t had those inspections, there is no protection under the code. So, I’m afraid it’s up to the homeowner.

Simon: So, that’s where it comes down to, I mean. There are lots of very able professional bodies and professional contractors in companies out there that would be able to do a very good job of termite treatment and control and protection for homeowners, but they have to charge for that. They will charge for the ability to give you that protection. And as you said, it really is down to the homeowner, for us to really be in control of that process wherever we possibly can.

Professional indemnity insurance comes at a cost

Ion: Yeah. In essence, the Professional Indemnity Insurance provides any sort of timber replacements or any sort of warranty, providing the homeowner continues to use the same pest control and accepts all the provisions or all the proposals which, as we already talked about, could be six, seven thousand dollars. The Professional Indemnity Insurance will not cover you if you’ve missed out on anything. The fine print is there to give them an out, and they take it.

Simon: Yup.

Ion: So it really comes down to the homeowner, who must recognize that termites are a constant threat. Every year there’s colonizing flights that might take several years for a new nest to become a significant threat. But every year there is new colonizing flight, so, the new threat for this year will be backed up by another colony, perhaps next year, or the one after. So it is a constant threat for termites. So, the homeowner is responsible for that because you  just can’t subcontract this out unless you give it to a person who will charge – as we talked about – many thousands of dollars, and don’t miss an inspection.

Simon: Indeed. Okay. And, dear listener, there is a lot of topics that Ion’s talking about here. He’s written about, in detail, on the Termite Trap website, termitetrap.com.au. And if you’re not familiar with that website, do head over there, and do a little bit of your own research. There is an excellent sixteen page ‘how-to’ guide that you can download as a free pdf which will give you a very good understanding of what to do, yourself as a homeowner, and do a solid job of D.I.Y.-protecting your home, using some of the advice and the tools that Ion has created.

So, Ion, I’m going to move on here and I’m going to roll into some of the questions that we’ve received lately, and again, dear listener, this is questions that we received from customers of Termite Trap and also people that have come to us via Facebook and have downloaded Ion’s ‘how-to’ guide, so, I think I got four or five questions here. I better get cracking on them. And I will start with this one, and it is from Michael:

Nasutes termites in trees.

“Hi Ion, one question I have is how to deal with termites that are in a tree. I can see the mud tubes running up the outside of the tree, and they are active with termites in them. Can I tape a termite bait-pack under the tree, such that the opening in the pack is over the termite tunnel? Do I need to break the termite tunnel before applying the termite trap so the termites are encouraged to find the bait? Is there a better way of doing it? I’ve got two trees, in which this is occurring, and I can see a termite nest in the tree. Is it an option to destroy the nest? I don’t think it’s the only nest as termite tubes run higher into the tree. Anyway, thanks for an easy-to-use product. I’m getting activity in the traps and have started baiting”. Ion, Michael’s trees –

Ion: Okay, Michael’s trees are being infested by Nasutes termites. These are not a serious pest. Of course, if they started in your fence, they might be. But the Nasutes do not eat solid timber. The ones that are up in the tree, are leaf litter, and dead grass eaters. They come in on the outside of the tree and move around around the outside of the tree, to find leaf litter and dead grass, which they carry back up the tree to the queen, who lives in the nest up in the branches. So, there’s no need to break open the tunnel and put bait on it. They’re not a serious pest, anyway. You can just keep breaking the tunnels, if it gives you some satisfaction, and they’ll eventually leave. The nest might just starve off, because they can’t get any food, because Michael keeps breaking the tunnels all the time.You could, if you like, spray some insecticide on the outside of the tree, but again, that wouldn’t really make a lot of difference. If you wanted, if it’s within reach, you could get the net removed by an arborist. If it isn’t, make sure that your [laughter] insurance is covered. So, no, there’s no need to bait those termites.

Simon: Okay, good. Moving on: “Hi Ion, I have a question about termites in the garden, in old sleepers. My question is, can I spray around the area with Bifenthrin to kill them off?” – Ken.

