This is a recording of our first podcast and addresses some of the many questions that Ion gets asked.
Here are some of the highlights:
02:10 The 2 major termites in Australia and where they are found.
07:30 How to get the termites you have found identified
08:30 Why sprays don’t solve the problem
10:25 The most important thing to do when you find termites in your home
12:06 What proves that termite baiting is effective
16:37 What government regulations surround termite bait
20.30 Question from Peter: Does diesel and sump oil poured around the house act as a barrier
23:51 Question from Alan: If you have termites, baited them, how do you know if you’ve knocked them off?
25:59 Question from Russell: How do you estimate the optimum number of bait stations for around the house.
Got a question for the next episode? Just fill in the form below and Ion will answer it!
SS: Welcome to the first episode of the DIY termite control podcast
My name’s Simon Strachan and I’m speaking with Ion Staunton.
Ion is an entomologist, former trainer of pest technicians here in Australia – and he’s a textbook author with over 40 years experience in pest control – and more specifically for our purposes today – termite control.
He’s also the developer of a DIY termite baiting and control system – and you can learn about details of that at termitetrap.com.au
IS: Well hello Simon. This is pretty exciting – I think we’ll be able to get some great material out there.
SS: This podcast has two sections to it. Firstly – Ion and I are going to discuss topics of termite control – and it’s our goal to help you feel confident that you can do a job yourself – as well or better than many professional pest controllers – and you’ll save money in the process – potentially a lot of money.
Then we’re going to have a Q&A session – and these are questions that have been sent to us by customers of TermiteTrap and readers of Ion’s free termite control How To Guide. And if you’d like a copy of this free guide – go over to termitetrap.com.au/htg and get your free copy there.
So let’s get started.
SS: I’m in WA and Ion is in Queensland – but although we both live at opposite ends of a very large country, we still face with the very similar threats of termites. And the threat is very real, isn’t it Ion? Although we don’t hear it often in the media, termite damage is happening all over across Australia and this is an ongoing problem for many people isn’t it?
IS: Sure is, and strangely enough or maybe not so strange, 2 major termites in Australia are found all over the country, the only place that they’re not found in Australia is Tasmania and very thin strip along road Great Ocean Road down in Victoria where the Arctic winds blow.
So yes the CSIRO put out a map which shows the termite hazard area and it shows that most of Australia is in the very high risk or moderate risk. There’s very little low risk and that is the Tasmania and and little bit of Great Ocean Road, so its a big problem.
SS: So unless you’re living in Tassie or down by the Arctic, which it doesn’t mean a lot of areas in Australia it is really something that should be front of mind, isn’t it?
IS: Oh yes, there is some conversation at a pest control conference a few years ago about how far away from termite most of the houses would be. The thought was that there is a termite nest within about 50 meters of 80% of the homes in the country. Well even if its not quite true that’s a lot of homes and a lot of places where termites are.
SS: Absolutely, and we don’t always hear the horror stories in the media, but over the years you must have heard some pretty nasty horror stories around termites and around termite invasion .
IS: Well it’s a matter of degree. Every termite to someone who’s never had termites before. . . that’s a horror, and if they found it in a standing board or window frame in their house they are horror stories. If the door is falling off and the window doesn’t open, the termites are everywhere that’s even more horror for them. Back in the years termites are still evoke that feeling of horror.
SS: Let’s get down to some of the specifics. Are all termites the same? And are all of them are threats?
IS: Well they are all social insects. They all live together and there are about 300 odd species. There is about 2 main genre the Coptotermes and Schedotermes. They are the main ones that do a high percentage of damage to homes in Australia. The other ones are, many of them – just leaf litter eaters and everybody’s probably seen pictures of termite mounds in up in the Northern territory – the pipes in North and South. They are leaf letter eaters and don’t eat solid timber. So yes it’s not all bad news. But the ones that do the damage, as I said earlier are all over most of Australia and they have a set of instincts which helps us to beat them but most of this ones they either live in low ground level or in a hollowed tree.
Mound building termites, not too many people would put up of having a mound in their front yard. Mound building termites whether they are serious or not you just destroy the mound so they are not really major threat. It’s easy to get them out with a crowbar and let birds and lizards get through them just finish it out. The 2 ones that are a problem are pretty secretive so they have their nest in the ground or in an old hollowed tree and from there they send out scouts looking for the food. They just keep looking for new food sources and while they are out looking they find bits of wood, fences, fence post, houses, did I say houses? Thats pretty important.
SS: So they don’t discriminate between the block of wood in the garden and the block of wood that’s connected to your house or shed?
