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MEET THE LOCALS : Coptotermes spp “The Alpha Predators

Termite Threat Level: 9/10

Of all of the local species of termites, this is the gang that you don’t want to meet!

Coptotermes species are responsible for costing Australians more damage to timber structures than any other species, particularly Coptotermes acinaciformis. Members of this family terrorise communities along the Eastern Seaboard and attack houses in all mainland capital cities. In Brisbanes muggy environs they thrive, causing extensive damage to thousands of homes. In fact, only Mastotermes species are capable of faster damage, fortunately these are confined north of the Tropic of Capricorn.

Coptotermes are absolutely relentless. It is common for soldiers to come out and defend breaches in their workings, sometimes extruding a milky white exudate from special glands in their heads (thought to be repellent to ants and other potential predators). It is the worker termites that are of greatest concern though; it is their ceaseless endeavors that threaten your home. A healthy Coptotermes colony can contain millions of workers with the queen capable of replacing thousands a day.

Coptotermes in wall as seen without thermal imaging

Coptotermes in wall as seen without thermal imaging

Attacks on homes occur at or below soil level.

In brick veneer homes common entry points are though imperfections in mortar work, covered weepholes, service penetrations (such as where your plumbing or electricity enter), expansion joints or concealed slab joints. Queenslander style homes and single brick homes are commonly attacked via piers or partition walls. In houses low to the ground Coptotermes will sometimes build spectacular stalagmites to connect to flooring timbers. Another common entry point is through concealed voids, sometimes your front landing might be hiding more than you think!

Baiting Coptotermes

Baiting Coptotermes

Dealing with an attack.

When dealing with a Coptotermes attack, nest location is of the utmost importance. Termites are perfectly happy to sacrifice thousands of soldiers and workers in order to protect their colony. With this group, those losses are easily and quickly replaced.

Large trees are generally preferred. Suspect trees should be test drilled to identify the mud filled cavity where the real action is taking place. Soldiers will often give the location of their colony away by clinging to blades of grass or twigs when they are thrust through the freshly made drill holes. Direct injection of any insecticide registered for treatment of termites at this stage should do the trick, although substantial amounts are sometimes required (the nest cavity can exceed 80L in volume).

Nest location may be impossible in a suburban environment with the nest sometimes not on the same property or on crown land. Attacks can stem from up to 100m away, possibly more in extreme cases. When the nest can’t be located, only the best quality treatment processes, chemicals and skill can stop the flow. Coptotermes are notorious for exploiting weaknesses in treatments and never letting go of a substantial food source.

Coptotermes aren’t fussy. Significant damage spreads from the entry point with even highly resistant timbers damaged. Generally pine is preferred but damage will quickly extend to hardwood as well. Coptotermes frequently damage timber along the grain, giving it the appearance of being ‘shredded’. In their hurry to destroy, sometimes they will break through wall linings such as paint or gyprock. This breach will be quickly sealed with distinctive lumps of termite mud. They will also build extensive mudpacks in wall or other cavities, sometimes with spectacular results.

Contact us now if you believe you’ve encountered this aggressive species in your home!