Termites may look rather harmless but in reality they are highly destructive insects that need to be treated immediately when found. They search and munch away at wood 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in order for their entire colony to function optimally.
In terms of housing, subterranean termites are the main cause of damage, especially the species of Coptotermes. They simply wreck havoc as Coptotermes termites can search for food in the radius of a 100 metres which allows them to attack multi-storey buildings. Since subterranean termites build their nests underground, they enter houses by cracks in the foundations, along water pipes and electrical conduits. By craftily building mud tubes using soil and saliva, they are able to conceal their presence and movements from us for a time. Door and window frames, furniture and roofing material are some of the structures in houses that these termites will focus on with the inclusion of cardboard and books.
Subterranean termites simply tunnel through the wood they infest, leaving the exterior untouched. This weakens the wood considerably as the wood becomes a shell and allows them to go unnoticed.
Drywood termites, such as the Cryptotermes which is common in Malaysia pose a serious problem for older houses. Old furniture and roofing will be affected as these termites will hollow out the wood. However, dry wood termites colonies expand slowly which correspond to the damage inflicted.
The species Coptotermes curvignathus and Microcerotermes dubius of subterranean termites attack living trees. Mud tubes will be all over the trunks of infested trees. Some termites may attack the bark first and work inwards, other species opt to attack the heartwood and then feed outward which results in the tree crumbling away and dying.
Thus, not only wooden structures such as fences and railway sleepers are susceptible to termites, trees and agricultural plantations are at risk too. The earlier the termite infestation is found, the better.