Termite Treatments and Protection – Australia
“If you have termites attacking your home, don’t panic and don’t touch them! Just take a deep breath and call your local pest manager.”
When you find termites in your home, it’s easy to panic and want a termite treatment immediately. However, the termites are likely to have been present in your home for many months if not years, so waiting a further day or two before any termite treatment starts is not going to cause any significant damage.
Spend a couple of days to consider what your pest manager recommends, get a couple of quotes if necessary, and make a considered decision on what to do.
Here’s all you need to know about termite treatments in Australia and how to achieve lasting termite protection for your home…
The termite treatment process
There are six steps to a termite treatment and the ongoing protection from termites
Before any termite treatment starts a comprehensive termite inspection is required. The inspection report will include the
- Extent of the potential termite damage and activity
- Species of termite present
- Termite entries points into the building
- Potential termite nest sites
- Environment conditions that may have contributed to a termite attack
- Building faults that may have contributed to the termite attack
All this information is vital to determine the correct treatment method and ensure that the elimination of all termite activity can be confirmed.
Pest managers will not rely on an inspection from other pest managers to make a treatment recommendation, much as a doctor will not rely on a diagnosis by another doctor before recommending a treatment.
To provide a treatment proposal & quote it is necessary for a site visit – a quality pest manager should not provide a quote over the phone as there are too many variables to consider in developing an accurate quote.
Although it is best practice to carry out a comprehensive termite inspection before providing a quote, homeowners generally want a free quote. With a comprehensive termite inspection taking up to a couple hours (depending on the size of the property), pest managers will generally carry out a quick rather than comprehensive inspection – a site assessment – to gather enough information to provide a quote. However, the termite treatment proposal will include the need to complete a comprehensive termite inspection prior to starting the treatment, with clauses in the agreement that allow for a variation in the quote should the comprehensive inspection uncover new information.
The termite treatment proposal is a formal document that provides the detail of the treatment to be carried out, both for eliminating active termites from the building and recommendations for providing ongoing protection. It also includes information on the treatment limitations and various legal clauses to protect both the customer and the pest manager.
There are a number of different treatment options for termites, as well as different systems for providing ongoing termite protection. In most situations there may be more than one treatment option – each having different pros and cons, as well as costs – and these should be discussed before deciding on the final treatment plan.
For some situations, it may be that there is only one potential treatment option, but be wary of any pest manager who only pushes one specific treatment option, without explaining why or what the alternatives are.
The termite treatment / management proposal needs to be signed before starting any work and it is important to check that the pest manager is licensed and insured to carry out termite work. Quality pest managers will be happy to show you their license and insurance documents on request.
In eliminating active termites from your property, pest managers will try to locate the termite nest. However, this is very difficult as often the nest is underground. If they do manage to locate the nest they will either destroy it physically or inject it with termiticide (insecticide).
However, even if they do find a termite nest, there is generally no way of knowing if that is the nest that is attacking the building and indeed, there may be more than one nest attacking the building. As such, pest managers will focus on treating the termites in the building.
A range of treatment options are available for treating active termites; liquids, foams, dusts and baits. Elimination of termite activity may take anywhere between a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the level of activity, species present and method used.
Once the termite manager has confirmed no termite activity in at least two consecutive visits, it will generally be concluded that termites have been eliminated from the building. However, this does not provide any lasting protection from future termite attacks and so it is important to install a suitable termite management system.
On successful completion of the treatment, the pest manager should supply a certificate of treatment and place a durable notice in the electricity meter box (and kitchen cupboard).
Before installing any long term termite protection, it is important that the homeowner organise to remedy any environmental conditions or building faults that contributed to the termite attack, that were specified in the termite inspection report. Such issues could include, but are not limited to:
- Drainage problems
- Poor ventilation
- Leaking showers, taps, roofs, water tanks
- Ground level above floor level
- Cracks in the building sub-floor and walls
- Insufficient termite protection (eg. Missing termite capping on piers)
To provide lasting protection from termite attack, it is necessary to install a termite management system. Generally speaking there are two types of termite management system
- Application of liquid termiticide (insecticide) to the soil around and under buildings
- Installation of termite monitoring / baiting systems around the perimeter of the building
The two systems are very different; the liquid termiticide applied to the soil creates a treated zone around the building and termite monitoring/baiting systems consist of a series of plastic bait stations installed in the ground around the building, containing a bait with insecticide, to intercept the termites before they get to the building.
