Termite Species In Australia

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There are over 300 different termite species in Australia, but only a handful are actually harmful to your home. If you notice signs of termite infestation in your home, it can be very difficult to identify what species you’re dealing with – and misidentifying the species could lead to costly damage. That’s why it’s important to get an inspection by a qualified termite specialist. Below are the most common termite species we treat in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens, Maitland and the Hunter Valley.

Coptotermes Lacteus

Commonly known as the “milk termite”, the c. lacteus is a mound-building termite that feeds on wood, causing significant damage to wood structures.

Appearance and characteristics

To identify c. lecteus, we look at the soldiers who have distinct, armoured and pigmented heads. They are 4-4.8mm in length and cream in colour. When disturbed or agitated, they tap their heads, which sounds like a loud ticking noise.

While workers are white or partially transparent in colour, alates are dark brown to black in colour. Alates measure between 13-16mm in length, including their wings

Lifecycle

C. lecteus nymphs may become either workers or soldiers, which are completely sterile and can be male or female. When a termite colony reaches a greater stage of maturity, alates may be produced. When alates mate, they lose their wings in order to become a new king and queen and establish a new colony. Mature termite colonies may have up to 2 million inhabitants and can last for as long as 50 years

Habitat

C. lecteus build mound-like communal nests made out of clay, sand, partially digested plant material, excreta, and saliva. The mounds can be built up to 2 meters above the ground and extend to 2 meters in diameter. They have a thick outer wall of clay and inside a mass of cemented soil particles, leading to a softer area which houses the queen and nymphs.

Worker termites use a network of galleries extending from the mound through the surrounding soil to forage in the surrounding area, without needing to emerge to the surface. C. lecteus termites aren’t often found in urban areas, they are considered more of a forest pest but may also be found in pastures and roadside reserves.

Destructive nature

C. lecteus termites are attracted to weathered wood as a food source and can be a threat to stumps, dead trees, fences made of timber and any other wood that is embedded or in close contact with the soil.


Coptotermes Acinaciformis

C. acinaciformis are considered as Australia’s most destructive termite species, as they are found all over the country. They pose a threat to any wood structure, but particularly homes.

Appearance and characteristics

While workers are entirely white, soldiers have brown heads and large jaws. Soldiers are very aggressive in nature and will make a loud ticking sound when disturbed. approximately 5-7mm in length

Alates are produced in the summertime. They are around 12mm long, brown in colour and have four large wings.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of c. acinaciformis starts when a pair of male and female alates mate and seek a location to start a new colony. This occurs on mass annually, but most won’t survive long enough to produce a new colony.

Once a suitable location has been found, the female or ‘queen’ lays eggs, which then hatch into nymphs. The nymph will then mature into a worker, soldier or alate over a period of 2-3 months. Soldiers and workers usually live for 2-3 years.

Habitat

C. acinaciformis don’t build mounds like other termites, instead building nests underground, under patios, below concrete slabs, flooring or in the base of a tree trunk.

Destructive nature

C. acinaciformis feed on cellulose commonly found in timber framing in homes and buildings, plants, trees and logs. They will travel up to 50 meters away from the nest to find a suitable food source. Wood that has been infected by c. acinaciformis will have a honeycomb texture and contain dirt and faeces, often with a mud pack surrounding.


Coptotermes Frenchi

C. frenchi are very destructive in nature and are more easily disturbed than other termite species. They will retreat if they are startled by anything, so any type of development, gardening or chopping down trees close to your property will cause them to hide away. They may even disappear entirely, only to return later.

Appearance and characteristics

C. frenchi are very similar in appearance to c. acinaciformis however, they have a pear-shaped head, smaller bodies and mandibles. They are around 4mm in length.

Lifecycle

During the nymph stage, c. frenchi will develop into queen, king, workers, soldiers or reproductives. These all have different functions within the colony to ensure it’s long term success.

You will most often see the worker termites, who can work up to 24 hours a day to source food for the colony.

