When it comes to controlling household pests, termites are one of the most challenging pests Singaporean homeowners can face. If left unchecked, termites can wreak havoc on furniture, built-in carpentry, old books and documents or worse — the structural foundations of a home.
Termite control is notoriously difficult to perform unless you have professional knowledge and expertise. Many homeowners struggle to detect termites before it is too late. If an infestation is finally detected, off-the-shelf products may not be able to deal with colonies that have grown too large.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what are the termite control steps you can take as a homeowner to prevent termite infestations from happening, the efficiency of DIY termite control methods and whether you should hire the services of a professional termite pest control specialist in Singapore.
Are Termites Common in Singapore?
Termites are one of the most common pests in Singapore. Our country’s humid climate creates the ideal environment for them to thrive. However, unlike other common house pests like ants or cockroaches, termites are less visible as they typically spend most of their time underground or inside wood. This is why they’re often known as the “silent killer” as most of the damage they do is often unseen until it is too late.
Spotting a single termite almost always means a colony is nearby. Termites work 24/7 and do not need to sleep, so colonies can expand at an alarming rate. A termite queen can lay up to 30,000 eggs in one day. Mature termite colonies can range from hundreds of thousands to millions of termites and can eat over five kilograms of wood in one month.
Due to their reclusive nature, homeowners in Singapore are generally unfamiliar with termite control, termite treatment methods and how to deal with pest termites. Many homes in Singapore are at risk of a termite infestation, particularly old homes with wooden structural components and landed properties.
Types of Termites in Singapore
Termites in Singapore can be categorised into three types: Subterranean, Drywood and Dampwood. The key differences between the three types lie in where they live and how they behave. As a result, the termite control and termite treatment methods also differ for each type.
All termite colonies are organised in a caste system each with its own roles. Every colony consists of the king and queen, alates, soldiers and workers.
The king, queen and alates are reproductives — responsible for giving birth to new offspring and establishing new colonies. Meanwhile, soldiers defend the colony from predators and other threats while workers gather food, take care of the young as well as build and maintain the nest. Termite colonies are extremely hardy as alates can replace the king or queen, and workers are capable of developing into reproductives or soldiers when necessary.
A colony starts when alates swarm and pair up to find a suitable nesting site. Once a suitable habitat is found, they shed their wings and start to lay eggs — becoming the king and queen of a new colony.
Subterranean termites typically live in soil and wood that comes into contact with the ground. They measure 3mm to 10mm in length and need ample moisture in order to thrive, which is why they prefer to nest near a water source and stay underground.
Subterranean termites create mud tubes (tunnels made out of soil and cellulose) to prevent moisture loss when travelling above ground. Mud tubes are a telltale sign of a subterranean termite infestation. This is how they move from their underground nests into homes where they seek out wood and cause damage.
Unlike subterranean and dampwood termites, drywood termites measure 6mm to 10mm in length and require very little moisture to survive, making them more than capable of living above ground. Colonies of drywood termites live completely within wood, using it as shelter and a food source.
They can be found dry, hard wood found inside a home like wooden doors, walls, shelves and cabinets. Wood that is untreated is particularly susceptible to drywood termite infestation. A telltale sign of drywood termites is hollow-sounding wood and fecal pellets at “kick holes”, which are small openings drywood termites use to escape and push waste out of their tunnels.
Dampwood termites measure 8mm to 16mm in length and colonise wood with high moisture content. They are often found inhabiting rotten or decaying wood. Out of the three types of termites, they require the most moisture and a constant supply of water. This is also why dampwood termites are exclusively found outdoors, while subterranean and drywood termites can venture indoors.
Comparing Subterranean, Drywood and Dampwood Termites
Dampwood Termite/Garden Termite
The soldier has large mandible, yellowish head and creamy body color whereas worker is creamy in color
Have a thick waist, short legs, and straight antennae
Long head with strong and stout mandibles
The soldier will release white liquid when being torture, swarming during the day
Prefer to infest softwood rather than hardwood (teak), Produce dry fecal pellet near the kick holes in the infested wood, swarming during dusk or night
do not make tunnel/mud tube/trails, feed on decaying woods, old tree stumps, rotting log and buried timber
Door/window frame, skirting, cabinet, cupboards, books, carton box in storeroom and etc
Wooden Furniture which is not treated with insecticide
Normally in the garden area, tree shrubs, or wood that in contact directly with soil with high moisture content
Signs of Termite Infestation
Dead or alive termite
Dull and hollow wood sound
Fallen tree stump
Approaches for Termite Control
Termite Baiting System — In-ground & Above-ground baiting stations
Corrective Soil Treatment
Anti-Termite Soil Treatment
Wood injection — Injecting insecticide into the infested wood using foam formulation
Anti-Termite Soil Treatment
What are the First Signs of a Termite Infestation?