Once the termite management system has been installed, the pest manager should supply a certificate of treatment / installation and place a durable notice in the electricity meter box (and kitchen cupboard).
The important point to note is that neither termite management system is a set and forget treatment. Homes will still need to be inspected at least once a year to maintain any treatment warranty.
How termiticide soil treatments work
How termite monitoring and baiting systems work
This is a common question, but the simple answer is, “it depends”. It depends on the nature of the termite attack, the type of building construction and site environment conditions, as well as the budget and any personal preferences of the pest manager and owner. The better question to ask is, “Which are the best termite treatment options for my situation?” The following sections give you all the information you need to know.
The choice of product will depend on the termite species present, the extent of activity and conditions on site. Elimination of termite activity may take anywhere between a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the level of activity, species present and method used.
Termite liquids, foams and dusts are applied to areas where the termite are active. They are designed to kill any termites that contact the treatment. Many of the treatments have some level of “transfer” which means the insecticide can be transferred from termites that come into contact with the treatment to other termites which haven’t come into direct contact with the treatment, magnifying its effect. The trick with these treatments is to ensure that the treatment comes into direct contact with as many termites as possible. When applied correctly these products work well and can eliminate the activity in a couple of weeks. However, they generally don’t kill the nest responsible for attacking the building.
As an alternative, termite baits are recognised as the best way to kill the nest as well as eliminate termites from the building. Termite bait is placed where the termites are active and they take the bait back to the nest where it is fed to the queen and other nest mates, killing the colony. However, the insecticide in the bait is slow acting (to allow the bait to be spread within the colony) and it can take several weeks to several months to eliminate the termites from the building. In addition, baits are not necessarily the best option for all termite species.
The application of liquid termiticide to the soil around and under buildings is a very effective termite management system. Despite being commonly called a “termite barrier”, they are better called “treated zones”. This is because they don’t actually create a barrier, they are designed to work in conjunction with the physical elements of the building to prevent termites getting concealed access to the building. ie. The termites have to build a mud tube over the treated zone to get to the building, when this happens they can be spotted and dealt with.
There are a number of chemicals used for soil treatments and they fall into two categories – repellents and non-repellents.
Repellent treatments as their name suggests, repel termites from the treated area. These are older style products and therefore cheaper. The drawback with these treatments is that if termites find a gap in the treatment, they can still find a way into the building. Gaps in the treatment can occur with soil movement over time or if they are applied under concrete where it is not possible to see whether complete coverage has been achieved. Nevertheless, when applied thoroughly, these products can provide an effective and long lasting treatment.
Non-repellent treatments work by creating a treated zone which the termites cannot detect. They try to tunnel into the soil and die. The key advantage of non-repellent treatments is that if there is a small gap in the treatment there is no way for the termites to detect it. As such, it is virtually impossible for termites to get through a small gap in the treated zone without also coming into contact with treated soil and dying. More information on non-repellent termite treatments.
To apply any soil treatment correctly they need to be applied to the soil down to a depth of 50 mm below the top of the foundations. As such, the deeper the foundations, the more soil that needs to be treated.
Type of soil
In addition, soil treatments really only work well in sandy, loam soils. So if the soil around the building is heavy clay or sand, it will probably need to be replaced with a sandy loam soil prior to treatment.
Treating under hard surfaces
The treated zone needs to be continuous around the perimeter of the building, so the soil under any pavers or pathways also needs to be treated. For pavers the best option is to lift the pavers, treat and replace and for concrete paths and tiles it will be necessary to drill holes every 200 mm or so, inject termiticide and then fill the drill holes. Good pest managers will make every effort to blend in the drill holes with the concrete or pavers.
How long do they last?
Termiticide soil treatments, if correctly applied and well maintained (eg. Plants not planted nearby), can last many years – between 5 and 10 years depending on the product used and location in Australia (temperature and rainfall effect duration of treatment).
Traditional termite monitoring and termite baiting systems consist of plastic stations containing wood, which are placed in the soil every 2 – 3 metres around the perimeter of the building. If there are termites in the area they are attracted to the wood and start feeding. Inspections of the monitoring stations take place every 2 – 3 months. If termites are spotted feeding on the wood, termite bait is then added.
Termite bait is a combination of cellulose (a highly attractive food source for termites) and a slow acting insecticide. Termites take the bait back to the nest where it is feed to the termite queen and nestmates. Over a period of a couple of months it eliminates the colony. Over the cooler months baiting can take a bit longer.
