BIOSECURITY ALERT - Coptotermes Termites

A potentially destructive termite has been discovered on Lord Howe Island. Coptotermes termites are widely distributed on mainland Australia and include the most destructive species which damage timber houses and structures.

These species of subterranean termites colonises in the ground. Subterranean termites travel from the ground up to the structure. They form of mud tubes to protect them from heat and direct sunlight. They usually swarm when weather conditions are either overcast or very humid.

It is not currently known when the termites arrived or how long they have been on the Island.

Lord Howe Island biosecurity staff are currently assessing the situation – this work is being undertaken with input from experts at the Australian Museum and the CSIRO. Initial efforts are focused on determining the extent and distribution of the termites – this will determine our next steps.

These termites differ from native LHI termites, which predominantly eat sapwood, whereas this species eat the heart of the timber, including structural timbers used in construction.

What to do

We are asking all persons to immediately inspect their homes and places of work for termites. Any suspected or actual termite finds should be immediately reported to the Biosecurity Team Leader – 6563 2066 ext. 40 or email

A professional pest controller from KP Termite Solutions is currently on Island until Friday, 4th September. He will be available to assist with identifying any suspected infestations.

What to look for

  • Termites are typically off white/pale yellow.
  • They may be 3-7mm long.
  • These termites have tunnels underground and/or in structures – some species may build mounds or mud tracks near tree stumps, logs, fallen timber, etc.
  • Check in logs and around larger trees on the property - outdoors they mainly infest dead wood in contact with the soil, such as fallen trees, stumps and fallen branches.
  • Damage to timbers will be ‘typical’ of termites.
    • Termites typically eat wood from the inside out - may leave a thin veneer or timber of paint.
    • Timber will sound hollow or ‘papery’ when knocked on.
    • Tunnels and ‘galleries’ in wood.
  • Droppings (frass) – powdery substance around wood structures – sometimes dark.

Please refer to images

If you have any questions please call the LHIB on 6563 2066 ext. 40