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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Termites

Posted on 24 September 2014

Termites are the bane of homeowners all over the world and if present on a property, can cost thousands of dollars to eradicate. These tiny insects can live for years in your home, destroying it from the inside out, and you may not even know they are there.

If you are considering buying a property in Sydney, one of the first things you will need to do is get a pre-purchase pest inspection. Sydney buyers who skip this step could find themselves with a termite-infested property, and a number of long-term problems.

As well as being destructive little critters, termites are actually quite interesting and have more to them than initially meets the eye. Here are ten things you probably didn’t know about termites:

  1. Termites don’t sleep. Much like vampires, they stay awake continuously and work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is not great news if their work involves chomping away at the inside of your home!
  2. Termites are one of the largest producers of methane gas in the insect and animal kingdom, emitting an estimated 20 million tonnes of methane gas per year worldwide. This high production is due to the bacteria and protozoa that live in their guts to aid the digestive process.
  3. Most termites are blind. As they live in dark nests for their entire lives, the majority of termites can’t see. The only termites that are able to see are the reproductive termites that have to fly out to find mates and start new colonies.
  4. When they detect a threat, termites bang their heads against the wall of their nests. The resulting vibrations send out a signal to other termites that danger is imminent.
  5. Termites are very clean. It would be easy to assume that they would be dirty as they spend all their time grubbing about underground and inside dead wood, but termites are actually extremely fastidious and spend large amounts of time grooming each other.
  6. Termites are considered food in some parts of the world. Higher in protein than beef, with a strong caloric value, lightly fried termites are sold in marketplaces in Zaire. In some places, they are even turned into cooking oil.
  7. Termite queens can live for 15-20 years, and during that time can lay up to 30,000 eggs per day.
  8. Termites eat each other’s faeces. As termites don’t have any bacteria in their gut when they are born they need to ingest it through eating the excrement from other termites before they can digest the plant material that forms their main diet. This habit continues throughout their lives, as every time they moult, they need to replenish their supply of microorganisms.
  9. Termites have been around for over 100 million years. Believed to be descended from a type of cockroach that was crawling around 300 million years ago, a 100 million-year-old termite fossil complete with gut bacteria has been found preserved in amber.
  10. Termites have a lot of benefits for the environment. Although best known for breaking down the wood in peoples’ homes and creating havoc and expensive repair bills, termites also play a vital function in breaking down plant fibres and helping to recycle dead wood and trees in the environment.


No matter how interesting they are, finding termites in a property you are about to buy can be disappointing. However, the presence of termites doesn’t always mean that you can’t go ahead with the purchase.

As long as you have had a pest inspection report completed, you will be aware of the extent of the problem, and how much it is likely to cost to repair the damage. This can be a valuable negotiating tool and help you make an informed buying decision.


By Darel McBride


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