Termites have earned a bad name with property owners as they do a great deal of damage to wooden structures, but the facts are that the blame must go to just a few species out of the roughly 350 species here in Australia.
Termites are a very important part of the ecology of Australia, in dry climates like here they are the main recyclers working 24/7 breaking down cellulose and lignin, the main components of wood and releasing nutrients back into the environment.
However as a homeowner you have to keep a constant watch and have pest inspections regularly, not just when you buy the home as Termites can turn up at any time, as they are constantly foraging for a food supply. In the home they will attack the wooden structural timbers, decorative timbers, paper, books and other similar products.
Termites are found throughout Sydney, many people think they live in a safe area; there is no such place in the Sydney region.
The Termite colony consists of three castes; workers, soldiers and winged alates (reproductive termites). The workers are a creamy white colour and are rarely seen unless a piece of infested timber or item is opened up.
These termites are the ones that cause the damage and are generally about 6mm long. Soldiers are about the same size but have a darker head and large mandibles that they use to protect the colony, workers feed these termites as soldiers cannot feed themselves due to their large mandibles.
The Kings and Queens or reproductives of the colonies are the termites which have swarmed out of a previous colony on a warm damp evening, generally from late October to February in Sydney to form a new colony. Each year a new batch of alates ( reproductives) is released at this time. They have wings when first released from the colony but are poor flyers, generally their first flight is their last as when they land the alate will break of the wings and only stubs will be left.
Winged termites are often confused with winged ants so it is a good idea to be able to identify the difference, refer to the pictures on this page.
Termites are subterranean, so they will enter the property from the ground and then build mud tubes and eat into the timbers and make their way through the whole structure given time.
Australian Standard AS 3660.2-2000 recommends inspections by a competent person be performed at least annually but more frequent inspections are strongly recommended.
Winged Termite or Ant?
Click on the CSIRO logo