The Hidden Dangers of Termite Attack

Dangerous termite mud
Dangerous: Moist termite mud behind a power socket
can cause electric shock or potential death.

Simon Thornton from Noah’s Ark Pest Control – the Victorian State Winners of ‘Pest Manager of the Year’ for 2014 – has been treating a property in the inner-west of Melbourne for termites. Details of this termite treatment emphasise the importance of factors such as comprehensive termite inspections and diligence when dealing with termite infestations.

The importance of thorough termite inspections and diligent treatment were really highlighted in this case. The homeowner originally approached Noah’s Ark Pest Control, not with a termite control problem, but with a general pest matter.

They initially thought the problem could be rats, as they were experiencing flickering lights and could hear ‘clicking’ noises in the walls. Interestingly, the initial brief from the homeowner tended to indicate possums or rodents, rather than termites. In addition to this, the homeowners spoke very little English, so communication was difficult.

In late November 2014 we inspected this property, a solid brick house on a slab, built in the late 1980s. We were not specifically looking for termites, but thankfully our termite inspector had his wits about him as he immediately noticed brown marks high up on the plaster walls.

Closer inspection and more discussions with the homeowner led the technician to insist that a full timber pest inspection was required to investigate what appeared to be termite ‘flight’ holes being prepared on their walls. Fortunately, the homeowners were from Vietnam and understood that what had appeared to them to be rodents, was actually a potentially extensive network of termite activity that looked close to releasing alates.

Termite mud damage to home in Sunshine, Melbourne
Potential risk: This termite damage to a Sunshine home caused
lights to flicker and strange noises in the wall cavity.

Upon further investigation it was evident there was an extensive Coptotermes termite colony throughout the wall cavity. Strangely, while our termite inspector was on site, some of the lights were flickering, which led him to look carefully at the electrical sockets on the affected walls. Worryingly, these sockets were full of termite mud.

Potential Danger

On a number of levels this raises concerns that we should always be mindful when dealing with termites.

Firstly, it is potentially dangerous where termite activity in wall cavities could impact on the safety of electrical sockets, especially if these sockets have wet mud, and are not protected with safety switches. Any contact could result in a dangerous situation or even electrical shock if homeowners or technicians are not aware of these potential risks.

Following inspection, it appears that there had been a slow leak in a bathroom or shower that had, over time, attracted termites. From there they had moved through the home virtually unnoticed, except for the flickering lights and clicking noises. A huge network of mud was uncovered in the wall cavities of this property.

It was important to establish the presence of safety switches, to ensure that those affected electrical sockets would be isolated should there be a short. All of this was communicated carefully to the customer. As an additional safety measure, they were advised not to use those sockets until treatment had been completed.

This case raises some interesting points as to the tricky and often challenging nature of termite behaviour and what is important to note when inspecting properties for termite control – in this situation, taking note of any specific or potential safety hazards!

A good termite operator will be using not just their termite identification skills, but will also need a healthy dose of problem solving ability, a trade sense and even basic building know how!

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