IS: Well the block of wood can be well and truly inside the house. They will find the way up the foundations or through weep holes into where the wood is in the house. The wood is nowhere near the soil, but they found it.
SS: Ok, If a homeowner has found what they think are termites, or if you are listening and you’ve found what you think are termites, you’ll find information over on Ions website termitetrap.com.au that will help you identify what they are and if they are in fact a threat (of the couple of species Ion referring to there) that do the majority of the damage, and Ion also has a free identification service where you can actually send through a picture of what you found and he will if he can (in 90% of cases he can) identify what you are dealing with so you might be interested in taking that up as well.
So many homeowners might think that if they come across termites and they uncover them then maybe they can spray them, kill the termites and that solves the problem. But that’s not really the case is it?
Because as you’ve said termites do, in fact, live in nests underground, possibly quite some distance from where the homeowners found it.
IS: If you found termites you really want to kill them.
However if you let them keep feeding inside the house just for more week or several – then we can get them to take bait back to the nest so that kills the whole nest, if you decide to just tear away the window frame and spray everything, you’ll kill a lot of termites buy it doesn’t solve the problem with the nest which may have a hundred, two hundred, three hundred thousand termites in there and you might have killed maybe a thousand.
But the queen is laying eggs at about a thousand a day, so lets just leave the damaged area to itself. So they might just go to another room, different floor or different window.
SS: So your system of baiting relies on aggregating termites so they can take a toxicant or bait back to the nest and kill it so you are saying that this is the best method for homeowners to use.
IS: Yes. Effective pest controllers have used this for over 15 years, and it’s successful. They wouldn’t use if it wasn’t. What happens when you’re aggregating termites is that you get a lot of workers coming in to the wood, chewing the wood and taking the wood back to the nest where the nymphs are growing up and they eat food and the King and the Queen are there and they don’t get out anymore and they eat food.
So that’s what they do. When you find termites into your home you try to let them keep going because they are busy, they are happy and if you come out with bait to the upside of the window frame for instance and make them come out of that wood into the bait and take the bait back to the nest and that kills the colony, and that’s one part of the story.
But if you don’t have termites in the house and you want to defend your home by putting monitors around your home with the timber and again the CSIRO come to the party and say that the Tassie Oak is the most attractive timber for the termites and so therefore almost all baiting stations used by pest controllers is based on using the Tassie Oak. So when the termites found this in your monitor, you are aggregating them, you have thousands and thousands of termites on a conveyor. They are coming and going and if you give them a bait which is more palatable without having to chew a wood and they start taking that back then that’s the way the thing works.
SS: So pest controllers don’t, apparently, offer this system for homeowners to use. So if the system of baiting is so good, why don’t they?
IS: Well they are service companies. They make their money providing a service and so they don’t normally involve the customer. For whatever reason maybe homeowners think, ‘I’m not going to risk my house for the sake of saving a dollar so they call in the pest controller.’
SS: Surely the whole success of a monitoring program and thereby in removing the termites is depending on where the monitors are placed.
IS: Yes. If you put monitors where termites can find them then obviously that’s the first part of the process. When they do find them, chances are they will find a way into your house. And then you’ll kill the colony before they take your house.
SS: You touched on this briefly before. If the termites have already found the tasty stump or log or fence or shed why would they want more wood or why would they be interested in the bait?
IS: This is an evolution survival instinct. If you go back and imagine the prehistoric times when termites were getting started and plants are growing and woody plants being kind to termites, the wood is above the ground and the termites learn to eat all the wood or dead wood, stumps and of course when the tree is up on the forest the termites start eating it or if the tree falls out and still above the ground as a log and may start eating it. Then guess what? When a flood comes through and washes the stump of wood or the branch away that colony doesn’t have anything to eat. Those that have survived look for food in many different sources.
SS: That make sense so the system of baiting sounds very effective, is there any evidence that you have to back this up
IS: Yes, the pest controls have been using the process for 15 years or more since this baits came out.
In order to get a bait registered it has to go through the EPA in America, the APVMA in Australia which is in Canberra. And they require efficacy data and safety and toxicity data so you don’t get product registered unless it is proven to work and you don’t get registered unless its proven used the way label requires.
So yes it does work. And I guess we can also back this up to what I mentioned about being on top of the ground.
We put monitors in the ground near wood where there is plenty of termites. We put monitors above the ground in designated areas and I find that the ones that are on the ground were found before any of the ones in the ground. The ones above the ground were found before any of the underground.
Then a paper written back in 1979 by a fellow in Arizona in America, has a similar story.
