Termites

What's equivalent to a million blind-folded people joining forces to build a skyscraper covering eight city blocks and towering over a mile into the sky? Termites of course! Termites play an extremely important recycling role within our environment. They are one of the most important degraders of organic matter in tropical ecosystems and are thought to be responsible for as much as 20% of carbon mineralization. However, a number of the 350 species of termites found in Australia are responsible for millions of dollars of damage to property, with approximately one in five homes being subject to termite attack.

The economic significance and prevalence of their destructive impact on property has driven us to become far more aware of their biology and behaviour. This section comprehensively addresses termite identification and behaviour, signs and symptoms, and prevention and treatment.

Termites (order ISOPTERA) play an extremely important recycling role within our environment.

They are one of the most important degraders of organic matter in tropical ecosystems and are thought to be responsible for as much as 20% of carbon mineralization. However, a number of the 350 species of termites found in Australia are responsible for millions of dollars of damage to property, with approximately one in five homes being subject to termite attack.

Most termite species do not feed on seasoned timber but on grass and debris and not all are subterranean. The subterranean termite is the major pest species in Australia.

The termite food source is cellulose, sugars and starches which are extracted from timber. Bacteria and protozoa break down the timber in the termite gut. Sapwood is preferred because they contain more of these proteins and fewer toxins. Termites also enter buildings and structures in search of food and are a major pest of man.

Termites obtain protein from fungi, which thrive in the humid environment created by termite colonies. Termites groom each other with their mouths and antennae. Excretions from the anus are thus transferred throughout the colony and it is this habit which gives us one means of controlling colonies of these pests.

Termite Behaviour:

  • Termites require access to a permanent water supply.
  • They maintain the workings and nests at approximately 96% humidity.
  • A temperature range of between 26 to 36 degrees Celsius is maintained by their metabolism.
  • Termites live in colonies with castes which have different functions.
  • The colony may have from a few hundred individuals to millions.
  • Termites undergo gradual metamorphosis. Egg - Nymph - Adult.
  • The young nymphs are fed and cared for by the workers.
  • During moulting, the young nymphs gradually emerge into different castes.
  • Winged alates leave the nest in humid weather to set up new colonies.
  • When a new site is selected the future king and queen hollow out a small chamber and the first eggs are laid and cared for by the king and queen.
  • It may take years until the nest is sufficient in numbers to attack buildings.
  • The queen will at first lay only a few eggs but eventually can lay in excess of a thousand.
  • Termites can forage over fifty metres from the central nest site and can create sub-nests in areas where they are nesting.

Termite Life Cycle & Behaviour

Subterranean Termite Species

Termite Castes

Termite Damage

Termite Species Identification

The Distructive Species

Termite Types: Single Site Nesters

Termite Types: Multi Site Nesters

Prevention & Treatment Options

Wikipedia Entry For Termites

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