Drywood Termites in Australia

Drywood termite Brevis workers

Drywood termites are not common in Australia but the West Indian drywood termite is an notifiable invasive pest. Acknowledged as one of the most damaging species globally, it can only be controlled through complete fumigation of structures.

  • Cryptotermes primus
  • Cryptotermes brevis – West Indian drywood termite (introduced species)

Drywood termites nest in small isolated pockets in the dead wood of living trees and timber in service such as flooring, structural members and furniture.

  • Single-site nesters, meaning they set up inside the timber they are feeding on and do not move except for colonising flights (alates)
  • Small colonies that number in the hundreds of termites
  • The presence of dry, pellet like frass (faeces) with well defined edges, about the size of a seasme seed can be found throughout the gallery system and on horizontal surfaces in close proximity to the infestation. The pellets tend to be light to dark brown, but can darken with age. The pellets of C. brevis tend to be more pointed than native drywood termites but identification is best left to an expert. Often this is the first thing noticed by building owners and pest managers upon inspection.


  • Soldiers have short thick dark heads, steeply sloping at the front
Cryptotermes primus soldier
  • Tend to prefer softer, less dense timbers e.g. pine, red cedar, maple etc.
  • C. primus are known to damage the sapwood of hardwood timbers e.g. power poles, house stumps etc.
  • Unlike other termites, they get their water from the timber they consume and therefore do not require contact with the soil. Because of this fact, their galleries are clean and free of soil (clean apart from the pellet-like frass)
  • C. primus are not considered an economically significant termite mainly because of the low incidence of attack on timber in service
  • C. brevis is nominated as one of the world’s most destructive termites mainly based on how successful they have been at hitching a lift in timber around the world and the fact they are a major pest in the USA which accounts for most of the economic loss. There have been reports of infestation in Australia in recent times.

When drywood termite activity is found, the first step is to accurately identify which species is present. Identification between species can be difficult. The soldiers’ heads and the shape of the frass have subtle differences but better left to a specialist. Contact 13 25 23 and arrange to get collected samples correctly identified.

  • C. primus – Very difficult to successfully treat. It is probable that there are multiple colonies that are not connected to each other. Need a lot of time and patience to attempt to locate each gallery/void and inject with a toxicant labelled for drywood termites (foaming products may be beneficial). Smaller items like furniture may be stored in a freezer for a lengthy period of time.
  • C. brevis – The West Indian drywood termite is restricted matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014 and is covered by a prevention and control program. If you find evidence of its activity, you must report it within 24 hours (phone 13 25 23)

Most native drywood termites live their lives in dead tree branches or stumps without ever causing a nuisance. However colonising flights can take hold in power poles and other timber in service

Image credit: Auswise Pest Control

More information on types of termites.

Choose Your Country or Region

Asia Pacific