What's New 
More about Insects
Insects Evolution
Praying Mantids
Crickets and Katydids
Stick Insects
Aphids and Scale Insects
Leafhoppers & Treehoppers
True Bugs
Mirid Bugs
Assassin Bugs 
Lygaeid Bugs
Coreid Bugs
Stink Bugs
Scarab Beetles
Jewel Beetles
Click Beetles
Darkling Beetles
Longicorn Beetles
Leaf Beetles
Weevils Beetles
Scorpion Flies
Crane Flies and Mosquitoes 
Tabanoid Flies 
Robber Flies
Bee Flies
Long-legged Flies 
Hover Flies
Acalyptrata Flies 
Calyptratae Flies
Tachinid Flies
Parasite Wasps 
Ichneumon Wasps 
Braconid Wasps
Vespoid Wasps
Apoid Wasps 
Jumping Spiders
Hunting Spiders
Orb Web Weavers 
Web Building Spiders
Links & Ref


Termites, White Ants - Order Isoptera

This page contains pictures and information about Termites that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia. This page is about termites in nature environments. If you are looking for information about termites as pest, you may want to search for some other web sites. Find information on how to identify termites in your office or home.
Tony is checking a termite mount in Karawatha Forest
Termite is very closely related to Cockroaches. They are soft-bodied and live in enclosed environments. All termites are fully social. They live in family group as a colony. Each colony has several castes, with different body shape and behaviour to perform different jobs. Usually there are three major castes, the reproductives kings and queens, soldiers and workers. Nymph stages of all those castes are also present in the colony. 
DSC_0079.jpg (239533 bytes) DSC_0081.jpg (222732 bytes) PWC_7747.jpg (185436 bytes)
Workers, they work inside nest or concealed tunnel. Their body is pale in colour, sometimes called "White Ants". 
Kings and queens are fully winged and relatively larger in size. Soldiers are sterile males and females have strong sclerotised head armed with large jaws or long snout. They can fire sticky secretion when fighting. Their jobs is to protect the colony. Their defence activities include biting, blocking and using chemical repellent. Workers are sterile males and females with weaker body and usually pale in colour. They are the largest number caste in the colony. Their jobs include gathering food, look after the young, feeding the soldiers and reproductives, tending the eggs, building and repair the nest.
Termite colony is usually in a single nest. The nest is built by the workers. It is made of finely masticated wood and mud cemented together by sticky salivary secretion. For some termite species, the nest can be galleries in wood, or galleries under ground, or for other species it may be a much more complicated and well designed home mount with numerous stories, rooms, entrances and ventilation channels.  
PWC_9808.jpg (266124 bytes) PWC_9809.jpg (257431 bytes)
Workers and Solders that work outside the nest are darker in colours.
At a particular time of a year, usually late spring and autumn, a large number of winged termites fly out from a matured colony and start their own colonies. Both winged males and winged females will come out irregularly over a period of a few weeks. Usually all nests will release their winged termites at the same time. Those termites have the well fed body although they are weak fliers. They usually fly for a short distance except those carried by wind. They fly to the places for nesting and they shed their wings. Female release pheromone to attract the males. Male and female will form tandem pair, look for suitable site in soil or in wood and start the new colony. They seal themselves in a small chamber, mate and lay eggs. The new king and queen look after the first batch of young until they can look after themselves. Then the first batch of young termites will feed the king and queen. Reproduction becomes the only job of the king and queen. The new colony starts growing and becomes a large colony. Only soldiers and workers are produced in a young colony. Winged termites are only produced in a matured colony which is several years old.  
Usually there is only one king and one queen, the founder pair, in a colony although there are many known exceptional cases. A colony may last for over ten years, depends on species. In many species, there will be the replacement if the founder king or queen die.
Termites feed on sound wood, decay wood, dry plant materials, fungi, dung of herbivores and rich soil. From those food termites utilize the cellulose. In their gut there are the symbiotic flagellate Protozoa producing chemical and enzymes to digest those cellulose. Most termites species consume their food on site although there are some species do carry food back to the nest. Then the workers feed the soldiers, nymphs and reproductives by mouth-to-mouth transfer of food.

