TERMITES – Main species of termites, habits & behaviour.

Hi all! Hope you are having a productive day even in this tough times. So today’s entry I would like to talk about termites – main species of termites, habits & behaviour. Termites are considered to be amongst the most destructive insect pests. Why? This is because termites cause more damage to structures than tornadoes, hurricanes, hail, flooding and windstorms. In tropical areas, 90% of buildings can be infested within 3 years of being built.

Termites are especially serious in South East Asia because:

  • Environmental conditions suit termite activity all year round
  • There are some voracious termites such as Coptotermes spp.
  • There are number of different species which can attack buildings
  • Some of the species can nest in structures, as well as the ground

There are 3 main types of termites:

  1. Subterranean termites
  2. Drywood termites
  3. Dampwood termites
  1. Let’s start with subterranean termites. Subterranean termites tend to inhabit the soil and generally build colonies below ground. However, some species can form above-ground colonies in buildings where there is moisture source. This makes them difficult to control in buildings as locating the galleries and nest is very difficult and a thorough inspection is critical. They are estimated to cause 80% of the economic loss from termites’ colonies tend to be very large containing up to millions of individuals.

Subterranean termites can be divided into 2 groups:

a) Lower termites – Use protozoa in the gut to break down the cellulose materials into usable nutrients. Eg: Coptotermes spp., Schedorhinotermes spp.

b) Higher termites – Use bacteria and enzyme in the gut to break down the cellulose materials into usable nutrients. Eg: Globitermes spp., Macrotermes carbonarius, Macrotermes gilvus, Microcerotermes spp., Ancistrotermes pakistanicus, Nasutitermes spp., Odontotermes spp.

2. Next is drywood termites. Drywood termites infest low moisture content wood (12% or less). They do not need soil contact thus they do not build shelter tubes. Colonies are small numbering a few thousands.

Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites damage wood by cutting across the wood grain, excavating large chambers linked by small tunnels. Drywood termite soldiers have toothed mandibles. They produced small cylindrical pellets with indentations on the sides. These fecal pellets are pushed outside the wood as a small pile (dust like)

Cryptotermes spp.

3. Lastly is dampwood termites. Dampwood termites live in highly moist, fungal-rotten wood and usually attack damp and decaying wood. They do not need soil contact. They are not considered a very damaging economic pest compared to subterranean termites.

Dampwood termites tend to be large up to 1 inch long in some cases. The soldiers have toothed mandibles. They plug openings into the wood and excavate large galleries inside. Unlike drywood termites, pellets can be found throughout their workings.

Neotermes Castaneus

That’s all for now. Till we meet again in the next entry. Be vigilant, follow SOP and stay safe!

Puan Azureen Rafiee(Entomologist/Field Biologist)


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