“Most of them are quite safe,” science teacher and conservationist Greg Smith told 891 ABC Adelaide‘s Weekends program.
“There are only really a handful that are dangerous to human structures.”
Mr Smith said throughout South Australia’s Mount Lofty Ranges there were two main types of termites — mound-building termites and subterranean termites.
The good termites
“The mound builders actually eat grass — so they are not a real problem at all,” Mr Smith said.
He said the mound-building termites were a vital part of the ecosystem.
“Some bird species eat termites and won’t breed at all without them,” Mr Smith said.
Bird breeders actively harvest termites to feed their animals during breeding seasons but leave the mounds intact.
“We don’t destroy the mounds when we see them, we just take a section of it out and then cover it back up,” Mr Smith said.
The heath goanna (Varanus rosenbergi) lays its eggs in termite mounds.
The goanna is classified as vulnerable in South Australia by the environment department, with several areas now listing them as endangered.
“They are almost extinct in the [Adelaide] Hills,” Mr Smith said.
The bad termites
“The subterranean ones will travel underground for up to 200 metres, into a new food source, which may be your house,” Mr Smith said.
In suburbia he said the average residential block was about 10 metres wide, which would give a termite nest up to 20 houses in its range.
Mr Smith said people wanting to rid a home block of termites needed to be aware of the longevity of chemicals if used.
“Anything that can kill something is not going to do us any favours in the long run.”
“It might kill an insect in a few minutes, but I always worry about the long-term affects on ourselves.”
Mr Smith recommended home users check which type of termite nest they have discovered before attempting to destroy it.
If it was a breed that was a threat to buildings, he suggested owners check the contents and warnings of poisons before using them around homes.