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Australian subterranean termites

Australian subterranean termites

Updated 12 January 2018 3:28pm

Australian subterranean termite
Coptotermes acinacoformis
Photo: Landcare Research

Why are Australian subterranean termites a problem?

Australian subterranean termites are a pest insect which will inhabit any suitable wooden material. They develop large colonies, which can number up to two million individuals and survive for up to 50 years. At such a size they pose a threat to forest biodiversity, destroying standing timber and competing with native insects. Subterranean termites present a considerable threat to wooden buildings and other structures. Australian subterranean termites are not known to be present in the Wellington region, but have been recently eradicated from sites in Nelson and Otorohanga.

Description and background

Australian subterranean termites are a small ant-like insect, with a white body and two sets of brownish wings. Adults can reach a body length of 11.5mm. They are often indicated by the damage from their borings, including dust on flat surfaces. The Australian subterranean termite was accidently introduced into New Zealand inside wooden telephone poles, railway sleepers and other wood products. Australian subterranean termites have a limited natural dispersal rate, but are readily transported between locations inside timber or timber products.

What can I do?

Termites are usually indicated by their damage to timber or by the presence of the insect itself. Because of the difficulty of identifying the Australian subterranean termite from other common native species, it is best to contact a professional pest controller for identification and initial control. If the termites are thought to be Australian subterranean termites, please contact Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Additional information can be found at –

Biosecurity New Zealand's information on Australian subterranean termites