Killing termites in sleepers with Bifenthrin

Ion: Yes and no. There are two types of termites that are often found in retaining walls and build sleepers used to build retaining walls. One of them is a plastering type of termite, which also, are a minor pest. And it makes a very, very thin fragile covering over a fair amount of the sleepers that are showing. And, yes, that might can be brushed off and the area could be sprayed. So, and then that would probably kill off that colony, because it probably doesn’t have a very big nest. And there’s pictures of that in our ‘how-to’ guide of that type of termite. They also are found quite often on fences. And, again, there’s a massive thin sheet of mud over the fence. And then, that can be sprayed. But the other termite which gets in behind retaining walls are the either of the two serious ones, the Coptos or the Stilos. And they would use the retaining walls for the very first male and female, when they have a colonizing flight, and they can get in behind that retaining wall, and they’ve got soil, and they’ve got food, and they’ve got some protection from birds and lizards, and so they get going. And so, if those sort of termites are in the retaining wall – sorry, let me start again. If there are termites that have not been putting a big shooting of mud over the outside, like, you see mud in the crevices, in the caps between the sleepers, then there’s two options here – you can fix a termite bait over the holes or into the sleepers, so they’re directly biting into the sleepers. Or, you can put Termite Traps above the sleepers on the ground above the sleepers. Either way, the scouts looking for the food are likely to find the traps, and then it’s very easy to add bait to the top of the traps, to control the colony that’s hiding in behind the retaining wall.

Simon: Got it. Okay. And, Ken, that’s actually how I came across Termite Trap in the beginning. We had termites in one of our sleepers in the garden, and I didn’t particularly like the look of them. I didn’t know a great deal about termites. I probably know considerably more about termites now than I did then, but we used Termite Traps to get rid of them. We put a couple of traps in and around the area. It took a little while, to, I remember, it took two or three months for them to move into the traps. And once they were baited, they managed to go through about two or three servings. Haven’t seen any since, so there’s your other option. There is the best option, as far as we’re concerned. Thank you for that, Ken.

Termites in wine barrels

Ion, the next one’s from Dale, and Dale writes thus: “I laid a bait on top of pavers adjacent to where termites were found in an unused wine barrel. Yet when discovered, they quickly retreated below the pavers. Upon calling your office, I was advised to bait the barrel and the surrounding pavers. This was some weeks ago. Can you please advise when it becomes okay to disturb the baits, to see if termites are gone and presumably dead, and thus stations on the back pavers can be removed? I’ve got plenty of stations at the house-level in the vicinity of this incident, and haven’t seen any evidence under the house through inspection. And also, do you anticipate much of the actual bait used will be gone?” ‘

Ion: Okay, I remember talking to Dale. He had the wine barrel, and he did move it, and found the termites in the staves of the wine barrel. It was actually ready for a plant potting, you know, the barrel was cut in half, ready to pot a plant. And because he had disturbed them, and he put it back and he called me. I said, “If you can find live termites in the wine barrel, eating again, then you bait them, and you can put some traps around and near the barrel, so that maybe, if they’re being disturbed form the barrel, they’ll come up the gap between the pavers in the same sort of area, and make it into the traps. I haven’t heard from him since until now, so it would seem that he may have found live termites in the barrel. And maybe I’m really wrong – maybe he hasn’t seen any since he’s put the bait around.

But the answer is, really – if there are no lives termites eating, he may as well remove the barrel and do whatever he needs to do with these pavers, and then after he’s done all that – put the traps back on the new pavers, or wherever he wants to put them around the house. Because if there’s no live termites now, there’s no point in leaving the bait there, because they’ve either gone, which means that the colony is still alive, so the scouts coming from that colony – the good chance is they’ll find the traps placed over the new pavers or wherever he’s going to put the traps. That way, then you start again with the baiting process, and the baiting process is much more reliably inclined to succeed, by feeding them into the traps, rather than into a continuous hole on the edge of the wine barrel.

Does termite bait lose its potency

Simon: Got it. Alright. Well talking about bait leads us quite neatly into the next question, which is about the bait, specifically. And, it’s from Michael: “If a type of colony – killer termite bait – has been opened, and water added, as directed, and placed in a position on a trap, after some time, it can dry out. Is it okay to add more water? And, does the bait lose its potency after it dries out? Or, are the active ingredients still good after it dries out and you add water?”

