Warmer weather and humidity brought about by recent rain and flooding throughout Queensland especially Brisbane and the Gold Coast saw an early start to the termite season in 2011. Queensland experienced the worst flooding since the 1974 floods during December 2010 and early January 2011. These conditions added to the fact that it happened during the height of Queensland’s very humid Summer provided the perfect conditions for an explosion in termite numbers right across the state.
North Queensland was not immune as just weeks later in February Cyclone Yasi hit which was a disaster for homeowners, some losing their houses. If the cyclone didn’t take their house then the termites will. Termites are active at any temperature above 18C and need moisture to survive. The breeding conditions this year have been perfect for termites.
In order to exist termites do need a specific environment to thrive and that is plenty of food, shelter and water. Most termites live in tropical or subtropical regions. Queensland has a subtropical climate that has high humidity the further north you go. Termites thrive in these conditions and seem to be more prevalent near the coast.
As most of Queensland’s major cities are coastal this is where we see the largest termite invasions and the most damage. Termites swarm mostly during Summer which is a sure sign that a termite colony is near by. These swarmers are sent out to establish new colonies of their own. This summer saw plenty of that.
Well first it’s important to be able to recognise the signs of termites. Detecting them is the first step in protecting your home because obviously the earlier you catch them the better. Homeowners should lookout for mud tubes leading up to and over the edge of concrete slabs, stumps and foundations. Also keep an eye out for any dried mud in the joins of doors, architraves and moulding as termites love to build their mud tunnels where they are not in plain sight. Blistering paint on doors and skirting boards can indicate that termites have eaten the wood beneath and only left a thin layer of paint resulting in the paint blistering. Check damp areas and look out for any moisture stains on walls. Any type of bulging of floor boards or walls and splintering of timber could all point to termites.
So what can Queensland homeowners do to stay vigilant and protect their homes from these silent and sneaky termite invaders?
To prevent termite entry you have to make sure that your home and yard are free of anything that might attract termites and also keep things clean and tidy so in case they do appear you can easily see them. The following list are just a few things to keep in mind to do your part in preventing termites in the first place.
- Keep your home clean from any rubbish, debris and timber lying around. Don’t store firewood or have any timber, dead branches and building materials lying directly on the ground around your yard. Store firewood or timber by raising it off the ground on a metal stand or on a concrete slab. This way if termites do make a tunnel to get to your stored timber at least you can see them and stop them in their tracks before they get into your house.
- Keep gardens tidy by removing any thick overgrown plants from around your home. Thick vegetation creates areas of intense moisture which attracts termites
- Any building done around your home such as retaining walls, decks, pergolas, garden beds, fences, in fact any timber structures must be built using treated timber. For pergolas and decks use metal supports for the posts. These metal supports are then bolted to concrete, the timber posts are fitted to the supports keeping timber off the ground.
- All vents to sub floor areas must remain unblocked to encourage airflow and keep the sub floor dry.
- If your house is built on a concrete slab then make sure the edge of the slab is visible at all times as well as the weep holes. So whilst garden beds might look nice it’s a bad idea to build them up against house walls. It makes it impossible to see the edge of the slab and if it’s covering weep holes then it’s a direct entry point for termites.
- Garden mulch is great for gardens but it’s also great for termites. It provides them with a food source and because it’s not usually far from your house the termites will graduate from mulch to house pretty quickly. There are mulches available that aren’t made of wood chips or bark.
- You may have noticed metal termite shields that are found around the foundations of houses. They are designed to force termites out into the open but they need to be monitored and musn’t be damaged.
- Termites need water and moisture attracts them. Any leaking taps, pipes or water that pools up around your home are all invites to the termites. Fix any leaks and drainage problems to prevent this problem.
- Look out for any cracks or holes around the foundation of your home and seal them. Termites only need an entry point as thick as a piece of paper.
- Finally the best preventative thing all homeowners can do is to get your home inspected for termites annually. It is better to have the peace of mind with an annual check. It’s a lot cheaper to have regular inspections than to discover a damaging infestation and not only have to have a complete treatment but have to rebuild and repair any damage. It is not uncommon for termites to completely destroy homes to the point of needing a total rebuild.
If you are unfortunate enough to have discovered termites then you have to get them treated. There are a few different methods in achieving this but by far the best is using a non repellant chemical barrier. A non repellant barrier has the advantage of allowing the termites to move back and forth through the barrier as they can’t detect it’s there and pick up a lethal dose which will either kill them or be taken back and passed around the colony.
The one thing about termites is that they are resistant. That is why trying to treat them yourself simply won’t work in the long run. If you do succeed in removing them from one spot they will appear somewhere else. As a colony they have invested too much time, sometimes years in establishing themselves and finding a massive food source (your house) to just retreat. They will find other ways into your house.
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