Termites can be hard to spot as they spend most of their time underground and within wood structures. They invade our homes by passing through cracks and crevices only 1/32 of an inch wide. Even more outward signs of infestations like mud tubes can go unnoticed if they are built in areas like drainage pipes.
While termites can be hard to detect, it is not an impossible task! Spotting these telltale signs of a termite infestation is a great way to practice termite control, giving you ample time to engage professional termite pest control services before any damage is done.
Created by subterranean termites to move above ground, mud tubes are shelters that help the termites retain moisture during travel whilst keeping them safe from predators and the external environment.
They are made out of a mixture of mud, dirt, debris and cellulose. Mud tubes can range from light to dark brown appearance depending on the dirt used. They are typically found on the exterior and interior walls leading from the ground towards wood or entry points.
Damaged Wood and Wood Tunnels
Termites feed on wood from the inside out. When enough damage is done, the surface of the wood might appear bubbly resembling water damage. This makes it difficult to discern water damage from termite damage unless you have access to specialised equipment used by professional termite pest control companies.
Drywood termites also create tunnels within the infested wood for the colony to live in and travel. These are undetectable via a visual inspection unless the wood is broken. However, professional termite pest control specialists have access to equipment that can detect termites within the wood.
Unusual Sounds or Hollow-sounding Wood
What if you don’t have access to specialised termite pest control equipment? Can you still detect termites within wood? Fortunately, it is still possible to determine if you have a termite infestation using simple methods and a little attention to your surroundings.
One of the first telltale signs of a termite infestation is unusual sounds from within the wood. These come in the form of soft “knocking” or “clicking” sounds produced when termites bang their heads against the walls of their tunnels to communicate when threatened or disturbed.
Another easy way to detect termites in wood is to tap on the piece of wood in question. If it produces a hollow sound, there may be termites living within.
Alates and Discarded Wings
Alate is also known as flying termite, they travel for a short distance away from their nest. If you see flying termites, chances are a colony is nearby. Reproductive termites also shed their wings when they find a suitable nesting spot after swarming, so the presence of discarded wings is a telltale sign of a nearby colony.
The presence of termite droppings is the telltale sign of a drywood termite infestation. Drywood termites leave fecal pellets at “kick holes”, which are small openings in wood drywood termites use to escape and push waste out of their tunnels.
Can I Control Termites On My Own?
While there are many off-the-shelf termite control products available for consumers, we do not recommend taking a DIY approach. Many off-the-shelf products are short-term solutions that only eliminate termites in a localised area. As long as the colony is intact, termites will bounce back and continue to spread. Professional termite control solutions address the root cause of termites by eliminating the colony and setting up measures to prevent future infestations.
Due to their network of tubes, eliminating termites in one area doesn’t mean that the rest of your home is free of infestation. Professional termite pest control specialists use special microwave equipment to scan and detect the presence of termites under surfaces. Termite pest control specialists are also able to conduct a thorough inspection to find potential infestation points that the average homeowner may not have the knowledge to identify.
If your goal is to eliminate an existing infestation and want to prevent future infestations from reoccurring, then it is better to engage a professional termite pest control specialist rather than take a DIY approach.
How Do Professionals Control Termites?
All professional termite solutions start with a thorough inspection of your property to identify potential entry points and at-risk areas. After the inspection has been completed, the specialist will recommend an appropriate solution. Termite treatment can be a long-term process that may require multiple sessions to completely eliminate the colony.
The professional termite control and termite treatment methods to address existing infestations differ depending on the type of termite you have.
Subterranean and Dampwood Termite Control
Soil treatments are the most common technique for treating and preventing termite infestations. Liquid termiticides are injected into the soil to create a chemical barrier that kills termites that come into direct contact with the chemically treated zone. Alternatively, they may also be injected into concrete via drill holes.
Soil treatment uses certified chemicals that are safe for children and pets. As it is a liquid-based termite treatment, the area can continue to be used after installation without risk of exposure.
Termite soil treatments remain effective for years without the need for reapplication.
Baiting is a popular termite pest control method used to target subterranean termites. The bait contains cellulose to attract termites and active chemicals that inhibit the growth of termites by stopping their ability to moult.
Termite workers take the bait and share them with the rest of the colony, spreading the poison. Depending on the size of the colony, it can take anywhere from 4 - 12 weeks for the colony to be eliminated.
Termite dusting is the most inexpensive termite control method. It involves injecting powder into termite mud tubes. The powder contains toxicants that are picked up by foraging termites and passed onto the rest of the colony through interaction.
Termite dusting is widely considered to be a short-term treatment that is best used in treating mild termite infestation. This is due to the treatment is effective at eliminating termites in a localised area or a single termite colony infestation. It typically does not eliminate multiple colony infestation at one place.
