Why Do Termites Pose Such a Huge Threat to Homeowners?

A single termite may not look threatening, but a whole colony can compromise the structural integrity to properties in a short period of time. According to the entomologist at University Sains Malaysia, termites cause an estimated RM40million of structural damages in Malaysia every year.

Many property owners in Malaysia worry about fire or flood, but termite damage is actually much more common because our tropical environment and high humidity encourage the growth of termite population. The worse bite would be to the value of your assets as most building insurance policies do not cover termite damage.

Termites randomly and continuously forage in search of their food - cellulose. Even if your property is built primarily of brick or stone, it is still at risk because the structural supports and other building components are constructed of wood and other cellulose containing materials.


There are an estimated 4,000 termite species worldwide and Subterranean termite (Coptotermes spp.) is commonly found in homes. Subterranean termites have been known to forage up to 300 feet from their colony, thus if your neighbours have termites, then it is very likely they could have gone into your home as well.

Termites are intelligent social insects that live in colonies with a strict caste system, where they are organised into different social classes based on their roles and responsibilities.


  • King and queen — mate and produce eggs.
  • Alates (or swarmers) — reproductives that leave the nest in large swarms to look for mates and nest locations to form new colonies.
  • Worker — undertakes the labour of food searching and feeds the colony.
  • Soldier — provides strength and armour against attacks or invasions.

Most termite colonies are originated from a single pair of primary reproductive. A Subterranean termite queen can produce up to 1,000 eggs a day and grow the colony up to hundreds and millions of termites in a short period. With that copious number of occupants that are buried deep underground for moisture; it won’t be surprising if there are multiple colonies inhabiting the same piece of land you call home.

The workers produce a variety of chemicals known as the pheromones that influence their behaviour. As these workers are blind, they rely on pheromones to help them send messages to other termites in the colony. When a food source is located, the odour trail is intensified to recruit other termites to the feeding site.

As termites devour their way through wood from the inside, this can make it difficult to detect a termite infestation but there are some tell-tale signs that can indicate their presence.

  • Mud shelter tubes on wall. Subterranean termites build elaborate shelter tubes made of mud, dirt and debris in order to travel to and fro the food source without being seen, These tubes are about an inch in diameter and are usually found on exterior and interior walls leading up to the entry points of the building.
  • Sightings of flying alates or discarded alates wings on window sills and floors. Generally, the first sign of infestation noticed by homeowners is the presence of swarming reproductives on window sill or near indoor light. Another indication is the presence of wings, discarded by the alates as a normal part of their behaviour.
  • Damaged/ infested wood — consumed wood from within but with the outer layers intact. Wood damage is a definite sign of termite infestations. Wood that yields a dull, thudding sound when struck with a screwdriver or hammer should be examined.

When homeowners found evidence of termite infestation at home, it is important that a thorough inspection is done before deciding the type of treatment. Termite control is most effective if it is carried out by experienced and professionally trained technicians who understand the biology and living/feeding habits of termites, on top of thorough observation of the building’s construction, soil characteristics and favourable conditions for infestation. Your property is an important investment which you would want to protect and maintain.


  1. Baiting — a holistic method to eliminate termite colonies by placing unobtrusive bait stations in your property. The highly palatable bait contains an active ingredient that inhibits termite growth. When the bait is shared and spread, it will gradually affect the colony until it can no longer support itself and the queen, and collapses.
  2. Termiticide — one of the many soil treatments that create a treated zone around the perimeter and sub-floor by injecting termiticide through drilled holes. Affected termites will spread the termiticide to others through physical contact, eventually reducing the population of the colony.

"Discovering that there is termite infestation in your home can be devastating, especially when severe damages had incurred. By recognising the early signs of termite presence can help homeowners reduce costly repairs and further damages that will affect the value of your property." said Ms. Carol Lam, the Managing Director of Rentokil Initial Malaysia.

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