How to identify termite mudding.

We often get calls when people find some dust, debris or any fine material that appears out of places it probably shouldn't. Good news is, it's not always termites, but it's bad news when it is. How can you identify what it is?

Termites build mud shelter tubes to keep them nice and cozy and moist, they can't be exposed as they will dehydrate and die. So, keeping this in mind, you need to remember that you're looking for nice moist, tightly packed mud. If the termite activity isn't new, the mud may be quite dry and cracked, but it's normally quite dense and difficult to break off. Termites are great engineers, and they will build solid mud tubes that protect them from the outside world.

If you see any debris or something that isn't where it should be, give it a rub with your finger, if it's hard and doesn't break away easily then it could likely be termite mud!

Here are some pictorial examples of what to look for: 

The Termite mudding is clearly visible on this property on the Central Coast, that is, after you remove the paint!

The Termite mudding is clearly visible on this property on the Central Coast, that is, after you remove the paint!

Termite mud packed in between an engaged pier in a subfloor and a dwarf wall. The mud is packed in tightly and does not fall out easily!

Termite mud packed in between an engaged pier in a subfloor and a dwarf wall. The mud is packed in tightly and does not fall out easily!

This termite activity is quite obvious! However, subtle signs are also present. Notice the bubbling of the paint on the right hand side just below the mudding. This is a sign of significant activity jay below the surface, this is something we look for during inspections as well. This was on a property in Mangrove Mountain.

This termite activity is quite obvious! However, subtle signs are also present. Notice the bubbling of the paint on the right hand side just below the mudding. This is a sign of significant activity jay below the surface, this is something we look for during inspections as well. This was on a property in Mangrove Mountain.

Termite mud packed in behind this architrave is a dead giveaway. Although it may seem really obvious, sometimes the orientation of the door makes it hard to look at the doorway side on.

Termite mud packed in behind this architrave is a dead giveaway. Although it may seem really obvious, sometimes the orientation of the door makes it hard to look at the doorway side on.

Here is a deceptive example:

This appeared like evidence of termites at a distance initially, (it was  up on the top of a garage). Closer inspection revealed that it was just debris made up of dust, fluff and spiders webs. 

This appeared like evidence of termites at a distance initially, (it was  up on the top of a garage). Closer inspection revealed that it was just debris made up of dust, fluff and spiders webs. 

How ant capping keeps termites out of a building.

Ant Capping is designed to prevent undetected termite entry.

As with all termite management systems, they are primarily designed to force termites out in the open so they can be easily detected during an inspection, or to deter their entry. For these systems to work effectively, 2 conditions must be met:

  1. The physical barrier system needs to be complete, covering all entry points and forming a continuous barrier around the perimeter of the building.
  2. The property needs to be regularly inspected to ensure that the system is working correctly and there are no termites trying to infest the property.

Check the following photos that identify common problems with ant capping.

The termites have built a large mud shelter tube under this ant cap, but then you see them mysteriously appear in the timber above the ant cap! If this capping was a continuous barrier for the full width of the brick, they would have to build their mud shelter tube OVER the ant cap.

The termites have built a large mud shelter tube under this ant cap, but then you see them mysteriously appear in the timber above the ant cap! If this capping was a continuous barrier for the full width of the brick, they would have to build their mud shelter tube OVER the ant cap.

This explains why termites get in without being seen -  the ant capping does not cover the full width of the brick! This  does not  meet the Australian standard for termite protection.

This explains why termites get in without being seen -  the ant capping does not cover the full width of the brick! This does not meet the Australian standard for termite protection.

This ant capping was only partially existent, with an inspection edge that goes off into oblivion. It was not able to prevent the termites getting in a chewing out this frame.  

This ant capping was only partially existent, with an inspection edge that goes off into oblivion. It was not able to prevent the termites getting in a chewing out this frame.  

The ant cap on this wall ends up butting up to a timber frame, there's no inspection edge and no surprises the termites got in. 

The ant cap on this wall ends up butting up to a timber frame, there's no inspection edge and no surprises the termites got in. 

This is the most common failing of ant capping, failing to form a continuous barrier when there is a vertical transition, nothing is preventing the termites coming up between the two piers and into the lower bearer, and it would not be visible until it's too late.  

This is the most common failing of ant capping, failing to form a continuous barrier when there is a vertical transition, nothing is preventing the termites coming up between the two piers and into the lower bearer, and it would not be visible until it's too late.  

Termatrac finds termites - where thermal imaging won't!

Most people have heard of thermal imaging inspections, mostly due to the heavy advertising that takes place to promote it by inspectors. But many people don't realise the limitations that comes from using thermal imaging. Here is a great example of why the Termatrac T3i is superior in detecting termites. (And no, I'm not paid by Termatrac, more like I pay them for my Termatrac!)

A Termatrac T3i Set up on a tripod to detect termites moving in a ceiling - this was in a 2 storey building where the cavity was heavily insulated.

A Termatrac T3i Set up on a tripod to detect termites moving in a ceiling - this was in a 2 storey building where the cavity was heavily insulated.

In this particular instance, the ceiling did not have any temperature variation at all, which meant that thermal imaging was not able to detect any activity at all. The Termatrac however, could locate the areas of activity, thus allowing the area to be baited accurately with minimal disturbance to the termites.

The Termites were subsequently baited, you can see here the cavity and the insulation on the side of the bait box.

The Termites were subsequently baited, you can see here the cavity and the insulation on the side of the bait box.

The colony was safely eradicated due to the ability for the Termatrac to accurately pinpoint the areas of activity!

Determining termite genus & species - another part of an inspection.

Getting a termite inspection also involves determining the species of termites in a building and also the species of those surrounding the building. Each species have their own characteristics, interestingly only About 12 Species of termite damage sound timber in Australia. That's of the approximately 350 species in Australia, so determining termite species is important. The behaviour of these timber destroying species does vary, so an accurate identification is essential. 

A Coptotermes acinaciformus worker. The Coptotermes genus is one of the most destructive termites in Australia, accounting for the majority of the timber damage in structures. These were found in a subfloor and were consuming leftover formwork in the subfloor.

A Coptotermes acinaciformus worker. The Coptotermes genus is one of the most destructive termites in Australia, accounting for the majority of the timber damage in structures. These were found in a subfloor and were consuming leftover formwork in the subfloor.

Nasutitermes on a fence post, this genus are very destructive termites, and are a threat to homes and timber structures. These were within 50m of a house and are a direct threat to the home.

Nasutitermes on a fence post, this genus are very destructive termites, and are a threat to homes and timber structures. These were within 50m of a house and are a direct threat to the home.

The destructive Schedorhinotermes can be very difficult to control because of their their shy behaviour. And yes, they are very destructive! Here are some during a baiting programme we're carrying out.

The destructive Schedorhinotermes can be very difficult to control because of their their shy behaviour. And yes, they are very destructive! Here are some during a baiting programme we're carrying out.

So, make sure that termites are identified correctly during an inspection. The threat to your property, the type of treatment options and the effectiveness on control all depend on correctly identifying the termites in and around your home!