Termites cause up to $1 billion of damage to property in Australia each year! CSIRO estimate that 1 in 5 properties have a history of termite attack and this is probably nearer 1 in 3 in the areas of higher termite pressure. The bottom line is that unless you take preventative actions, there’s a fairly good chance your home will come under termite attack at some point.

With termite damage not covered by the standard home insurance policies, regular annual termite inspections are a must. However, as termites could move into your property between one inspection and the next, it pays to know the obvious signs of termite activity.

However, since the main pest termite species in Australia are subterranean termites (they live underground), their activity is not always easy to spot.

Here are the top 6 signs of termite activity that every homeowner should be aware of:

1) Termite nests

Most termite nests are sited in tree trunks or hidden completely underground. But some termite species create mounds on the ground (some small, some big) and others create arboreal nests (in the branches of trees). These nests should be pretty easy to spot, but do not always belong to species that are a major concern.

Some termites build visible nests in trees

2) Termite mudding

Termites need moisture and humidity – they have a soft cuticle and readily dry out. As such, when they come above ground, they build mud shelter tubes to allow them to move safely to their feeding sites. Spotting these mud tubes on fencing and trees is often the first obvious sign that termites are in the area.

Clearly if you spot these mud tubes on the walls of your home, in the roof void or sub-floor (if you have one), you home is already under attack.

Sometimes termites will create extensive mud sheets, rather than mud tubes, when feeding on an area of wood.

Termite mud tubes on trees are a good sign there’s a nest nearby

3) Worker termites (“white ants”)

Worker termites (the ones that cause all the damage) are often called “white ants” because of their general resemblance to ants. But actually, they’re more closely related to cockroaches.

Worker termites will obviously be found inside the mud tubes and any area they are feeding. When you’re gardening, it’s common to find termites under rocks and logs or in the wood mulch.

Worker termites are a pale cream colour with a soft body

4) Flying termites

The flying termites (alates) are the new kings and queens that are produced by mature termite nests. They take off in large numbers on warm humid nights in spring and summer.

They don’t look like the worker termites – they are brown in colour with obvious eyes and two pairs of equal sized wings. When they pair off and land, their wings fall off easily, and the termite pair moves off to try and find a new place to start a nest.

If you spot these alates flying around lights in the evening or spot large numbers of wings on the ground in the morning, it means there is a nest nearby or worse still in your house!

Flying termites drop their wings on landing

5) Termite damage

Ok, so major damage should be easy to spot, but it’s the subtle signs of termite activity / damage that can be useful to spot – intercepting the problem sooner rather than later will limit the damage and costs.

Here are some of the signs of potential termite damage:

  • Bouncing / spongy floor boards
  • Doors / windows that don’t shut properly
  • Ripples in paintwork
  • Mud spots on wood or plasterboard
Rippled paintwork can be a sign of termite activity underneath

6) Termites head banging

So you need good hearing for this and you will probably only hear it at night, but when you have a major infestation you can actually hear termites. Some claim to be able to hear them chewing, but it is more likely to hear a faint rapid tapping noise – soldier termites ‘head-banging’ to communicate.

If you spot any of the above signs of termites or even if you are doubt, call a pest professional immediately.


If you think you’ve spotted some potential activity try and avoid digging open their areas of activity and certainly don’t spray them with insecticide. This will only disturb them from the area and not eliminate the problem, making it more difficult for a pest professional to locate the source of the problem and achieve control.