What are termites and how do I know if I have them?

Termites termite damage

What are termites and what do they look like?

There are over 2200 species of termites, however the most common form of termite infestation comes from subterranean termites, which as their name would imply, live underground. They are a small white coloured insect that have a square shaped head and a ringed lower abdomen. Termites feed on timber and can have devastating consequences to your home if left untreated or not properly maintained. Subterranean termites will generally have their nests connected to their food source, which means there are ways to determine if your home is under termite attack.

Termites Michael Pettigrew
Photo: Michael Pettigrew

How do I know if I have termites in my house?

There are a few different characteristics that can be easily identified if looking for termite infestation:

  • Mud Tunnels/Leads/Tracks
    As mentioned termites live underground and will create mud tunnels in order to search out food and water. These tunnels will look like veins running up the sides of certain parts of your home—often the brick work, slab edges and concrete posts. Some materials cannot be eaten easily by termites so they search for the easiest material to consume, which is usually the timbers from the ‘soft’ wood species. Termites have been known to eat other timbers if food sources are not abundant so if you see these type of mud tracks or tunnels, there is a chance your home could be under attack.
  • Frass
    This is the name that is used for termite droppings. It is commonly mistaken for saw dust and could be a sign of infestation. This would normally be found on the inside of your home, on door sills, window frames, or even at the base of timber flooring.
  • Damaged timber surfaces
    Timber damage is a definite sign of termite infestation. Timber that produces a dull, thudding sound when struck should be examined. Small pin holes and or tracks will appear on the surface of the timber looking like veins running through the timber product. In the instance pictured, the old fashioned method of tapping on the timber with a sharp, pointed instrument, such as a screwdriver, will disclose termite damage.
termites termite damage
Photo: iStock

If you are unsure of any of the above mentioned instances do not disturb the area of concern. Contact a termite specialist for them to investigate the best course of action.

If I think I have termites in my house, what do I do?

The first point of call is to get an expert opinion. Contact a termite specialist to come and asses if the affected area is in fact actually termites. Pest control services will be able to guide you as to if what you have located is a termite nest and how it is treatable.

If my house is new, could I still get termites?

Yes—however, control measures can be taken in order to minimise the risk of attack, but will need to be maintained by the home owner in order to achieve the best possible outcome. Prevention is better than cure. At Kalka we use different types of termite treatments in order to keep our homes safe.