SS: The listener can go over to termitetrap.com.au and have a look at the products there. Ions DIY system is actually the only one that uses above ground monitors for that very reason.
IS: We better push on with the questions. You can head to termitetrap.com.au and just use the contact form there or you can send us an email through at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d love to hear from you, Ion would do his level best to answer any questions that you have, so lets get on to our first question.
Our first Question is from Peter:
Does a mixture of diesel and sump oil poured around the perimeter of a building would work against termites, and how long would it last? As far as I can tell, Termite companies rely on ignorance and fear to make their money, but on that score you are on your own. You’re a good bloke, How is he going to answer on this one?
IS Answer: Pouring oil around the building that might be an effective barrier and yes it probably lasts for 3 months, but that’s not a long time. And you wouldn’t want that expense or the hazard for just for a few months of effectiveness
SS: Fair enough
Next is from Russell
I am interested to know how to estimate the optimum number of bail stations for a house. I presume that if there are too few, there is a risk that the termites will get to the house before they find the bait stations. Do you have any reports from your users about this, where termites have got to the house but not found bait stations?
I have a house at McCrae in Victoria on 1.5 acres – it has had termite damage before, and there are active termites in the garden now. The house is all timber (100years old) about 12mx12m square. How far apart would I put the bait stations around the perimeter of the building?
IS: Ok in order to get this product registered the authorities in Canberra agreed that they should be placed in 3 to 5 metres apart.
So in essence and logically the more you put around the more chances you have to find the termite and the termites to find the bait stations.
So yes you put probably 3 metres apart so the more you put around the better it is. The second part of the question does the termite get into the house when not found the bait station?
Well yes that does happen but sometimes the termites have been in the house before the bait stations were there but people didn’t know about it.
Because termites are pretty secretive, once they get into the house, they just eat away for a while, nobody gets to see it, then you put termite baits around the place. . . the termites have already found the house and they are eating a lot of wood and may not show themselves in any of the bait station before you find them in the window sill. So people are tending to blame the bait stations for not being effective but all the time the termites were in there before the bait stations were put around and its pretty hard to tell on how long the termites have been in the house.
You just can’t tell by can’t by damaged timber in a window sill, you wouldn’t know if termites have been there within the last week, month, 10 years or 30 years .
SS: Or in this gentleman’s case it could have been 80 yrs ago that’s they started the termite work
IS: If the termites have been in the house or if being treated somewhere out there by the pest controller or the baiting program yourself and you’ve killed that colony, there’s nothing to stop another colony from finding their way into the house.
And let me just describe what happened and how termite colonies get going.
On warm summer evenings, the temperature outside is probably close to 30 degree and 90% humidity which guess what. . . about what it is inside where the termites are working. So it’s not such a shock for these teenagers to launch themselves late – so that takes care of a lot of the birds and the ants – so thousands of them erupt from the nest and they float off. And when they land they break off their wings and boy follow girl until they find a place where they could perhaps build a nest. This is a long way of saying, most of them will not be successful but those that do will be working away for the next 5 years to the stage where they become a significant threat to our house.
So you knock off the first nest and there might be another one that’s 3 or 4 yrs old that’s getting up to significant stage and it would be quite interested into your house and if they can find a way in before a finds a termite trap. That’s why you have termite traps and monitors around your house, 3 metres apart giving plenty of opportunity before they find a house.
SS: So even if your being successful in the baiting program and on the basis of the fact that the termites have stopped eating your bait you can happily say that a nest has being knocked off, it pays to remain vigilant because they will return.
On that note maybe we could say that we will return and I’d like to invite any of the listeners to please email through any questions that they have. As you can tell Ion is a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area and I haven’t come across any questions that he hasn’t been able to answer yet. Feel free to send to any questions and we will happily run that through next week’s episode. Ion thank you very much, and just for the listener there will be transcript of everything we been talking about here on the website at termitetrap.com.au and send your questions to podcast@ and while your over Termitetrap you could have a look at Ion’s DIY termite control system there – the system of traps and baits that he is referring to and we have instructional videos about how all that works and the free how to guide as well. So take advantage of all those resources because a DIY system that Ion is talking about here can save you a lot of money and you can do a job as well or many cases better than many professional pest controllers. So Ion thanks for that for that and lets chat next week sure we’ll have suite of new questions to run through.
IS: Ok Thank so much and that work pretty well and I’d like to tell few stories on what has happened in the people sending us stuff to our ID service and how we help people in strange places and strange situations.
SS: Sounds good. Thanks Ion