White Ants – Everything You Need To Know

White ants are the silent invaders of our homes that many homeowners fear. It’s understood that one in three Australian homes will be infested by white ants every year.

The experts at VIP have detailed below some important considerations for home owners:

Where can white ants be found?

White ants can appear not just in our homes, but also in nearby trees, old stumps, sleepers, poorly disposed building materials and areas with moisture such as near a leaking hot water service. They build nests from which they will travel up to 100 metres seeking cellulose, commonly found in timber. Unfortunately this timber is often the framework of someone’s home!

There are a high number of cases in urban areas, as white ants can be attracted to established homes, however this doesn’t mean that new developments are safe. Growing suburbs such as Berwick in Melbourne’s outer south east, or new estates in regional centres such as Bendigo, are just as prone to white ants. VIP offer inspection services across metropolitan Melbourne and regional areas including the Mornington Peninsula, Latrobe Valley and Castlemaine amongst others

What are the risks?

White ants can enter properties undetected through difficult to reach locations. A space as small as 2mm is all that’s required- this could be a crack or an expansion join. In such joins white ants are known to have eaten through rubber compounds sealing joins. When in a property they can move unnoticed in walls or under floor tiles.
Home owners are at great risk should they not have a white ant management plan. Not all insurance covers the cost of repairs, which can be tens of thousands of dollars.

Preferring a humid environment between 25 and 35 degrees celsius, white ants are able to find both a warm environment and food inside your home. There are cases of power failures as a result of white ants chewing through electrical insulation in their pursuit of warmth. Other signs of white ants include: mud tunnels, dropping doors, sagging floors, and cracks in paint or plaster.

Whilst the potential for major structural damage is at the forefront of most people’s minds, furniture, fabrics, soft plastics and foam insulation are also at risk.

What are white ants?

White ants are notorious pests for their ability to rapidly chew through wood and destroy homes.

Otherwise known as termites, there are about 360 species of white ants in Australia, most of them are not destructive to human dwellings, but the ones that are, can hide inside your walls, floor, underground or in trees, and chip away wood at your home, causing extensive damage.

White ants infestation must be dealt with a safe, controlled management by an exterminator, lest you inflame the ants and activate their war instincts.

When is white ant season?

White ants season or “White Ants Australia” is a summer phenomenon when white ants typically thrive and multiply.

As their population grows, white ants leave their colonies in swarms to

search for new nesting grounds and feeding areas. This is when your home may come under attack by a passing termite swarm.

Drywood termites, for instance, are known to join “White Ants Australia” in late summer.

Even if the weather is not warm, you should not slacken in checking/you should regularly check the health of your home’s timber, as undetected termite damage may be older than just a couple of months.

What do white ants look like?

White ants look similar to black ants in shape and size, and most are 4 to 10 mm long. White or cream, they are lighter in colour than black ants though their heads may be brown or orange.

Their bodies may have a bulkiness or thickness to them that is unlike any regular black ant.

Considering there are many varieties of white ants in Australia, you must never rush the process of identifying the species that is infesting your home. Sometimes, what looks like a termite might not even be one, the reason why having an informed analysis done by an expert is highly recommended.

How do white ants enter houses?

There are many ways that a white ant can enter your house.

White ants can enter your home through:

  • Gaps between doors
  • Pipes and the spaces that pipes use to access your home
  • Vents
  • Windows

Some species of white ants also travel through mud and soil, meaning their pathway into your home may be covered up by dirt or completely underground.

Any wooden object that you bring inside your home can unknowingly bring termites.  Do you check second-hand objects for infestations before bringing them into your home?

Signs of White Ant infestation

White ants will rarely exit environments that provide them with the means to survive.

Your home’s timber may appear normal on the outside while it is being tunnelled through on the inside.

Fortunately, hollow wood makes a sound when it is knocked and is indicative of infestation.

Aside from wood, some termites require humid, damp soil to survive. If a swarm of termites is in your home, you may see them on the move after a humid storm.

Higher-ranking termites have wings that you may find discarded around your property.

Keep an eye out for suspicious piles of dirt around the perimeter of your home; this could be a sign of white ants.

Once your VIP Pest Control expert has done an analysis of your home and has identified exactly where your pest is eating, traversing and nesting, they can make an informed judgment as to what kind of pest species  it is.

How to conduct a termite inspection

If you are concerned about Melbourne white ants, you can conduct your own termite inspection.

You need to methodically search each area of your house for the signs that we listed above.

The best way to do so is to move furniture out of the way so you can check the perimeter of every room.

When you knock on timber, listen for the sound of falling or moving things on the other side.

Be on the lookout for any suspicious signs of damage like broken plaster, paint or water leakage.

Outdoors, repeat the above process. On top of that, look out for any suspicious piles of dirt. Use your own weight to test the integrity of the earth around your property.

Check the branches of trees, which some species of termites nest within.

If you have timber lying around in your yard, also make sure that that isn’t harbouring an infestation.

Do not disturb any white ants you find

It is not wise/advisable to attack white ants on sight.

To take on a white ant colony, you need a proper management plan.

White ants respond to direct attack by sectioning off and hiding their nest if they come under attack, making it harder for you and your exterminator to remove the source of the problem – the nest, their queen.

A smart way to exterminate termites is to have a VIP Pest Control expert leave chemical barriers around the areas of your property that will stop the ants from progressing through your home.

Your Melbourne white ants’ exterminator will identify the points of your property that require a chemical barrier. Once that barrier is layered down, the ants will slowly be poisoned, taking the poison back to their own colony, helping you wipe it out completely.

What to do if you disturb white ants

If you have opened a piece of timber and found a catacomb of white ants wriggling inside  it, you need to cover that back up ASAP.

When you’re working under such short notice, thick duct tape can be used to close it up.

If the area that ants are feasting within returns to a state of darkness, they might continue as they were. This is what you’re hoping for, the alternative is that these worker white ants will march go back to their colony to seal it up, protect it and hide it.

Contact VIP Pest Control on 1800 198 041 to learn more about pest inspections for your property and pest control management plans.


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