There are five termite families in Australia. 

Mastotermitidae - Australia Giant Northern Termites
There is only one living species in this family, the Mastotermes darwiniensis. We do not have them here in Brisbane. They are found in tropical north of Queensland, North Territory and Western Australia.
Kalotermitidae - Drywood Termites
Termites in this family build simple nest in dry or damp dead wood above ground. The whole colony live in a serial of galleries and chamber in the wood, i.e., they live surrounded by their food. Their colonies are small in size. One genus, the Cryptotermes, in this family poses major economic problems. It is the main group in Drywood Termites.
Termopsidae - Dampwood Termites
Termites in this family build simple nest in wood, usually with moist. The whole colony live in a serial of galleries and chamber in the damp wood, usually rotten and above ground, including the heartwood of living tree. Their colonies are usually small in size. Those termites cause economic problems are not in this family.
Rhinotermitidae - Subterranean Termites
Most species in this family have large colonies and build compact nests. They build large to very large mounds, up to 2 m high. The genus Coptotermes in this family includes the termites that do most economic damage.
Termitidae - Termites
This is the largest termite family. Most species in this family feed on weathered wood, dry grass and plant materials in the soil, some in the nests of other termites. Some species build large to very large colonies. Species in this family may cause some economic damage but considered minor when comparing with species in other families.

Termite that build Mound Nest 
DSCN1431.jpg (280850 bytes) DSCN0379.jpg (145741 bytes)
Coptotermes sp., family Rhinotermitidae, mound nest and inside view 
Termite mounts are common in Brisbane's Eucalypt forests. They are usually built up to about one meter tall. The second photo shows the inside of a wasted termite mount. 
Termite with Nasute Soldiers that build mound nest
DSCN1196.jpg (208743 bytes) DSCN1198.jpg (122582 bytes)
Nasutitermes sp., Family TERMITIDAE, solder, body length 6mm 
Solders checking for intruders at a broken hole of termite mount.   
Termite with Nasute Soldiers that build tree nest
DSCN3764.jpg (298151 bytes) DSCN3765.jpg (329323 bytes)
Nasutitermes walkeri, Family TERMITIDAE, solder, body length 6mm, body length 6mm 
Termite that build Arboreal Nest
DSC_6638.jpg (224725 bytes) DSC_6642.jpg (163720 bytes)
Microcerotermes sp. Family TERMITIDAE, tree nest, diameter 400mm
Those large mud nests on trees as shown in photos are common in Brisbane Eucalypt forest. They the the termite nests. They are usually 3-4 meters above ground. These termites have mud tunnels to connect to the ground near the base of the tree. They also have a networks of tunnels underground. It is interesting to note that these termites seldom do any damage to the tree. The termites may have a little chewing around the nest on bark but for the most part the trees are fine. On the tree trunk there are only a few mud tunnels.
Back to Top

1. Insects of Australia - CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Melbourne University Press, 2nd Edition 1991, p330.
2. Insects of Australia and New Zealand - R. J. Tillyard, Angus & Robertson, Ltd, Sydney, 1926, p100. 
3. Termites of Northern Australia - By Alan Andersen, Peter Jacklyn, Tracy Dawes-Gromadzki and Ian Morris, Tropical Ecosystems Research Centre, 2006.
4. Order ISOPTERA - Australian Faunal Directory, Australian Biological Resources Study, 2008.
5. Subterranean termites in Queensland - B.C. Peters, J. King and F.R. Wylie, Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2009.


See us in our Home page. Download large pictures in our Wallpaper web page or send email to us. A great way to support us is to buy the CD from us.  
Last updated: April 27, 2011.