The Definitive Guide to Termite Detection, Treatment and Prevention in Australia

Why is it that we need a definitive guide to termite detection, treatment and prevention?

There have been many many blog posts and pieces of content created on the internet which claim to be able to help people in their search for the answers to their termites woes. This resource will allow you to educate yourself  on the issue that you are facing and make an educated choice as to what action you will take. There are many various termite treatment methods and just as many pest controllers giving their opinion on what is best for you. As much as possible we will arm you so that you can independently make that choice. This guide was started in November 2021 and will continue to grow over time.

Lets start with some standards!

A good starting point will be to recognise that every home built in Australia after the late 1970’s will have been required, generally by council, to have had some termite protection carried out to a particular standard. That standard also applies to any renovation or additions. There are also individual standards that apply to homes having work carried out on them post construction, including termite inspections as well as a seperate standard for prior to purchase timber pest inspections. There is also a standard that sets out the rules that manufacturers need to conform to when registering new products.

 

The Current Australian Standards for Termite Control and Inspection

 

  • AS 3660.1 2017 Termite management Part 1: New building work
  • AS 3660.2 2017 Termite management In and around existing buildings and structures
  • AS 3660.3 2020 Termite management Assessment criteria for termite management systems
  • AS 4349.3 2010 Inspection of buildings Timber pest inspections

All of the standards can be purchased here. Throughout The Definitive Guide To Termite Detection, Treatment and Prevention in Australia wherever we mention standards it will generally be one of the above, identified for brevity eg AS 3660.1 unless specifically stated otherwise. There are several other standards and codes that also apply.

These Standards can be a little confronting and confusing unless you are used to terminology and concepts used in other parts of what is  considered to be a building standard. Mostly the standards are for the guidance of the Pest Management Professional but homeowners and building managers can benefit from understanding them.

 

Termite Detection

Often a homeowners introduction to termites is through an unwanted interaction, like a vacuum cleaner head breaking through a skirting board or children’s “roughhouse” play leading to a ball, toy or occasionally a child, pushing its way through a wall, door or other usually solid object. Termites are an insidious pest, working underground and inside their food source, silently (hear what they sound like here) eating people out of house and home.

Generally the detection of termites can be broken down into six different types of process.

  • Termite Inspection
  • Timber Pest Inspection
  • Invasive Inspection
  • Special purpose inspection
  • Monitoring Systems
  • Specific Device Inspection
A Nemesis Termite Monitoring Station with Termite Mudding
Termite monitoring timbers in situ
termite monitoring timbers in a station with termite mudding and some termites.
Termite monitoring timbers freshly placed in a termite monitoring station

Termite Inspection

A termite inspection is quite a specific service which AS 3660.2 sets out in its pages. The termite inspection is a different service to a Timber pest Inspection which is set out in AS 4349.3.

The basic difference is that a timber pest inspection carried out to AS 4349.3 is a prior to purchase inspection and it includes reporting on Fungal Decay and borers of seasoned timber. Generally it is a termite inspection that most pest control companies will carry out but the paperwork that they have left you should make it clear exactly what service they have carried out.

All areas of a property must be inspected to ensure that termites are not missed, after all we are looking for a moving insect the size of a grain of rice somewhere on your property! It is best that the inspector uses a process to guide him/her through the property and the process varies from company to company. Many companies basic process starts with areas of the property to inspect, with the yard or grounds, trees, stumps etc first, then the exterior, interior and finally the roof void.

What are we looking for when we carry out an inspection? Conducive conditions is one term often used and it means those conditions that that are enticing for or increase the likelihood of termites attacking. Like any other insect termites have basic needs and they are one tracked for those needs.

