Termites, cockroaches and spiders that thrive under successive La Niñas are about to go “crazy.”

A Brisbane pest exterminator says he has never seen so many termite infestations, with the pest enjoying perennial moisture brought on by successive La Nina weather systems.

While Queensland was in drought conditions, wood-eating threats slowed down, but with consistent rain over the past two years, they have returned with a vengeance and menacing features.

“Termites have increased exponentially in the last two years,” said Gavin Shill, who runs a pest control business.

“I’ve been doing this for about 23 years and I’ve never seen it this bad in terms of termites.”

Mr Shill said his company was doing more “active treatments” than before – dealing with established infections rather than preventive measures.

Gavin Shill is a pest exterminator in Brisbane. (Supply: Gavin Shill)

“We’re doing seven or eight jobs a month now, where it used to be a few a month.

“It just went through the roof.

“I work on completely destroyed houses. They are on every wall and roof.

“The number of them is shocking.”

A termite trail leading from the ground to a wooden window sill.
Termites find an entry point though a brick wall. (Supply: Gavin Shill)

Professor Dieter Hochuli, who heads the Integrative Ecology Group at the University of Sydney, said it would be a red-letter year for termites.

“It’s going to be a big year for termites because the high levels of soil moisture are ideal for them to dig and thrive,” he said.

“Termites are particularly sensitive when it comes to desiccation, so having an extremely moist environment was very beneficial for them.

“This is especially true for homes with pests.

“So life became a little easier for them as they went underground and looked for new food sources.”

What Makes Your Home Vulnerable to Termites?

Termite marks visible under the paint.
Mr Shiel said he had recently dealt with houses that had been completely destroyed by termites.(Supply: Gavin Shill)

Damp spots in wooden buildings attract termites, Mr Shill said.

“It’s all about moisture. If you have caulk backing up or water running down the walls from anywhere, that makes the house vulnerable to termites.

“They’re attracted to moisture, then they look for a food source.”

Mr. Shill recently found termites under a rubber mat because of the humidity there.

Termite tracks in sandy soil under a rubber mat.
Termites can congregate anywhere there is moisture, such as under this rubber mat.(Supply: All Year Pest Solutions)

Has the rain caused an increase in other pests?

Not yet, Mr. Shill said, but soon.

“Not massively. It’s been a mild or even slow year so far,” he said.

“That’s because we don’t have heat yet.

“There is an increase in things like bees, but other things are not yet.”

A striped brown and black cockroach clings to the bark of a tree.
Expect an explosion of cockroaches with the onset of heat. (Credit: Alan Henderson)

That is likely to change with temperatures rising in South East Queensland this week.

“With warmer days forecast later this week, after the rain we’ve just had, we’re about to see an explosion of large American and Australian cockroaches and spiders flying into your home,” Mr Shill said.

“Their reproductive patterns are slower, but they speed up when it’s warm.

“By the end of the week, we should see a lot of people getting into their homes.”

Hot weather and humidity are key, Professor Hochuli said.

“Like termites, spiders are likely to respond to an increase in available food,” he said.

“And damp and warm is what many species of spiders and cockroaches like!”

Why does this happen to us?

A wooden slab with large cracks in it.
Termites attacked this carrier beam.(Supply: All Year Pest Solutions)

Conditions are ideal for pesky bugs right now.

“The main result is that heat and humidity create ideal conditions for various insects,” – Professor Hochuli.

“Their biology is really closely related to responding when the conditions are right.

“The rains help the plants grow high and the species that eat them thrive.

“That means there’s a lot of food for things that eat other insects. It’s basically a bottom-up system, where high initial productivity ensures the success of many animals in many systems.”

A man with glasses and a bear holds a framed picture of bugs and smiles.
University of Sydney professor Dieter Hochuli said humidity was key.(Supply: Dieter Hochuli)

Professor Hochuli says insects don’t like being dry, so the months of wet weather have been a boon for them.

“Really moist environments take that dryness out of the equation, meaning that many animals that would die soon after hatching don’t die.

“That’s the fate of most insect eggs, either they don’t hatch or they die soon after.

“And the fact that that doesn’t happen means that their numbers are actually increasing.”

What can we do about spiders and cockroaches?

A red spider sits on a branch in the middle of its web.
Spiders and cockroaches enjoy the warm weather. (Credit: CSIRO)

There’s not much you can do to prevent a spider infestation other than preventive pesticide treatment, but you can make your home less attractive to cockroaches, Mr. Shill said.

“Just general cleanliness, not leaving food scraps, dog food outside, etc.” said Mr. Shill.

“Make sure the benches and cupboards are clean and the food is properly stored.

“It’s the prospect of food that will attract them.”

Grass shrimp and rats

A small shrimp-like creature that opposes the ruler
Amphipods usually live in leaf litter and mulch, but can be found in Queensland homes after heavy rain.(Credit: Helen Bender)

Not to worry, more and more Queenslanders are becoming familiar with “grass shrimp”.

“There were a few more last year and with the continued wet weather there will be even more this year,” Mr Shill said.


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