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TERMITES IN ACTION – MARCH 2017

Some unusual termite activity has been captured in this issue’s Termites in Action.

Going troppo in Wagga

Peter McIntyre from Scientific Pest Management came across this amazing termite activity (pictured above) during an inspection with Wagga/Albury technician, Jordon Durham.

This activity was found on a commercial site, in an enclosed sub-floor with standing room access. Water pooled in one section of the sub-floor during periods of rain and some of the numerous, suspended pipes had steam valves releasing bursts of hot steam every few seconds. This created a perfect, warm, humid environment, just like the middle of a termite mound.

As Mr McIntyre remarked, “The conditions enabled the termites to walk around like ants without the protection of earthen mud tubes – I’ve only ever seen that up in Darwin with Mastos. This particular environment created one the most amazing, almost freakish, coral reef termite workings I have seen. To me it looked like these enhanced conditions were sending them mad, building crazy stalactites reaching for the sky everywhere searching for a juicy timber bearer or joist, but there was nothing but concrete to chew on.”

Going aerial

Aerial, freestanding mud tubes, are a bit of a mystery. More often they are of the ‘stalagmite’ variety, growing from the ground up, but sometimes they can be of the ‘stalactite’ variety extending from a timber to the ground.

They are normally formed during foraging activities but why they decide to build such a tube is unknown. To build such a tube is a significant energy investment, especially if you don’t know where you’re going, so presumably there are some cues to initiate this behaviour. However, not much is known about this behaviour. In some circumstances, such a tube may possibly be a flight tower.

Where are you going? What are you doing?

Brad Purdue from Mildura and District Pest Management found this small, but spectacular example of an unidentified species, rising from a join in the concrete floor in a commercial building. Was it a foraging tube or a flight tower? If it’s a foraging tube, why go straight up – there is no obvious foraging activity along the surface.