Subterranean Termites Coptotermes acinaciformis
Several species of termite are found in Australia and they are difficult to distinguish from one another. Coptotermes acinaciformis is most likely to be confused with Coptotermes frenchi or Coptotermes lacteus. At a length of 5 to 6.5 mm (0.20 to 0.26 in), the soldiers of C. acinaciformis are slightly larger than the other two species. When viewed from above, the soldiers of C. frenchi and C. lacteus have pear-shaped heads while the heads of C. acinaciformis soldiers are more rectangular.
The life cycle starts with the emergence of winged reproductives from a temporary hole in an established nest. A nuptial flight takes place and after the pair have returned to the ground, they shed their wings and search for a suitable place to found their colony. This is usually a piece of rotting wood buried in moist soil or a patch of decay at the base of a tree. The first eggs laid develop into workers and it is only when these are mature enough to take over the care of the young that the queen can concentrate on egg-laying, the thing she will do for the rest of her life. It is usually three to five years before the colony is big enough to cause damage to nearby buildings and structures
Schedorhinotermes intermedius occurs coastally from southern Queensland through to New South Wales. They tend to nest in tree stumps and in the root crown area of living, dead and debilitated trees as well as in timber buried in the ground, under properties, under filled-in verandahs, and in the ground immediately under fireplaces.
This species is typified by two soldier castes: major soldiers with bulbous heads and 5 to 7.5mm and smaller minor soldiers 3 to 5.5mm with narrower heads and more slender mandibles. Both soldier types do not produce the white latex which Coptotermes acinaciformis does.
They are multi-site nesters whose nests may be difficult to locate as they are subterranean. Colonies including a queen, king, soldiers, workers and reproductives may consist of thousands of termites. The minor soldiers appear first in the developing colony, followed by the major soldiers once the nest is well established. Their abundance usually indicates a well-developed and strong colony with increasing potential for damaging timber. This species is second in economic pest status to Coptotermes spp. in most parts of Australia, with their attack taking place under the protection of extensive deposits of fragile “plastering” and excavations are fairly clean with characteristic plaster-like earthen workings separating the termites from the adjacent environment. It is very difficult to evaluate its damage to buildings without a very thorough survey of its activity.
Microcerotermes turneri occurs along the eastern coast of Australia from Townsville in northern Queensland to Port Macquarie on mid coast New South Wales. There are several species in this genus which occurs throughout Australia and in most instances the identification of the species is a specialist task. Each of the several species has its own particular area of occurrence with some overlap. The genus is represented by at least one species all over the Australian mainland except in the southeastern corner. Microcerotermes serratus occurs in Western Australia the Northern Territory, Queensland some western parts of New South Wales and into south Australia. Microcerotermes distinctus occurs manly in inland areas of New South Wales and Victoria.
This species is 3.15-7.75mm long. They have long rectangular heads and long fine mandibles that are finely serrated when viewed with a microscope.
Some species like Microcerotermes turneri and Microcerotermes serratus may build small mounds nest underground make arboreal nests and nest on top of posts. The outside layer of the nests is rather thin and easily penetrated or broken. The other species are entirely subterranean in nesting habits.
The several species of Microcerotermes damage wood in service but it is mostly weathered and decaying and in contact with the ground such as posts, poles and fences. Their nesting habits (mounds, arboreal nests) often betray their presence and facilitate their control.
Nasutitermes walkeri has the largest soldiers (5 to 7 mm) and is encountered in coastal bush land from Sydney to Cairns, where it constructs characteristic arboreal nests. Colonies appear in the root crowns of trees where there is decay or fire damage. When the colonies are well established and numbers large, they construct arboreal nests higher up the trees but maintain soil contact with galleries extending down the tree trunk. The outside casting of their nest is soft and friable, easily broken and penetrated. The arboreal part of the nest is often connected to another part of the colony in the root crown area or another subterranean part of the tree. The connection between the two sections is both internal and external. Shelter tubes are dark brown to black and often seen on the outside of the tree trunk. Nests are large and populous. Subterranean tunnels just below surface level radiate from the base of the tree to various food sources. Although damage may be done to fences, poles and wood in the ground, attack of buildings is associated with decaying wood and high moisture.
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