24 October, 2010

Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: I found termites in my yard, will they attack my house?

Answer: There are over 350 species of termite in Australia, of which only about 20 species cause problems for people. Termites feed on cellulose which can be found in wood, wood products, leaves, grass and bark. The diet can vary between the species, some species are known as dampwood termites in that they usually only feed on wood that is suffering from problems with damp. Some only feed on grass while some will feed on dry wood that is used in house construction.

While the vast majority of species are helping to break down wood and return nutrients to the system a small number of species can cause significant economic damage to built structures. The Museum offers a free identification service. In the event that a colony is located try and collect either specimens with wings or soldiers. The soldiers can be differentiated from the workers by sometimes being larger in size and usually having larger and darker heads, often with the presence of large jaws. The workers are all white, (hence the common name white ants). Please see here for identification procedures.

Comments (4)

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Meredith 22 June, 2014 17:17
Hi, I have heard ivy against houses can attract termites. I am wondering if ivy on trees can also attract termites. Thank you kindly if you have a chance to respond.
Discovery Centre 2 July, 2014 13:45
Hi Meredith, we don't know that ivy on trees is especially attractive to termites but what it can do is conceal any visible signs of termite activity on the tree.
amelia guillet 3 November, 2016 18:03
Hi i have a house in selby near sherbrooke forest. Evidence of termites was found in garden wood around the house...but no termites. What species are they likely to be. My house is a timber cottage... but no evidence of termites were found in the house.
Discovery Centre 5 November, 2016 15:31
Hi Amelia, we wouldn't be able to say what species they would be without being able to examine either some of the soldiers or winged termites from the colony. There are a large number of termite species in Australia, of which only a small subset pose a risk to built structures.
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