Termite Types & Risks


There are around 300 species of termite in Australia !

Termite Risk Levels in Australia

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There are only 2 types of homes in Australia, "those that have termites, and those that will get termites", This is becoming a reality rather than a saying.

Termites and the termite swarm have been part of the Australian environment for millions of years. Also commonly known as white ants they are resilient and persistent, being found, on average, in every third Australian property.

Annually termites damage more than 180,000 Australian homes/buildings. Estimates of the combined cost of termite damage range from 700 to over 1 Billion dollars when agriculture and horticulture are taken into consideration.

Our growing love of landscaping in modern times, with the abundant use of bark, woodchips and mulch, timber retaining walls and pergolas has created a haven for termites in our back yards. This has hugely increased the presence of termites on residential properties, increasing the risk of damage to our biggest asset, our homes.

Termites are ground inhabiting (subterranean) social insects that live in colonies. A well established Termite colony can be made up of several million individuals. New termite colonies are formed when winged males and females from the parent colony emerge in flight and swarm (termite swarm). Every termite colony consists of 4 castes, each having a specific role within the colony's social structure; a termite swarm contains all the ingredients needed to begin a new colony.

The Four Castes of a Termite Colony

King and Queen Termites REPRODUCTIVES:
The King and Queen termite are central to any vibrant termite colony, with the Queen acting as an egg-laying machine producing between 2,000 and 3,000 eggs per day. The Queen can live for 25 years. The King and Queen are formed from A'lates (winged termites) when a new nest is formed.
Alates Termite (Swarmer) A'LATES:
A'Lates are darker coloured, winged, reproductive's that fly from the nest in their thousands, eager to establish a new colony. Because A'Lates are poor flyers they generally only fly some 50 – 100 metres from the parent nest. As such when observing flying A‘Lates you can generally assume a termite nest is near-by. A'Lates form an airborne termite swarm when establishing new colonies.
Soldier Termite SOLDIERS:
The soldier caste protects the colony from invasion by other insects. Soldier termites excrete a substance which repels the termite's enemies and can crush them as well. Soldier termites are fed and groomed by the workers as they are unable to feed themselves.
Working Class Termite WORKERS:
This caste provides all of the labour for the colony including searching for and collecting food, feeding all other castes and immature's, grooming others within the colony, cleaning, maintenance and building for the colony. Workers digest the cellulose and funghi in wood and feed the other castes by oral and anal secretions.

Coptotermes acinaciformis

Coptotermes acinaciformis can be found in widespread areas throughout Australia. They are predominantly found in urban areas and where eucalypts are abundant. Coptotermes acinaciformis are the second most destructive termite in Australia and cause the greatest amount of structural damage to buildings, timber structures, trees and electrical wiring.

Coptotermes acinaciformis is most commonly found in the base of trees and stumps and in built in patios, under concrete slabs and buried timber, wherever there is moisture and a secure hiding place to form a nest. They love it between garden sheds and the fence when timber is left there. One of the most destructive elements of this species is that it can form ancillary nests, away from the main colony, particularly in wall cavities. This species of termite feeds on wood and wood products, bark, leaves and grass.

Coptotermes "acinaciformis" gets it's name from the fact that the soldiers excrete formic acid from their mouths when they are threatened. This poses a problem for wiring in buildings infested with this species

Schedorhinotermes intermedius

Schedorhinotermes intermedius is also widespread, being found in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

This species of termite is the most artistic, as they tend to form complex ruts and grooves in the timber, particularly along nail lines. This species of termite is almost as destructive as Coptotermies acinaciformis but does not tend form ancillary nests in you home.

Schedorhinotermes intermedius nests are most commonly found in tree stumps and in the crown root of living, dead and sick trees, under the house, built in patios, fireplaces and where timber contacts the soil.

This species of Termite feeds on wood and wood products, bark, grass and leaves. It is particularly patial to sapwood of hardwoods

Nasutitermes Walkeri

Nasutitermes Walkeri is found predominantly on the Eastern Coastal regions of Queensland and New South Wales.

Nasutitermes Walkeri prefers to build its nest on either the main trunk, on a large branch or in a fork of a tree. They travel under the ground, close to the surface looking for food.

This species of termites' main food source is damp, decaying or weathered timber. Nasutitermes Walkeri does not create the same widespread damage to buildings as the previous two, but can cause damage to damp or decaying sub floors in badly ventilated areas and any wood left in contact with the soil.

Nasutitermes exitiosus

Nasutitermes exitiosus is found most predominantly in southern Queensland and across the southern states and is easily recognizable by the dark pointed head.

Nasutitermes exitiosus builds a mounded nest generally between 300mm and 750mm high. Nests are often found under decks and sub-floors. Can cause a fair amount of damage to hardwood fences, posts and sub-floors where the timber is in contact with the earth or damp or rotting timber. This species of termite does not tend to cause as extensive damage as the earlier mentioned varieties unless undetected, but is still regarded as a major pest.

Interestingly this termite species does not like pine varieties, preferring the sapwood of hardwoods.

Mastotermes darwiniensis

Mastotermes Darwiniensis is the oldest of all the world's termites and is by far the largest of the termite species in Australia . This species is found mainly in tropical areas north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Mastotermes Darwiniensis or the Giant Northern Termite is predominantly located in Northern Western Australia, Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory.

This termite species builds its nest underground or in the root crowns of trees and stumps. Mastotermes Darwiniensis can cover wide areas and once the colony is mature can form many ancillary nests.

Mastotermes Darwiniensis is the most destructive by far of all the Australian species, if not, in the world causing major structural damage to buildings and other structures such as bridges. These termites will also damage posts, plant and animal products. In fact there is not much that isn't susceptible to damage from this voracious termite.

Mastoermes Darwiniensis will also ring-bark trees, kill living trees and shrubs, attack fruit, vegetable and sugarcane crops and is not averse to attacking leather and hide, cables, bitumen, salt and flour, metals, plastic and glass.

The damage bill to agriculture and horticulture in tropical Australia alone runs into tens of millions of dollars annually. Definitely a termite to be feared.

Coptotermes frenchi

Coptotermes Frenchi can be found right down the east coast of Australia but is predominantly found in NSW and the ACT in particular, where it is rated as the most destructive termite species in the area.

This Termite Species likes to build its nest in the stumps and root crowns of trees. Coptotermes frenchi is particularly partial to eucalypts and as such is commonly found in urban areas where eucalypts abound. In the ACT many houses have pine or oregon softwood frames, a favourite of this species, although they will attack damp hardwood where water leaks from showers, etc. has softened the timber or the timber has contact with the soil.

Coptotermes frenchi is responsible for major damage to buildings, fences, posts, stumps and eucalypt trees.

Heterotermes ferox

Heterotermes Ferox is quite a widespread variety of termite species being found in south-east Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and southern areas of both South Australia and Western Australia.

Nests of Heterotermes ferox are often found next to stumps and logs and decaying timber contacting the earth. It is also not uncommon to find their nest next to the mounds of other species.

Damage caused by this termite is mostly found in poles and fences and decaying timber structures.


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