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Signs of termites

Termites, also known as "white ants" cannot live out in the open. Termites need moisture to survive and will die if exposed to sunlight or open air. In the case of subterranean termites, they like an environment that is dark, humid and protected. Drywood termites get all the moisture they need from wood and are happy in the rafters or attic of any structure where its dry.

Both like to stay hidden, of course, and both can cause considerable damage as they tear through homes unnoticed. Often termites are not found until after years of uninterrupted devouring of your biggest investment. Early identification of the signs of termite infestations is key to minimising the potential damage.

At Western Exterminator, we recommend a termite inspection at least every 3 years. There is little substitute for a qualified and experienced termite expert - evidence that is hardly noticeable, signs that are easily missed and traces left behind not easily seen by the untrained eye - are all immediately apparent to a professional termite inspector.

Signs of termite damage

Instead of actual termites, it is often the signs of termite damage which reveal their presence. Here are a few common signs of termites you might see (or hear) around your home or business:

  • Papery or hollow sounding timber - When termites consume timber, they eat from the inside out, leaving a thin veneer of timber or paint. When you knock or tap on an area that has termite damage, it will sound hollow or papery due to parts (or all) of the timber having been eaten away.

  • Your vacuum goes through the skirting board - Or you accidentally press through a door jam or poke a hole in a rafter when doing DIY work around the house. As termites have eaten away at the structural integrity of the timber, such as an eave or window sill, bumps or pressure against them will easily cause damage. Probe suspect wood with a knife or flat-blade screwdriver to see if its been hollowed, honeycombed or carved out.

  • Tight fitting doors or hard to open windows - With subterranean termites, as they devour timber, their excrement, or "mud", creates a protective environment which traps heat and moisture. This causes timber to swell, making it harder to open a window or close a door.

  • “Sand” or pellets in unexpected places - For drywood termites, one of the telltale signs is sand or small sand-like pellets that can appear in window sills, door jambs, or even on furniture. These unexplained piles of what appears to be coarse grains of sand may actually be termite fecal pellets sifting out of wood members.

  • Cracks in the cornice or door jams - As termites eat away at the timber in your walls or door jams, it causes a loss in structural integrity and cracks will begin to form. Be careful jumping to conclusions though, as cracks can also be caused by movements in your home due to the ground shifting.

  • Piles of wings near light sources - Drywood termites swarm, often in the evening, when conditions are right for the colony to expand. Reproductives (alates) pair up and leave the colony to find new locations, quickly discarding their wings. Finding pairs of same-size wings near a light source, most notably near a window or even a television screen, can be signs of a drywood termite infestation and cause for concern.

  • Termite mud - Subterranean termites construct ‘mud’ tunnels to provide themselves with safe passage to travel or to protect their food sources. This mudding is often hard to see as it is hidden behind your property’s sheet rock or underground, but can sometimes be noticed in the property’s brick foundations, along baseboards or in cracks and crevices.

Hearing termite noises?

Most of the time, termites go about their voracious eating quietly, which is how they are not often found until the damage is severe. However, some property owners have sometimes heard them. For example, termite soldiers have been known (and heard) to bang their heads against the sides of the walls of tunnels they’ve built when they feel their nest is under threat; the vibrations alerting the rest of the colony.

Worker termites can also make sounds which may be detected by sharp ears, or termite specialists who know what to listen out for. These sounds include buzzing and clicking noises as they chew through wooden structures.

Where to look for signs of termites in your home

  • Roofs - Broken tiles create moisture which attracts termites, and can provide a gateway into your property. Prevent termites by ensuring the roof is dry and that all cracks are promptly repaired.

  • Air conditioning units - Termites prefer moist environments, making areas around air conditioning units the perfect environment for them. Ensure the moisture release of air conditioning units are away from the foundations of your home and get rid of any puddles, condensation and other moisture build-ups.

  • Wooden beams - Regularly check regularly for signs of termite damage by pressing your thumb against the timber to check if it feels spongy.

  • Boxes - Termites devour cellulose (cardboard), so too many cardboard boxes lying around can attract an infestation. Store items in plastic boxes in the attic and avoid using cardboard unless cardboard traps are in place.

  • Wooden flooring - Being close to the ground, wooden floors can be a literal stepping stone for subterranean termites to gain access into your property. Carry out regular termite inspections for termite activity. When building new extensions, lay down physical termite barriers prior to the build.

  • Wooden furniture - Keep furniture away from walls of your property. Opt for items made of materials such as metal or plastic and put wooden furniture out in the sun if you notice any signs of termites.

Have you seen these signs?

Contact your local Western Exterminator office to schedule a free termite inspection. If you do have termites, our experts will recommend the best termite treatment for your individual needs.

For a complete peace of mind, our termite inspections not only report on active infestations but include recommendations around conditions on your property which may be conducive to future infestations.


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