The very word “termites” is enough to strike fear into the mind of any property owner, so it’s important to know the early warning signs of termites. Termites (or white ants) are the most destructive living thing in Australia in terms of potential for property damage. They are such a big problem that most building insurance policies do not cover damage wrought by termites.
Termites are invasive, covert, and remarkably clever creatures – and they can infest a property and cause significant (and costly) damage by chewing through solid wood before you even have an inkling of their presence. This is why you must understand the early warning signs of termites and know what to look for. The sooner you identify an issue, the sooner you can have the termite colony exterminated, halting further damage, undertaking repairs, and mitigating future risks.
8 Early Warning Signs of Termites
Termites are often difficult to detect. Furthermore, the amount of damage they can wreak on a property depends on a range of factors, including:
- Termite species
- Colony size
- Building material type and structure
- Local climate conditions (termites are attracted to moisture, rich soils, and “sweet” food sources like timber)
Depending on these factors, termites may take anything from a few short months to several years to damage (or even destroy) a home, so knowing these early warning signs of termites is really important.
Early warning signs of termites include:
1. Mud tubes
The most common termites in Australia live underground, and they build a protective shelter when they emerge aboveground. This is in the form of small tubes made of mud, dirt, and/or their droppings. These tubes are like a superhighway between the nest and their food source – they can extend from underground over decks, under stairs, through ceilings, on tree trunks, up the sides of houses, and more. Any sign of these on or leading to your home means it’s time to call in pest control experts immediately.
You can help prevent termites from travelling to your home by avoiding the buildup of moist dirt or soil around the perimeter of your house (e.g. garden beds abutting the house).
2. Termite Droppings
Like any other member of the insect/bird/animal kingdom, termites leave droppings. These look like wood sawdust. If you see anything that resembles this, without a better, obvious explanation, it may well be from termites.
3. Swarming Flying Insects or Dropped Wings
If you see swarms of winged insects in spring or summer, your property may be a nesting area for flying termites (alates). These swarms strongly indicate nearby termite colonies (they reproduce in piles of wood and rotting tree stumps). The swarmers are male and female termites that have left their nest in search of a mate, after which they establish a new colony. Your home may potentially be their food source or preferred colony location.
Swarming happens more often at night and after rain in the warmer months. These alates shed their wings after finding their mate, so if you see dropped wings, this too is a sign to promptly call for the experts to inspect your entire property.
4. Sounds in walls or floors
Termites chew wood. You may even hear this – the very disconcerting sound of soft munching, clicking, or tapping (which is the sound of them communicating between themselves – they do this by banging their little heads on the sides of their tunnels to alert the colony to danger).
5. Damage to walls, floor or ceiling
Noticeable damage to everything from wooden skirting boards to gyprock cornices, plaster, ceiling beams, timber door jambs, and even laminate flooring is a danger sign and one of the most obvious early warning signs of termites – holes, sags, blistering paint, cracks, fissures, and more. If you knock on timber and it sounds hollow, termites have likely eaten away at it.
6. Repeated short-circuits
Termites like the warmth that electrical fittings behind walls emit – and their activity may cause short-circuits. Damp soil or mud near or in your power points or other electrical fittings are a strong indicator of termite activity.
7. Doors/Windows Stick
Warped doors and stuck windows may indicate termites, as the moisture they produce while tunnelling and eating through the frames can warp the wood.
8. Holes in Trees
If they feel threatened, termites will beat a hasty retreat – leaving a few colony members to fight the threat. They bore wide slits or fissures in tree trunks and facilitate a quick escape, then fill in the hole so their enemies can’t access them easily. There will likely be a small hole remaining.
Avoid the Risks – Be Proactive about Termites
Schedule a regular termite inspection to mitigate the risks of termite infestation and damage to your home or commercial property. A termite inspection is an affordable investment in the integrity of your premises and it delivers the peace of mind you and your family deserve.
Termite inspections are the only way to identify termite activity before you’d otherwise be aware of their presence – by which point, damage (at potentially considerable levels) has already been done. Expert pest controllers who specialise in termite treatment will be able to quickly identify the early warning signs of termites, identify the presence of termites and, when you work with Proactive Pest Solutions, we can also assess building damage resulting from termite activity. As well as eliminating the colony, we can put processes in place to discourage future infestation. The most effective of these are termite barriers.