Jack And The Bean Stalk - Termite Trap

I just recently had an interesting comment from one of our customers. Here is the detail of our email conversation.

Ion,

despite the more than 22 traps set all round the houses almost 4 months ago not one has been visited.
unfortunately we continue to find more infestations in the house hitherto not seen.
the question is where are these new invaders coming from?
the house is built on a cement slab. no posts.
my conclusion is that the queen and court are already in the house.
you may know that in 1994 Rabaul was devastated by the eruption of three volcanoes.
for years there were no plants or insects. no flies and no cockroaches. no bees no beetles.
then as the eco system re established from the surrounds, bird droppings leading to plant explorations which quickly died due to the extreme acidity of the soil but as leaching continued we experienced a Jack in the bean stalk period where everything exploded into new life and with it the bugs. Any one wanting a masters degree would have had a field day recording the changing of a lunar landscape back to a tropical jungle. Probably a Nobel Prize.
the safest place for a termite would have been inside as there have been three minor eruptions since the main one.

just a thought.

Peter Sharp

Dear Peter,

Yours is an insightful take on what has happened since the main, and following eruptions, since Ray Martin gave it a big coverage on Oz TV screens back in 1994. Your “Jack and the beanstalk” observation really conveys the drama and speed of the change.

That termites survived is perhaps not altogether surprising. They only need three basics for their cryptic life: food moisture and shelter — to retain humidity and security from ants and other predators. You didn’t mention their absence in your listing, but I guess ants were a bit thin on the ground after the eruptions as well.

So the timber in houses is food but probably only for the ‘lucky’ colonies that had already started eating. The needed moisture in the soil may have been acidic but if they were sourcing from an area not-so-acidic or which was being rapidly diluted by rain, then survival was more probable.

You haven’t told me what termite species but I’m supposing that if they are eating solid, seasoned timber, they are maybe Coptotermes but could be one of the Nasutes. Nasutes however almost always build a mound nest which is easily found and physically destroyed — which points more to the Coptos.

Coptos seldom build their nest inside a dwelling and are more likely to be under ground or even under the slab with a hidden access into the building where most of the timber is joined to other timber. Once they get started, if you find and disturb, destroy or replace the timber they are eating, they block off that attack point and begin from another.

I suggest your current best action is to carefully inspect, tap and probe around to find busy active termites inside timber and place a bag of termite bait so they can access it for transfer back to the colony. I suggest a 3 monthly check because they are in there somewhere and you want to find them as soon as you can. Once that colony is dead, it won’t revive. It is always possible another colony is busy in the same building — just a chance.

As for the Traps around your buildings, termites are unlikely to go searching for new food sources if they have enough tucker in the buildings. The Traps will be waiting and ready for any new colony scouts for at least 10 years from now.

Thank you again for the word pictures, I hope this has helped.

Warm Regards

Ion Staunton
Entomologist