Monitoring termites and wood borers in the home
CSIRO has compiled this information to assist Australians in detecting and treating these pests.
23 November 2005 | Updated 14 October 2011
Termites are sometimes referred to as ‘white ants’ because of their creamy colouring and ant-like appearance. There are over 350 species of termites in Australia of which some 20 species can damage timber in houses.
In nature termites assist in the recycling of organic matter and nutrients back to the soil.
Termites avoid light and rarely come out into the open. Often termites are found within timbers where they leave a wafer thin layer to protect themselves from the outside environment. Sometimes they conceal themselves within mud-like tubes or galleries.
Termites in the home
Homes should have regular inspections of all accessible timber and potential termite entry points. Inspections should be carried out by a licensed pest controller who can identify timber problems and advise on individual solutions.
Local councils or licensed pest controllers should be able to advise on the frequency of inspections.
If termite damage is found in the home, don’t panic. Do not disturb the termites by using household sprays or removing infested wood.
There is no immediate threat to the house, so take time to investigate the size and nature of the problem as well as all the available options.
At certain times of the year homeowners may notice winged termites in and around their house. This is the termites’ annual flight from the nest.
This does not mean that there is a termite colony attacking the house. There may however be a nest nearby if there are large numbers of these termites.
Wood borer are insects which damage wood by tunneling at the larval (grub) stage for food. They can also leave an emergence hole on the surface of the wood after becoming an adult (beetle).
These emergence holes, ‘pin holes’, are visible and are usually the first signs of an active infestation of wood borer.
Knocking a piece of infested timber usually causes fine borer dust to be dislodged from the emergence holes. The presence of holes or dust does not always mean borer are still active within the timber.
To find out whether borer are still active, mark all emergence holes with a pen or pencil. Check the timber monthly as the appearance of new holes will indicate that borer are still present.
If the number of holes are too numerous to make this method practical, placing newspaper underneath the affected timber and checking on a regular basis for dust output can indicate activity.
Dust however may continue to be dislodged from emergence holes by normal movement or vibration caused by human activity in the house for several years after borer activity has ceased. The pencil method is a more reliable indicator.
Learn about the work CSIRO's does in Wood.