Saturday, February 25, 2012

Termites in New Zealand

Termites are wood damaging social insects many species of which are of economic importance in other parts of the world. New Zealand has some native species but these do not cause any serious damage to timber in either forests or construction. 

Australia has several species of termite that cause considerable damage to timbers and there is a danger that Australian termites or destructive termites from other parts of the world could be introduced to New Zealand in imported wood and wooden artifacts. There have been several such infestations found in recent years and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) have put large resources into eradicating such incursions when they have been found. Most recently a house in Waikanae was tented and gassed to eradicate the very destructive West Indian drywood termite at a cost of $400,000. Australian termites, Coptotermes acinaciformis and Porotermes adamsoni are currently known to exist in New Zealand and when found MAF responds by eradicating and tracing.

Termites form very large colonies which live inside and feed on wood. One of the difficulties with identifying a termite problem is that there can be little evidence of their existance until the timber is weakened to the point of failure. The Australian termites found in NZ probably came into the country many years ago in imported hardwood timber.

There are destructive termites that will colonize both dry and damp timber. They are able to digest the cellulose of wood with the assistance of micro-organisms in their gut that are able to breakdown cellulose to sugars. There is a seasonal flight of winged termites known as alates. They fly to mate and found new colonies but usually don't travel far. They are attracted to lights and may enter houses at night.

Because of the difficult of identifying timbers infested with termites it is likely that a destructive species will eventually become established in New Zealand. Treatment of timbers for borer using products such as Kiwicare NO Borer fluids will help to protect timber from infestation by termites.

MAF are trying to make home owners and other aware of termites and what to look out for. You will find more information on the Australian termites most likely to be a problem in New Zealand here.

MAF advice is:

Signs of Australian drywood termite infestation
As termites excavate timber internally and leave a thin external layer, damage is often not obvious, although it may result in the bubbling of timber surfaces. With subterranean termites, the most obvious signs are mud leads across open surfaces and mud packing between layers of landscaping timber or inside wall cavities. Their subterranean tunnels are usually found in the top 20 centimetres of soil.
Winged reproductives fly from their parent colonies en masse on hot, humid summer evenings. They are attracted to light and may enter houses or become caught in spider webs close to light sources. However, native termite reproductives will also be flying in the same conditions.
Colonies inside living timber could also be found while cutting down trees or splitting wood.
If you think you have found invasive termites DO NOT disturb their activity or the surrounding area. If possible, collect some individuals, preferably soldiers (larger, darker head with mandibles) and place the container in the freezer. Call the MAFBNZ disease and pest hotline on 0800 80 99 66.
A termite walks into a bar. The barman says 'We don't serve druggies like you here.'
Shocked, the termite replies 'What do you mean? I'm not a druggie.'
The barman says, 'What about the bar-bit-u-ate?'

3 comments:

  1. The picture above states it is signs of an Australian Drywood termite infestation. I'm curious since this appears to be a subterranean variety. I have never seen tubes built by a drywood colony. Can you please elaborate?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Termites are really destructive pest. Good thing that you shared this kind of information in order for them to know about this important information.

    austin residential pest services

    ReplyDelete

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