Like the termiticide treatments to the soil, bait stations have to be placed around the complete perimeter of the building, which means they also need to be installed under pavers and holes need to be cut in paths and tiles for installation.
The placement distance between bait stations is critical to ensure termites are intercepted before they reach the building. This may vary between products but is generally every 2 – 3 metres.
New types of termite baiting system
There are new termite baiting systems on the market which come pre-dosed with bait – no need to replace the wood with bait – so they are working to protect your home all the time. They still need to be inspected several times a year to monitor activity and replace bait if required.
How did termite baiting develop as a control method? Check out a History of termite baiting in Australia.
Both termite management systems have proven to be effective around the world over a number of years. However, it is important to choose the correct system for each situation and ensure it is installed and managed correctly.
When recommending a termite management system for a property, there are a number of factors that the pest manager and property owner should consider.
What is the soil type?
If the soil is heavy clay or has too many rocks, it will need to be replaced with a sandy loam before applying a liquid termiticide. Although bait stations can be applied directly to a larger range of soil types, any site built on solid rock is more likely to require an inspection only management plan.
Is it a sloping block, is it prone to flooding?
There is increased risk of chemical movement on sloping blocks and sites that suffer from flooding may also be inappropriate for a soil treatment. On such sites, baiting and monitoring systems may be more appropriate.
Are their gardens around the perimeter of the home?
Gardens aren’t the best idea around the perimeter of buildings anyway, as the increased moisture and food make it a real termite hotspot. However, plant roots are a concern in breaking up the integrity of a treated zone and providing a direct termite highway into your home, so bait stations may be a better option if gardens are present.
Are there paths and tiles around the perimeter of the home?
If there is the need to drill paths and tiles, soil treatments are a better option as the drill holes are far smaller and easier to disguise. Indeed, some termiticides allow for drill holes up to 450 mm apart making the treatment less noticeable.
If there are concerns about applying insecticides around the home due to environment considerations, baiting systems are a better option as the insecticide is contained within the bait station. In addition, the type of insecticide used in bait stations is only active on insects and the bait used only targets termites.
Treatment cost is obviously a significant consideration in choosing which treatment to choose. There are a number of factors impacting the treatment cost. However, when protecting your home from termites, a home that will costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is recommended you choose the best treatment for your situation rather than focus on the cheapest. At the end of the day, you want to also want to choose an experienced termite professional you can trust.
Sometimes people will claim termite colony control with all sort of products. The reality is that termite baiting is the only proven technique for eliminating termite colonies where the nest cannot be located. Here is the research demonstrating the difference between liquid soil treatments and termite baiting in killing termite colonies. At the end of the day these are two different types of products with two different modes of action, but both are designed to protect your home.
Termite treatment costs
When choosing between termite treatments, it is important to understand installation costs and ongoing management costs.
Typically the installation of soil applied termiticides is more expensive that the installation of termite baiting systems. This is primarily due to the extra labour required to apply the product.
The cost of a soil applied termiticide will be influenced by how much soil needs to be dug up and treated. How big is the perimeter of the house? How deep does the pest manager have to dig? How hard is the soil to dig? Does the soil need to be replaced? In addition, with more soil to be treated, the chemical component of the treatment will also increase. The chemical cost of the treatment will also vary depending on the type of product used (repellent v non-repellent) and the duration of protection.
Baiting systems can be installed a lot quicker than soil treatments so tend to be cheaper to install than soil applied treatments. However, the cost will vary depending on the baiting systems used, with the new systems which come with pre-dosed bait being more expensive.
Once the soil treatment is in place, there are no additional costs other than the need for regular termite inspections of the whole property. In most cases this is just once a year, but can be more frequent in areas of high termite pressure. Apart from being best practice, these regular termite inspections are required to maintain any treatment warranty.
IMPORTANT NOTE: it is important that property owners do not carry out any activity that could disrupt the treated zone. Gardening, building decks and layer paths are common activities that will impact the treated zone.
Termite monitoring and baiting systems will have higher ongoing management costs as the bait stations will need to be inspected every 2 – 3 months for termite activity, with more frequent inspections when active termites are detected and bait needs to be used. The newer systems with pre-dosed baits may need less frequent inspections. Buildings with a termite baiting system installed will also still need the regular termite inspection to maintain any warranty.