Identifying Termites

Coptotermes acinaciformis

Body size: 4-6 mm
Worker: Soldiers ratio is 90%: 10 – 5%
Coptotermes acinaciformisCoptotermes acinaciformis

Distribution

All States in Australia except Tasmania

Nesting

Living and dead tree trunks (mostly around root crown and lower trunk), stumps and subterranean (in soil or in close contact with soil).

In Tropical and subtropical climate (Northern Australia) build mounds.

Population range between 0.5 to over 1 million per colony.

Identification These termites are the most destructive in Australia. Disturbed soldiers produce milky liquid from their mandibles and are aggressive. These termites may travel underground more than 100m from the parent colony in search of food. They avoid light and work under cover.

Hosts All timbers including living and dead trees. Also known to attack and destroy the lead sheathing of subterranean electric and telephone cables.

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Coptotermes frenchi

Soldier length: 4mm

Distribution

Coastal area of Queensland, NSW, ACT, Victoria, SA & WA

Nesting

Living and dead tree (mainly Eucalyptus) trunks (mostly around root crown and lower trunk), stumps and subterranean. Identification

These termites are the most destructive in Australia. Disturbed soldiers produce milky liquid from a gland on their heads. These termites may travel underground about 50 – 70m from the parent colony in search of food. They avoid light and work under cover.

  • Has sabre like mandibles with no obvious teeth
  • Labrum not grooved
  • Head is pear-shaped and rounded laterally
  • Fontanelle is obvious on the anterior part of the head
  • 5. Tarsi – 4 segments
  • 6. Abdominal cerci – 2 segments
  • 7. Pronotum flat, no anterior lobes

Host

Cause damage to Eucalyptus trees, poles, fence posts, stumps, logs and in hardwood and softwood in buildings structure.

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Coptotermes michaelseni

Soldier length: 3 – 5.5mm

Distribution

Western Australia

Nesting

Mainly in logs, stumps or dry wood in living trees E calophylla.

Identification

These termites are the most destructive in Western Australia. Disturbed soldiers produce milky liquid from a gland on their heads. They avoid light and work under cover.

  • Has sabre like mandibles with no obvious teeth
  • Labrum not grooved
  • Head is pear-shaped and rounded laterally
  • Fontanelle is obvious on the anterior part of the head
  • 5. Tarsi – 4 segments
  • 6. Abdominal cerci – 2 segments
  • 7. Pronotum flat, no anterior lobes

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Coptotermes lacteus

Soldier length: 4 – 5mm

Distribution

Parts of Qld, NSW, ACT, Vic & SA

Nesting

Construct conical mound up to 2m in height

Identification

They rarely attack building, and are forest pests. Termite mounds were also found in eastern suburban Melbourne.

  • Has sabre like mandibles with no obvious teeth
  • Labrum not grooved
  • Head is pear-shaped and rounded laterally
  • Fontanelle is obvious on the anterior part of the head
  • 5. Tarsi – 4 segments
  • 6. Abdominal cerci – 2 segments
  • 7. Pronotum flat, no anterior lobes

Hosts

Conspicuous mound nester, not common in urban areas. Disturbed termites produce a milky liquid from head.

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Coptotermes raffrayi

Soldier length: 4 – 5mm

Distribution

Western Australia

Nesting

Trunks of living and dead tree, from logs, stumps, and construction timer in buildings, stack of sawn timber and from nests.

Identification

The habits of this species are similar to those of C. acinaciformis

  • Has sabre like mandibles with no obvious teeth
  • Labrum not grooved
  • Head is pear-shaped and rounded laterally
  • Fontanelle is obvious on the anterior part of the head
  • 5. Tarsi – 4 segments
  • 6. Abdominal cerci – 2 segments
  • 7. Pronotum flat, no anterior lobes

Hosts

There are records also, of its destroying the lead sheathing of subterranean electric cables in Perth

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Nasutitermes exitiosus

Soldier length: 4mm

Distribution

Southern parts of Qld, NSW, ACT, Vic, SA & WA

Nesting

Construct usually low dome shaped mounds up to 75 cm in height

Identification

Attack mostly hardwood timbers in buildings. Timbers in ground eg, fence posts, desks etc. Soldiers have dark brown protruding mandible from which they exude milky fluid.

Hosts

Nests in building will fill available space in cavaties and under floors

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Nasutitermes walkeri

Soldier length: 6mm

Distribution

Coastal parts of Southern Qld & Northern parts of NSW

Nesting

Main nest usually in trunk of tree, connected to visible nests on upper trunk or limbs.

Identification

Mostly timber in contact with ground. Seldom causes significant damage to building timbers.

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Heterotermes ferox

Soldier length: 4 – 5mm

Distribution

Parts of Qld, NSW, ACT, Vic & SA

Nesting

Small subterranean colonies adjacent to stumps, logs on ground, or beside mounds of other termites.

Identification

Threatened soldiers retreat backwards

Hosts

Weathered timber and timber in contact with ground. Superficial damage to sound timbers

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Schedorhinotermes intermedius

Soldier length: 5 – 7mm
Major: 3-5 mm

Distribution

Coastal Qld, NT & NSW

Nesting

Root crown and lower trunk of living and dead trees (Eucalyptus). Subterranean nests in buried timber in ground or under houses

Identification

Young colonies have smaller soldiers. Once nest is well established, major soldiers appear. Distinctively loose honeycomb damage in timber.

Hosts

Most timbers in buildings. Damage can sometimes be isolated around nails or bolts.

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Mastotermes darwiniensis

Soldier length: 11 – 13mm

Distribution

Parts of Qld and NT

Nesting

The largest subterranean nest inside living and dead trees

Identification

Very destructive to timbers within 70m of nest. Where food is plentiful, colony will form independent sub-colonies.

Hosts

All timbers, living and dead trees and horticultural trees.

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Microcerotermes turneri

Soldier length: 5mm

Distribution

Coastal QLD and NSW

Nesting

Numerous nest types. Either under – ground, small mounds, or arboreal (Including on posts or poles).

Identification

Significant damage to timbers in buildings is rare.

Hosts

Mainly decayed timbers in contact with ground, such as poles or posts or fences.

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Neotermes insularis

Soldier length: 12mm

Distribution

Coastal NT, QLD, NSW & Vic

Nesting

Small colony in branches and trunks of trees, often in softer growth rings.

Identification

Serious damages to trees mainly eucalypts.

Hosts

Commonly called ‘ring-ant’ after the concentric rings of damage in trees.

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Table courtesy to John French and Dr. Berhan Ahmed.