Nasutitermes Walkeri Termite – Identification & Overview

More commonly known as the tree termite. This is a species of arboreal termite.

Structure, Appearance and Characteristics

Soldier:

  • 5-7 mm in length
  • Long straight mandibles
  • Rounded head which narrows into a beak
  • Fontanelle is present
  • Tarsi – 4 segments
  • Abdominal cerci – 2 segments
  • Pronotum is saddle shaped with anterior lobes
  • Pale, yellowish brown in colour.

Life Cycle

The queens’ primary purpose is reproduction. Unlike some other species of termite, she will lay her eggs one at a time.

The development of the termite is a gradual process. The stages of development are –

  • egg
  • nymph
  • adult

Upon hatching, the nymphs are then fed by the workers until they eventually develop into adults. This developmental phase is affected by temperature, the availability of food and general health of the colony. As a result, the workers can feed the nymphs for approximately 2 – 4 months until they hit maturity. During this phase the nymph will go on to moult several times before finally maturing into a soldier, a worker or winged reproductive.

A termite colony consists of 4 distinctive castes. These are the –

King and Queen

After reaching maturity, young winged reproductives (alates) leave the colony in order to mate and establish new termite colonies. After mating they find a suitable site for colonising. They shed their wings and then turn into kings and queens.

These kings and queens are responsible for the creation of a whole new termite colony. While a new colony is being developed, they will be responsible for looking after the young. This will continue until there are enough workers in the colony to assist the queen in looking after the brood.

Worker

The worker caste is the most common in any termite colony. They are responsible for the majority of the jobs in the colony except for reproduction and defence. They build the nest, collect food and care for the young. They also feed the soldiers and the young reproductives.

The workers of both sexes are blind, wingless and sterile. Their outer covering is soft and unpigmented, making them vulnerable to the sun. Because of this, the workers will spend most of their time in moist and damp environments. These workers are responsible for all the damage done to timber. Their life span is approximately 1 to 2 years.

Soldier

Like the workers, soldiers are also blind, wingless and sterile. They are also vulnerable to the sun and rarely leave the colony. Soldiers cannot feed themselves and need to be fed by the workers. The primary role of the soldier is to defend the colony. They do this using their powerful jaws or by ejecting a sticky repellent from the fontanelle. This is a hole located on the top of the head.

Reproductive

These have large eyes. They are darker in colour and have an outer covering that is thicker than that of the workers and soldiers. They are often larger in size. Once fully grown, the winged reproductives (alates) will fly away during the summer months, and only when the conditions outside matches the conditions inside the colony itself.

Habitat

These termites inhabit the woodland and bushland along coastal and mountain regions. They can be found in the north eastern areas of New South Wales and the south eastern region of Queensland. They construct their nests in trees, usually on the main trunk or on a large branch. Nests are huge and well populated with galleries extending all the way down the tree trunk. Underground tunnels spread from the base of the tree and connect to various food sources. Colonies can also be found in tree stumps and wooden poles where the timber is in contact with the soil. This species can be found in all the states and territories of mainland Australia.

Food

The worker termites will feed on decayed wood, moss, fungi and humus. The wood is digested with the assistance of their own by intestinal enzymes. All the other castes are fed by the workers via oral and anal excretions, a process known as trophallaxis.

Destructive Nature

This is an endemic species with a known pest status. Termite attacks to homes with hardwood are common. Buildings can attract termite attack if associated with high moisture, poor ventilation and decaying wood. In the right conditions, these termites can destroy the roofing and wall timbers of a home within 3 months.

Most unprotected properties are at risk of attack by termites. This risk increases if there are gum trees growing within a 100-metre radius of the property.

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