The nesting habits of termites and even the type of colony they build depends on their species and the genus they belong to. There are species that dwell in mounds, species that build their colonies in trees and species that conceal their nests underground.
The form, shape and placement of the nests also vary, and these factors are used in identifying the type of termite species that are present in an area. Although there are over 300 species found in Australia alone, they are distributed in different regions, as each species may require specific environments that are conducive to their feeding and nesting habits.
Termite species, such as the Amitermes meridionalis, Coptotermes lacteus and Microcerotermes turneri, build above-ground mounds for their colony. The structure, size, density and durability of the mound vary among the different species. Some of these mounds can be easily accessed with a probe. Many of the mound-dwelling termites feed on grass and some forage for timber in nearby areas through the subterranean tunnels that they have built.
Above-ground mounds are built in such a way that the outer layer is harder and denser for it to protect the softer, inner nursery area, which is commonly made of papery materials. The nursery houses the queen and the developing nymphs; the entire mound can house more than a million termites, depending on the age and complexity of the colony. Certain species can also be mound builders in some parts of the regions where they occur, but not in other areas.
Arboreal Termite Nests
Some species can also build their nests in trees, which can be 20 metres above the ground, and can house more than a hundred thousand individuals. They usually travel from the ground, attacking the decaying root and making their way up through the trunk. Through the pipe within the trunk, or a shelter tube built on the outer surface of the trunk, they collect and transport soil moisture.
Root crowns and tree trunks are often the first areas that are probed during a termite inspection since these can be obvious dwelling places of termites. However, it may also be difficult to determine the specific location as the colony is not always built right under the tree, but in farther sites. Arboreal termites can even cause damage to properties beyond 50-metres from the decaying tree. Worse, if the colony has been established way before a property is built, termites can cause considerable damage to the property within a few months.
Wood materials, especially decaying timber, is the main food for many subterranean termites. They can start their nest underground, covered by tree stumps, roots and waste timber. Decaying wood provide the termites with moist and food, which are required for the entire colony to thrive. In areas that are being cleared to be developed as residential or commercial areas, the tree fragments left during the bulldozing operations help termites build their subterranean nests.
Subterranean termites are among the most problematic for property owners. These colonies may already be existing deep in the ground before the construction of buildings. Once a structure has been erected, termites can begin feeding on timber materials found in the property, resulting in extensive damage.
Role of Termites in the Environment
While they are mostly known for damages caused to property, termites play a significant role in forested areas. Their diet and their feeding habit allows the decomposition of dead branches and trees, which is necessary for returning minerals to the soil. Termites are also important in the food chain, being the prey of echidnas, predatory ants, spiders, lizards and birds.
Conditions that Encourage Termite Infestations
The prevalence of termites in mounds and trees are common due to the environmental conditions that allow the colony to survive. On the other hand, subterranean termite attacks are mostly encouraged by human behaviour. Houses and other establishments can provide termites with their food supply, moisture and the ideal condition required for their survival and the growth of their colony. Although the reduction in providing them with soil moisture cannot completely prevent termite attacks, it can decrease the risk of infestations.
Termites can continue to damage properties as they seek out new food sources. When they find a new food source, the worker termite will leave trails along their passage to mark the direction to the food source.
Impact and Cost of Termite Damage
The impact of the termite damage can vary depending on how immediate the infestation has been discovered and treated. Many homeowners neglect the need of pre-construction and pre-purchase building inspections, discounting the possibility of pre-existing termite infestation. Our technicians from Termex Pest Management have encountered several cases where termite infestation has occurred before it has become evident to homeowners. Often times, the damage is already extensive, leading to costly repairs.
The longer the property has not been inspected for hidden pests, the more likely the infestation will spread, the more damage it will cause and the more expensive the repairs will be.
If you are building a new home or eyeing to purchase a property, Termex Pest Management can help you identify hidden pest problems. We will help you locate hidden termite nests, identify potential risks of infestations and eradicate the pests for good.