Ion: Yes, the active ingredient does last for a year or so. The only thing that it seems to cause a problem is if it all goes mouldy, with a black mould. But let’s not confuse the issue. Termites, generally speaking, don’t mind a bit of mould, but some of the black moulds are a bit co-opt to some termites, so, that’d be the only reason. But drawing it out is not a problem. If you think about it, when you add the water to it, the white powder turns into something like mashed potato. And it’s sort of continuous – all those particles are all bound together like mashed potato. When the water dries out, the particles are still bound together, but that’s just like wood. Except that it’s continuous, and the termite can get into it and pave through it and tunnel through it, and it doesn’t collapse on them. Being dry, it’s just like soft, pine timber, but even softer than that. And so they’re quite happy to eat it and there’s definitely no need to add water to it, because the water, or the adding of the water, is likely to disturb any termites that are wandering around inside, feeding. So, no, just leave it there. Of course, if there’s no termites left in the bait station, there’s no point in leaving the bait there, either. You might as well remove the bait, and get on with your life.

Simon: Very good. And If it’s unopened, this bait will last for ages, won’t it?

Ion: Yes, yes. There’s no expiry date on the bait itself. Without the water, the water is only a potentially complicated factor if it gets wet and goes mouldy with that black mould, and that depends on where you live and what sort of moulds are around at the time.

How long before termite damage can be repaired

Simon: Okay. Beauty. Alright, let’s roll through to our last question for today, and that is from Carl: “Hi Ion. We’ve had termite issues in our house for a few years now, and it seems we finally have them under control, thanks to the floor packs, and the pesticide from Termitrap. We have refilled the floor packets twice – a total of three small buckets worth, and now it seems there’s no more activity. My question is, how long, if the termites are of the Copto variety, before we can be confident that we can repair the damage? It’s probably been three months since there’s been any activity in the pockets, and it’s a real pain to start repairing the damage to find termite activity again.” I can bet that certainly would be. That’s from Carl. What do you recommend, Ion?

Ion: Well, yes, I think at three months he’s been very, very patient. Maybe his wife has been very, very patient, as well. Normally, we would suggest that after the check where you find that there’s no termites, we would suggest that leave another two or three weeks, just to make sure that on the day you did check, that it was not an off-day or a wet-day, or some other reason why the termites weren’t there that particular day. If, however, three weeks later, nothing has changed, there’s no more bait being gone, and it looks just exactly like it did two or three weeks ago, then you can assume that the colony is dead,. Pull it down, and as I said a moment ago, get on with your life. Oh, it just occurred to me – before you do that, you should probably make sure, by going around and checking all the screening, boards, window frames, door frames, all the interior mouldings, and have another good look around, to make sure that there’s no live termites in another section of the house. There is always the possibility – there are a lot of people that can’t wait to have a look and see how they’re going, and they keep looking at the bait every week or so, instead of waiting two or three weeks. And this could disturb the termites, who don’t like people watching while they’re eating. And so, if they leave that particular bait because it’s been disturbed too often, they may start eating in an adjoining window frame, or somewhere else in the same room or adjoining room. So, before you tear everything apart, make sure that there’s no live termites in another part of the building, and then, if there’s nothing there, then there’s nothing in the bait pouches. Take them down, begin your repairs, and away you go.

Simon: That’s brilliant. Ion, excellent advice, as ever. Dear listener, if you have a question that is coming to mind, as we’re going through these, feel free to shoot it through to us. You can contact us through the website at termitetrap.com.au. You can just email us at podcast@termitetrap.com.au, or in any other fashion that works for you. You can ring the 1800 number. And while you’re over at that site, do grab Ion’s sixteen-page ‘how-to’ guide. It’s filled with all sorts of good information. It’s an easy read, and you’d get through it in a few minutes over a cup of tea and a lamington. Ion, that’s great. Thank you very much. I might leave that one here today, and we’ll get that produced and out there in the greater world, and I’ll look forward to our next chat!

Ion: Yes, indeed. Cheers!

Simon: Have a great day. Bye bye.

Ion: Thank you. Bye!