Coptotermes Termites in Australia
Coptotermes species are the most economically damaging termite species in Australia. Different species are found across Australia and colonies can contain over 1 million individuals.
- Coptotermes acinaciformis
- Coptotermes frenchi
- Coptotermes acinaciformis raffrayi
- Coptotermes lacteus
- C. acinaciformis – Australia (mainland) wide
- C. frenchi – eastern & south eastern Australia
- C. acinaciformis raffrayi – Western Australia
- C. lacteus – coastal and associated hinterland areas from southern Queensland to Melbourne
Typical nest location
- C. acinaciformis – Generally nests in root crown or lower trunk of large trees. A mound building form of C. acinaciformis occurs north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
- C. frenchi – Generally nests in root crown or lower trunk of large trees.
- C. acinaciformis raffrayi (Western Australia) – Builds small dome-shaped mounds
- C. lacteus – Builds medium to large above ground mound
Colony structure / size:
- Central nester – meaning they tend to have one central nest where the queen resides. They often have smaller staging posts (sub-nests or bivouacs) located away from the central nest
- Single queen but the colony will have multiple supplemental reproductives ready in case the queen needs to be replaced
- Large colonies that can number over 1 million termites
Distinguishing features / behaviour:
- Milky exudate released from front part of soldier’s head (small indentation called a fontanelle) when threatened
- Tear drop-shaped head (soldier caste)
- Soldiers have dark, slender mandibles without visible teeth (smooth)
- Known to make loud clicking noises inside infested timber when disturbed
No particular timber preference. Happy to consume both hardwoods and softwoods
Appearance of damage:
- Tends to have galleries that are covered with faecal material (spotted appearance)
- Often consumes the softer section of the growth rings in timber first thus leaving long strings of harder timber behind
- Mudding tends to be light brown to chocolate in colour
Most economically important genus in Australia due to its destructive nature and widespread distribution.
All registered treatment options can achieve success (situation dependant)
- Stage 1 treatment (curative) – dusting, foaming and baiting work well but the large colony size means that multiple treatments may be required to achieve control
- Drilling trees to check for activity/nest is highly recommended where possible. If a nest is found, treating with a liquid termiticide is useful in lessening the overall termite pressure on a property
- Stage 2 treatment (preventative) – soil applied liquids and a baiting monitoring program are both suitable options
C. frenchi tend to be more timid than C. acinaciformis. This may be important with regard to limiting disturbance during a baiting/monitoring program or a stage 1 treatment.
Identification between Coptotermes species where their distributions overlap can be difficult. The soldier length is one feature that can be useful. C. acinaciformis & C. acinaciformis raffrayi range in length from 5 to 6.5 mm and C. frenchi & C. lacteus 4 to 5.2 mm. However the lengths do overlap, and measurement needs to be conducted on multiple soldiers to confirm.