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Schedorhinotermes spp “Its Evolution, Baby!”

Threat Level: 8/10

This species is the one that we seem to encounter more often than any other in greater Brisbane inside peoples homes. Their behaviour can be quirky and even downright odd. Make no mistake though, these guys are house-eaters.

Schedorhinotermes are amongst Australia’s most evolved termites.

Schedorhinotermes Queens, alates and soldier

Schedorhinotermes Queens, alates and soldier

We have retained many dinosaur age creatures here, crocodiles, platypus and echidna. Mastotermes are the equivalent in termite terms, retaining many habits of their cockroach ancestors. The “Schedo’s” are the new kids on the block and we are still coming to terms with their evolving abilities. This species is relatively poorly understood compared to their equally dangerous cousins Coptotermes It is not certain how many subspecies of Schedorhinotermes exist though most attacks are attributed to Schedorhinotermes intermedius.

This is the only commonly encountered termite with two distinct soldier castes, the minor and major soldiers. The minor soldiers are small, barely half the size of workers and lacking colour, they could almost be mistaken for nymphs. Major soldiers appear brutish by comparison, often larger than workers with a distinct large, downwards facing head. Major soldiers have thicker exoskeletons as evidenced by their darker, yellow to orange exoskeletons. With sufficient provocation these soldiers can give a nip that can draw blood.

Despite having two specialized soldier castes, Schedorhinotermes are notorious for being timid. A slight bump on the wall can send them fleeing rapidly back to their entry point. The unfortunate consequence of this can be finding them reappearing in another location nearby. These guys also seem to be (at least initially) rather picky. We don’t completely understand yet what qualifies as a “juicy” piece of timber to termites, in the termite world ‘Schedo’s’ seem to be the connoisseurs.

Identifying a Termite Infestation

If you take a close look at a piece of decorative timber (skirting, reveals, architraves) or better yet have some unpainted, you may notice that these timbers are often cut and glued together from several smaller pieces. It seems that in the early stages of an attack, this group will gouge out the ‘finest’ cuts, explaining what appears at first to be patchy damage. They seem to have a fondness for eating around nails, unfortunately preferring their own structural support or perhaps iron deficient (another curious unexplained habit).

Relatively speaking, in the initial stages of infestation, damage occurs slowly when compared to Coptotermes. As soon as a subnest in a wall cavity is established (this can be quite discrete, with no discolouration to wall linings or visual deformation) the repair bill will quickly skyrocket. They know what they like and will sometimes savage a hardwood bearer when there is seemingly suitable pine on offer.

The original nest (where the queen is located) can be particularly hard to find with this species. They seem to be quite adaptable and often prefer root crown nesting as opposed to nesting in the trunks of larger trees. This allows them to nest under diminutive natives just as easily as magnificent gums. Any submerged timber may do, old retaining walls a regular suspect. Worse yet, they may be able to branch off semi-independant sub-colonies when they find substantial food sources. You may be fighting four or five nests, an unfair fight.

Don’t let them beat you down!

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