species of timber are resistant to termites, but none is entirely ‘termite
proof’. Termites will often damage materials they cannot digest, for example,
plastics, rubber, metal or mortar. Primarily, this damage occurs when the
indigestible items are encountered during the termites search for food.
termites forage for food by means of subterranean galleries or covered runways,
which extend from the central nest to food sources above or below ground. The
gallery system of a single colony may be used to exploit food sources over as
much as one hectare, with individual galleries extending up to 50 m in length
for most species. In the case of the giant northern termite M. darwiniensis,
individual galleries may extend as far as 100–200 m. Apart from grass-eating
species, which forage in the open; all termites remain within a closed system
of galleries, devoid of light. The only exceptions are during a swarming
flight, or when repair or new construction is occurring. The advantages to the
termites of this closed system are twofold. They are protected from natural
enemies such as ants, and they gain a measure of protection from temperature
and humidity extremes. Termites have a thin external covering and have
relatively little resistance to drying out.
most important natural enemies of termites are predators of various kinds,
especially ants. Winged reproductives emerging on their colonising flight are
eaten in large numbers by lizards, snakes, frogs, insectivorous and omnivorous
birds, ants and other predatory insects, especially dragonflies. Workers and
soldiers of a wide range of species form an important part of the diet of the
echidna, which has strong, long-clawed feet with which it damages mounds and
the coastal belt and northern parts of the country are generally regarded as
high hazard areas for subterranean termite infestation, species which damage
timber-in-service occur throughout mainland Australia. In practice, any structure
containing wood is exposed to possible subterranean termites.
content sourced from: Peters, BC., J King, & FR Wylie. (1996) Pests of
Timber in Queensland. Queensland Forestry Research Institute, Department of
Primary Industries, Brisbane, 175 pp.
taken by Scott Kleinschmidt, BASF Australia.