Drywood Termites (Cryptotermes species & Incisitermes species)
Structure, Appearance and Characteristics
- 2 – 6 mm in length.
- Has large mandibles, with teeth.
- Labrum is not grooved.
- Head is rugose (wrinkled).
- Tarsi – 4 Segments.
- Abdominal cerci – 2 segments at the apex of the abdomen.
- Pronotum twice as long as wide.
- Body cigar-shaped, light brown.
- Colour is pale brown, it can vary from dark brown to yellowish-tan.
The drywood termite is a social insect that live within nests that are often referred to more commonly as colonies. Their hierarchy is broken down into a caste structure made up of the queen and king that are responsible for the continued reproduction of the colony, the workers which are responsible for the building out of the nest and providing food, soldiers which are solely responsible for the protection of the colony from predators and the reproductives which are made up of future queens and kings of new colonies.
A termite lifecycle has three stages: egg, nymph and adult. Once a nymph hatches from an egg it goes through four to seven moulting phases prior to achieving full adulthood and becoming a mature solider, worker or a reproductive. The nymph stage can last for two or three months depending on the temperature of the nest and the availability and quality of food.
The four adult castes of a termite are:
Queen & King
The most important termites in a colony are the king and queen who are responsible for breeding. During the early stages of a new colony, the queen and king will take on other roles until the colony can sustain itself.
With primary responsibility for defending the colony, the soldier will use its fontanelle to discharge a chemical substance that repels termite enemies such as ants and other predators. While soldiers are made up of males and females, their sex organs are not developed and they do not take on characteristics of their gender.
Workers are responsible for providing the colony with food and for building out the tunnels used to move around within and outside the nest. The workers are the termites that you find causing damage to the wood on your property as they consume it to extract the cellulose, which is the primary food source for termites.
Reproductives are the winged termites that eventually will leave the colony to become queens and kings of new colonies that they will start. The colonisation process occurs when the temperature outside the colony reaches a certain point during the summer and the colony itself is sustainable.
As their name implies, Drywood termites tend to focus their feeding on dry woods that are not yet decayed. The most common targets on properties are things like fallen tree limbs, fence posts, timber used in building structures and wooden furniture. Eucalyptus trees are popular.
Small infestations of just a few hundred individual termites are usually found below the floor level of your property, but above the ground and soil level. The Drywood Termite cause the most economic damage in coastal areas of Australia and the adjacent tablelands.
The Drywood Termite is an above ground species, can sustain themselves for long periods of relatively dryness and have low moisture requirements. This termite tends to cut across the natural grain of wood, carving out large chamber like areas that they connect with a series of tunnels.
The tunnels and chambers within the colony are kept clear, with excrement and debris moved to unused areas or removed entirely through openings created within the wood. Piles of frass (their distinctive faecal pellets), are the best indicator of their existence on your property. The sand grain like pellets are elongated with six concave surfaces. Careful examination of timber near the frass pile may indicate a small-bore hole around 1 mm in diameter. This can be hard to locate as it may be plugged.
Drywood termites break down the wood that they consume into cellulose and they also receive their requisite levels of water from this process as well.
Structural damage is rare from Drywood termites. They are generally considered of low economic importance. However, the extremely destructive West Indian Drywood termite is the exception. This is an introduced pest in Australia and is reportable to state governments.
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