The world’s most destructive termite, mastotermes darwiensisis or the Giant Northern Termite is almost never seen below the Tropic of Capricorn. It is considered the most aggressive and destructive termite in the world and is also the largest. It is generally limited to the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Western Australia and Queensland.
It’s not a Termite that we see very often here at Conquer Termites, as most of our customers are in Brisbane. But just last week a large, active colony of mastotermes was found on the Gold Coast! Certainly, of all species of termite, this is the very last one we want moving into South East Queensland!
Mastotermes probably most closely resembles a cockroach (compared to other termite species). The scientific classification of termites has recently been changed to actually place termites under the order of Blattodea (Cockroaches). Previously they had been classified as their own order, Isoptera but recent studies have seen a change and they are now accepted as the epifamily Termitoidae, of the cockroach order Blattodea. While in Australia termites have long been known by the term ‘white ants’, this is actually a misnomer as they are really only an extremely distant relative of ants.
Mastotermes have the most voracious appetites of all termite species. They have been known to destroy crops (sugar cane, vegetables and fruit), eat through electrical wiring, tractor and car tires (!) and rubber trees! And while most termites are actually good for the environment (as long as they’re not in your home), mastotermes is incredibly ruthless, often ring-barking trees and destroying bushes and shrubs.
Mastotermes are known to be able to split into separate colonies once their numbers reach about 100 000, and move the second colony into another area, spreading themselves over a wide area. It sounds like it would take a long time for a termite colony to reach 100 000, but bearing in mind that the queen is capable of laying over 2000 eggs a day, a termite colony can become enormous very quickly. When a colony gets into a home it has been known to cause an incredible amount of damage in less than 12 weeks!
Like the termites we usually deal with here in Brisbane, Mastotermes are a subterranean termite, and build their nests in trunks and root crowns of trees and stumps. Most termite species galleries are found in the first 30cm of soil, but the mastotermes can go as deep as 70cms.
Unfortunately, termites eat their timber from the inside out. So generally by the time they are detected, they have left little but paint holding up your house. Most termites would take a number of years to do this kind of damage. But Mastotermes Darwiniensis are approximately 3 times larger and stronger than most subterranean termites, and can do this damage in a matter of months.
This is not the first time that this dangerous species has been found out of it’s northern borders. It is, at least the third time that Mastotermes has been found on the Gold Coast. Let’s hope they are able to eradicate yet another colony and that we don’t have to face them in our own homes.
Remember, the most important thing you can do to protect your home is have regular thorough termite inspections. Call a professional pest control company, preferably one that specialises in termites. All of the technicians at Conquer Termites are Termite Specialists and are able to answer any questions or concerns you have. (Joel Mitchell, one of our most experienced techs, once dragged his family on a ‘holiday’ from their home in the Whitsundays to Townsville, in the hope of finding some Mastotermes and bringing home samples. He thought it would be ‘fun’.Apparently living in the Whitsundays for a year and a half without having spotted these giant termites was unacceptable and it was time to go find some… Yes folks, that’s the kind of err….. dedication our techs show!) Don’t forget to take advantage of our free half hour check if you are worried you may have termites on your property.