  • Food, anything that is comprised of cellulose, so this can include waste timber, boxes, books, trees, tree stumps and any natural fibre.
  • Water, they need a constant source of moisture so a dripping tap or leaking pipe is ideal.
  • Shelter, this can take a few different forms dependent on the Species of termite but most often termites will nest within a tree or underground

Termite Food

It is often difficult for humans to understand just what it is that termites are after, as they tend to eat many and varied things. When we have a look at what the needs of a termite are in relation to food, it really does come down to natural fibres or almost any organic compound. Often when the termites consume these food sources they will have been processed or refined and turned into something completely different looking. One of the most common items that I find termites eating is books or magazines and sometimes newspapers all of these were of course derived from trees originally. I have seen termites eat silks, wool and other fibres, the heels out of ladies shoes (timber), the backing off carpet as well of course as any of the timbers used to construct or decorate our homes.

Water for Termites

Water is something that termites need in vast amounts. They require to live within a sealed system that has very high humidity and it takes a lot of moisture to keep it that way. The muddy deposits that termite shelter tubes and mudding is made of is actually termite faeces, soil and occasionally other substances mixed with water, this same type of “mud” is used in the nest to create the material within which they live. Reducing the amount of water available to termites is the aim. In their natural environment water is something that can be quite difficult to obtain and a permanent water source almost impossible, whereas around  our homes there are often things like leaky taps, Hot water cylinder overflows that are dripping or leaky pipes, guttering or many other potential water sources.

Termite Shelter

Shelter for termites can take many forms but at its most basic it can be any area that can be excavated, to allow the building of the required structure, that enables all of the different functions inside a nest to be carried out.

Dependent upon species and availabilty of a place to nest, the chosen site may be underground, within a tree or stump, opportunistically they may take advantage of a void in or under one of our structures. From one species to the next their nesting habits vary and our search for the nest is often made easier once a positive identification has been made.

It is not necesary for treatment and in many cases in urban areas not possible to locate a nest. With the techniques and products available to us we are able to remotely kill all of the inhabitants of the nest with the demise of the Queen following soon after. Finding a nest and treating it can make termite control much quicker and easier.

A Termite Nest Under A Building
Termite Food
A termite mound nest under a school building in Picton
A downpipe on a house that has a leak allowing moisture to escape into the garden next to the house
Timber stored under a house in Camden. This is just termite food waiting for termites

What do we look at during a Termite Inspection

During a Termite Inspection the inspector will view all elements that are accessible on the property. This will take into account trees, stumps, waste and stored timber, landscape timbers and of course the structural elements of the house and any other accessible buildings on the property up to 50 metres from the house.  There are often a great number of various items to take into account and many conducive conditions to consider as well. Once all areas and elements have been inspected the inspector will also take into account any extra information that may have been found from notices of previous termite treatment to verbal notes from the homeowner about the history of the building or property.

Wall of a shed built over a stump in Picton
Timber "pier" in the subfloor of a house in Camden
Decorative timber with active termites in Picton near Camden

A stump that has had a shed built over it

A timber pier under a house

Decorative timbers next to a house

Timber Pest Inspection

A timber pest inspection in practice has very little difference to a Termite Inspection other than the fact that it also takes in the inspection of the property for borers of seasoned timber and fungal decay. Generally this type of inspection is carried out to AS 4349.3. A timber pest inspection is generally non invasive including such basic invasive activities as moving stored articles or insulation to enable a better view. So even if there is the potential to move items the inspector is not able to do so.

Mostly it is to for a prior to purchase pest inspection that this type of inspection is carried out. The standard is very specific in stating what should be inspected, how it is reported on and also that it makes appropriate recommendations.

Termite Treatment

Termite treatments vary a lot depending on Termite species, construction type, soil type and even things like your landscaping and of course personal preference, maybe to a greener solution although many people just want to “NUKE” them.

A termite inspection needs to be carried out before a treatment EVRY TIME. It is during the inspection that a skilled technician will formulate the best methods for the premises and be able to give you a range of options. Many people protest that having an inspection carried out after they have found termites is a waste of money, however if an inspection is not carried out how do you know what species of termite you are dealing with, what the extent of the termite damage is, where any entry points are and of course is it only one species of termite?

Once you have gathered all of the information from the inspection your technician will be able to educate you on what solutions are available and which ones will suit your particular circumstance.

In General the steps are

  • Inspection
  • Colony Elimination
  • Prevention
  • Inspection on a regular basis

The Guide is a growing work with the latest addition on 26/11/21