How to use Thermal Camera for Termite Extermination

A Thermal Camera Solution

Termite tunnels

Thermal cameras may be relatively new to some in the termite and pest control industry, but it can be a very useful tool for a termite exterminator as it can expose water leaks or high moisture area which are prime nesting places for termites. Most termite inspectors will utilize this tool when a homeowner suspects a house is infested with termites. Thermal imaging are used to help us successfully locate termite damage to buildings in a non-destructive manner. Not only does the thermal camera show evidence of an infestation, but it can also enable the homeowner to have some peace of mind that the rest of the house is free from termites and that the exterminator has done their job properly. 

Termite problem

Termites are insects that feast on wood, known to cause extensive damages to houses once they infest it. Identifying the problem before its too late is difficult as they stick to insides on wood and is difficult to see with the naked eye. If termites invade a house, in as little as six weeks, a small colony can form and considerable damage can be done as the termites eat through the timber parts of the house and start colonizing. They must stay out of the light and keep to the darker and damper areas inside the walls, floor and roof spaces. They need to control their temperature and may do this generating heat as they stay in large groups, or building moist mud structures to keep cool in hot conditions. They are attracted to warm areas around power points. 

Traditional methods include knocking on the wood to hear a hollow sound that is left in the wake of the termites' destruction. More effective methods now include the use of thermal cameras which are not damaging to the property. An inspection with a thermal camera will detect these changes in heat patterns, whereas conventional methods will keep these colonies hidden.

Difference Between Termite and Regular Ants

 Image showing difference between termite and ant


Winged Termites

Flying Ants

• Straight antennae

• Elbowed antennae

• Almost uniform between body segments

• Distinguished differences between body segments

• Front wings and hind wings are the same size

• Front wings are longer than hind wings

• Double body length wings

• Body length wings


Different Types Of Termite

The two different types of termite you will typical encounter invading your home are;

Drywood Termite: These insects will invade your house by flying from their existing colony which may be depleted or out of space. They will scout out your house through wooden openings and start a new nest.

Subterranean Termite: As the name suggests, these termites exist underground and will travel through tunnelling into your houses foundation. They tend to build mud tunnels to travel and as such you will see these tunnel on your wooden foundation. 95% of termite problems are from Subterranean species.

The Extent and Cost of Damage Termite Cause

Research online suggests that on a global scale, termites can cause $40 billion worth of damages annually and destroy around 600,000 houses in the United States alone. If we look at the costs domestically then between repairs and extermination it hits $2 billion annually which doesn't include the costs for other species of termites.

On a grand scale of things the $2 billion can be interpreted both ways, maybe its just large corporations or heavily damaged houses that are on the steeper end of costs?

Not exactly.

Average costs for termite extermination is between $1500 - $5000 but this is just half of the costs, depending on the amount of structural damage you could be looking at double or even triple this price for repair work.

Therefore its essentially that when you notice signs of termites in your house that you have to act immediately.

Signs of Termite Infestation

  • The presence of small wings that termites have discarded as they no longer need this once they have a settled in a new nest
  • Termites may excavate the wood so that only a very thin layer of wood is left on the surface of the cavity and the outside. Then this layer is broken; they will cover the holes with mud like material, used to make the tubes. This is a mixture of soil, faeces, and saliva. Tap or open up the wood to see if its hollow, don’t wait for cracks to show on the surface as this will likely be a very advanced stage of damage.
  • Mud tunnels leading into wooden structures which measure around 1/4 inch thick.
  • Termite droppings: these are around 1mm thickness and are found in mounds. If you see these around your home then you have termite infestation.  

How to Locate the Termite Traditionally

Traditionally, exterminators would tap on wooden parts of the housing structure to listen for a hollow sound. They would use a tool which closely resembles a golf club to achieve this. Once they confirmed a hollow sound they will proceed to “open” up that part of the structure to inspect it.

But this is Expensive and Time-Consuming

As you can imagine, this method is not completely effective to locate the source and is prone to human error. The worst part is discovering you don’t have an infestation of termite and end up with an expensive hole to fix.

How to use a Thermal Camera to locate infestation

A thermal camera is a tool that is used to detect heat signature and sources. Naturally, termites will not show up on a thermal camera, unless enough of them are present to disturb the heat signature of their surroundings, in which case a thermal camera will show this as a bright orange/red area.

Thermal imaging technology detects heat patterns. When termites invade buildings, the normal heat patterns on the walls, floors and roof are changed due to the presence of termites. The thermal camera records this change in heat patterns and indicates the exact location of any termite infestation. A color image shows hot spots as red or yellow and cold spots as blue or purple and these heat patterns indicate termite infestations. Most home inspectors today use infrared cameras. It is critical in infrared that you use a camera with a high enough resolution. You can’t inspect a home looking for an organism that can fit into gaps as small as 1/32 of an inch, and use an inferior, low resolution camera.

Traditional method vs Thermal Camera

Both methods are indirect ways to locate termites and both will methods will have an inspector tearing a hole to physically inspect for termites. However, because of the non-invasive method of thermal cameras and the higher degree of accuracy, they are the more popular and modern choice for inspectors and homeowners.

PerfectPrime has a range of Thermal Cameras with different resolutions that would be suited for determining whether your house is infected by termites. We highly recommend that you choose a high resolution thermal camera to perform the inspection as the lower resolution ones are not good enough to pick up the heat difference.

Check the following link to see our selection:


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Termite prevention

After locating the termites, exterminating them and doing the repairs, a large amount of money and time has been spent. Therefore the final thing to do is to take preventative measures against a second wave of infestation;

  • Ensure as little contact of wooden material from the house to the ground
  • Maintain AC units and plumbing to prevent leaks and a dry space near your house
  • Replace the soil around your house with sand as termites cannot tunnel through sand
  • Do not stack wood against the house
  • Inspect your home regularly
  • Clear gutters and drains to prevent water building up