Drywood Termite Control
Drywood termites can be challenging to treat as they build their colonies deep within wood. Most termite pest control specialists will recommend simply discarding an infested piece of furniture.
However, this is not always possible due to sentimental reasons or if the infestation is within built-in carpentry. In these cases, termite foaming can be used to treat the infested wood.
Termite foaming involves drilling holes into affected areas for the foam treatment to be injected. This foam naturally expands and flows into hard-to-reach cracks and crevices. The foam leaves a residue that contains toxicants which are picked up by foraging termites traversing the area. The foraging termites spread the toxicant throughout the colony, eventually eliminating it.
How Much Does Termite Control Cost in Singapore?
The costs of engaging a professional pest control company to handle your termite problem can vary greatly depending on several factors. Many pest control companies will not provide an exact fee due to the number of elements involved. Instead, the best way to obtain a price for your specific termite problem is to request an inspection and receive a quote.
Size of Treatment Area
The size of the treatment area affects how much your termite control specialists charge for their service. The bigger the area, the pricier the service will be. This is due to the amount of product needed and man hours spent.
Type of Treatment
The type of termite treatment used affects the price of your quote. Dusting tends to be the cheapest option, followed by baiting and chemical treatments.
The complexity of treatment application can also drive up your costs. For example, the procedure to treat Drywood termites in in-built furniture is much more complicated and labour intensive compared to procedures for removable furniture.
Frequency of Treatment
The cost of professional termite control services also varies depending on how often the termite treatment needs to be performed. This is highly dependent on the severity of the infestation. Large, widespread infestations may require weekly visits to ensure that the treatment is effective and the colony size is decreasing.
Are There Effective, Natural Ways to Eliminate and Control Termites?
While chemical solutions are the most effective ways to eliminate and control termites, you may not want to introduce them into your home for a variety of reasons. When considering natural termite treatment alternatives, you should take note that many of these solutions are either only ideal for small infestations, or function as “spot treatments” — meaning they kill termites in a localised area rather than targeting the entire colony.
Orange oil is often touted as a natural termite treatment. Made out of the extract of orange peels, its active ingredient is d-limonene, which is shown to be an effective insecticide against various other pests.
The problem with orange oil is its lack of residual effect. This means only the termites that come into contact with the oil are killed, leaving the rest of the colony to continue damaging property. Orange oil also has low efficacy, which means you will need to reapply it to the treatment areas constantly.
Finally, while it may be derived from oranges, orange oil extract is not completely safe as it can cause stomach upset if ingested and potentially irritate skin upon contact. It is also flammable and can be a potential fire risk.
Sunlight is an excellent home remedy for Drywood termites that have infested a piece of furniture. Simply remove the affected item from your home and leave it exposed to sunlight for a few days. This will dry out the wood and kill out any termites within.
Used to control dampwood and subterranean termites, nematodes are microscopic roundworms that are mixed with water and poured into the openings of termite nests. Termites pick up these nematodes as they absorb moisture. Once the nematodes are picked up, they release a gut bacteria that kill the termite within 48 hours.
While nematodes are a highly effective natural termite treatment, they are only capable of addressing small infestations. Large colonies will reproduce too fast for nematodes to make a dent in the problem.
How to Prevent Termite Infestations from Occurring?
As you can see, termite infestations can be expensive and time-consuming to eliminate. In the case of termites, prevention is better than cure. Follow these tips to prevent termites from accessing your home and protect your property from termite infestation.
Reduce Excess Moisture in and Around Your Home
Termites need moisture to thrive. Dark and moist areas such as gutters or drain pipes present an attractive and hospitable environment that can potentially attract termites.
Make sure you promptly address any moisture problems such as leaky plumbing or faulty air conditioner condensation pipes.
Seal Potential Access Points
Termites typically enter homes through cracks or holes where utilities like water or gas lines pass through. Be sure to inspect these potential access points and seal any gaps that you find.
For landed properties, avoid wood-to-ground contact wherever possible. Wood that touches the ground attracts subterranean termites and creates an access point from their underground nests into their home. If you cannot avoid wood-to-ground contact, treat the wood with termiticide to make it unappealing to termites.
Remove or Reduce Food Sources
Termites are biologically programmed to seek out cellulose found in wood and paper products. This means they are attracted to food sources like cardboard boxes and paper bags we may keep in our homes. Whenever possible, throw out extra cellulose materials around your house that act as a potential food source for termites.
Get the Best Termite Control in Singapore with System Pest
If you have a termite problem, don’t waste your time and effort on short-term fixes or DIY methods that can be costly only for them to show up again weeks later.
Get professional termite pest control services to survey your home and rid yourself of annoying pests today. At System Pest Control Services, we provide pest management services for a safe, clean and pest-free home.
Contact us and let’s discuss how we can help with your termite situation.
Read also: 5 Ways to Keep Your Home Free from Termites