Subterranean Termite Control And Management In The Home

Many homes come suffer from subterranean termite infestations. This post will outline and describe the pest and give handy hints on ways to limit their damage.

Subterranean termites are frequently called ‘white ants’, especially in Australia, because they are distantly related to ants; however they are actually part of the cockroach order, Blattodea. Species found in Southern Australia typically grow to a few millimetres in length and have mandibles (a large lower jaw ‘bone’) for chewing. All have straight antennae, which also differentiates them from ants. They are most active during summer months.

Subterranean termites almost exclusively live underground or concealed near moisture and cellulose-based food sources. Their nests are elaborately built structures made up of a combination of soil, saliva, chewed wood, mud and faeces, and can be found underground, inside wooden stumps, inside a structure and occasionally above ground in the form of a mound. The subterranean termite’s diet consists of cellulose found in plant fibre, especially wood. Common house infestations are found in wooden structures or areas like in skirting boards, timber window frames, and timber reveals. However, once they have entered a house they will not only feed on wood, but also paper, carpet and cloth materials.

There is two different social classes of subterranean termite within a single colony; workers and soldiers. The workers tend to the nest’s queen, the nest itself and forage for food, sometimes venturing up to 150 metres from the colony in search of food. The soldiers, who have enlarged, armour-like jaws, protect the nest from attack. Because their jaws are so large they are unable to feed themselves and are fed by the workers. Each colony has a king and queen, the queen is large and immobile, while the king grows slightly larger after mating with the queen for the first time. The king will mate with queen for life, with the queen’s living up to 45 years!

How to limit infestation

  • Clear any obstacles or debris from the perimeter of your home.
  • Remove all wood, tiles, bricks etc. that are stacked up against external walls of your home. These can allow termite’s concealed entry.
  • Fix any leaky taps, condensation leaks from air conditioners and hot water system overflow.
  • Inspect lawn and garden reticulation and make sure you direct water flow away from your house’s perimeter.
  • Only water gardens during daylight hours.
  • Remove any potential termite food sources, such as scrap timber, compost heaps, wooden garden stakes, wooden landscaping features (sleepers), where possible.
  • Ensure you remove garden mulch from the perimeter of your house and relocate flower and garden beds away from external walls.
  • Schedule pest inspections annually and also when termite pressure is high.


If these tips do not assist in minimising the subterranean termites around your home, there are professional options that will help. Call your local pest control expert for more information.

Keith Nightingale

Pest control expert with over 10 years professional experience in the industry.

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