Termite Habitats and Feeding


Subterranean termite attack is often encouraged unwittingly by human carelessness in providing termites with the ideal conditions for their establishment and development.

When a pair of reproductives are seeking a site for establishing a colony, they are exposed to the outside environment, and unless their basic requirements for food, shelter and moisture are met, they die. Of the many thousands of alates that leave the parent colony in flight, few, and often none, succeed in establishing a new colony.

In attempting to reduce the termite hazard, wood in the soil, moisture, and dead trees and stumps are significant factors. Off-cuts of wood left in the soil or used as fill under a patio or bathroom during house construction, provides decaying wood, essential for the establishment of a new colony, and creates an ideal environment for termites.

Also, the use of railway sleepers in landscaping provides termites with decaying wood in moist situations. Pressure treated timbers, mostly Radiata pine, are favoured for landscaping, as they are chemically treated to protect the timber from decay and insect attack, and is not attacked by termites.

Dead trees and tree stumps provide a nesting area not only for subterranean termites but also for dampwood termite species. Dead roots left in the soil may also be infested, and these sometimes provide termites with subterranean access to buildings.

Stumps and the root crown of felled trees can be removed with stump grinders, and the area exposed chemically treated if necessary.

Subterranean termites depend on moisture for establishing and maintaining their colonies. Moisture is also required by the wood decay fungi from which termites obtain their protein.



Termites derive their nutrition from wood, wood products, leaves, bark and grass, and other material containing cellulose. Paper, cotton, burlap and other plant products are often actively attacked and consumed by termites. If these products are breaking down due to fungal activity or the activity of other organisms, they appear to be more attractive to termites. There are several species of termites that do not attack sound wood, but only wood that is decaying.

Termites depend on large numbers of one-celled animals (protists) living in their hind gut to break down the cellulose to simple acetic acid, which termites can digest. Worker termites and older nymphs consume wood and share their nourishment with the developing young, other workers, soldiers and reproductives, which feed from their oral and anal areas.

Termites require protein as well as carbohydrate in their diet, and this is usually supplied by the fungi that decay wood and vegetation.

The Termatrac Termite Detection Radar can detect termites moving in timber up to 50mm to 100mm thick, even if the timber is behind building surface structures, such as plaster, concrete, tile, carpet, vinyl, soil, etc. The Termite Detection Radar in the Termatrac T3i can detect the movement of a single termite in all types of timber, enabling detection prior to the presence of large swarms.


To make the environment less attractive to termites:

  • Ventilation of the sub-floor area reduces the moisture content of the air and prevents condensation of water on the wood.
  • Leaking drainage and water pipes should be fixed to avoid providing the soil moisture termites require.
  • Natural seepage may be reduced by the installation of subterranean drains.