Habitat

C. frenchi live nest in the roots and lower trunks of trees, particularly eucalyptus. For this reason, they are predominantly found in forests and urban areas with native tree populations.

Destructive nature

While c. frenchi termites prefer eucalyptus, they will also attack homes and buildings constructed of timber framing, french posts and power poles. They will feed off any source of cellulose found in the home including skirting boards, window frames, paper products, wallpaper, anything made out of cotton (including clothing), cardboard, and furniture stuffing.

They are particularly attracted to wet areas in the home including the bathroom, subfloor and under flooring.


Heterotermes Ferox

Appearance and characteristics

The solder heterotermes is around 3-7mm in length. It has a long, brown rectangular head and sabre-like black mandibles. Cigar-shaped, white body.

Lifecycle

Progress from an egg to a nymph to an adult worker, a soldier or a winged reproductive.

Winged reproductives are potential new kings and queens. Wings enable them to leave the established nest and create a new colony. This usually happens in summer, when the weather is warm and the established nest is healthy and strong.

Habitat

Heterotermes don’t build nests, but are often found next to the mounds of other species, often resulting in confusion with other species such as coptotermes. They nest in decaying material and timber on the ground such as rotting wood, decking, poles, posts and fences.

They are attracted to moisture, so leaky pipes and poor drainage areas are at a high risk of infestation.

Destructive nature

Heterotermes are considered a minor structural pest. You can usually spot damage by yourself pretty quickly, as they tend to eat superficial, soft timber like doors and skirting boards.


Nasutitermes

This termite species is commonly known as the “tree termite”, due to the construction of nests in trees.

Appearance and characteristics

The soldier nasutitermes is pale, yellow-brownish in colour and around 5-7 mm in length. They have a rounded head, which narrows to a pointed beak.

Lifecycle

Unlike other species of termites, the queen nasutitermes will lay her eggs one at a time. After hatching, the nymphs go through a period of transition over 2-4 months, where they will develop into workers, soldiers, or winged reproductive. Workers are the most common type, they build the nest, collect food and care for the young. Soldiers defend the colony using their powerful jaws or by ejecting a sticky repellent.

Winged reproductives (alates) are darker in colour and larger in size, compared to the rest of the colony. After reaching maturity, alates leave the colony to mate and establish new termite colonies. Once a suitable site has been established, they shed their wings and turn into kings and queens, creating the new colony.

Habitat

These termites are found in woods and bushes around coastal and mountainous areas. They construct nests high in trees, usually on the main trunk or branches. Nests can extend all the way down the tree trunk and nests house large populations. Underground tunnels spread from the base of the tree and connect to various food sources

Destructive nature

Nasutitermes commonly attack homes with hardwood. Homes with high moisture, poor ventilation and decaying wood are at high risk. In the right conditions, these termites can also destroy roofing and wall timbers.


Schedorhinotermes

Schedorhinotermes are common throughout Australia, particularly along the coast.

Appearance and characteristics

Schedorhinotermes are typically identified by the soldier castes. Major soldiers are 5-7.5mm in length with bulbous heads, while minor soldiers are 3-5.5mm in length with narrower heads and slender mandibles. They both have a white cigar-shaped body and a pale to dark brown head.

Lifecycle

Unlike other termite species, the schedorhinotermes queen lays her eggs one at a time. After hatching, nymphs are fed by the workers for around 2-3 months until they turn into an adult soldier, worker or winged reproductive. Soldiers and workers can live for 1-2 years, while kings and queens can live for over 20 years.

Habitat

They create multiple nest sites, often in tree stumps, root crowns and under timber, houses, patios and fireplaces, making them very difficult to locate. Colonies can have several thousand individuals, including a queen, king, soldiers, workers and reproductives.

Destructive nature

Schedorhinotermes are highly destructive, building nests under man-made structures and regarded as second to the coptotermes in terms of economic damage. They cause more damage to Australian homes than storms, tempests, floods and fires combined.

They are very skittish, so it is important not to disturb them during treatment. Otherwise, they might just relocate elsewhere within the property.

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