Exotic drywood termites

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Exotic drywood termites

Exotic to Australia, under management (some species)

Features: Termites that only need the moisture present in the
timber in which they feed. Do not need contact with soil, or
any other source of moisture.
Where they're from: Most tropical and temperate regions
of the world, and some parts of Australia.
How they spread: Importation of infested timber such as
furniture, picture frames, ornaments, movement of infested
timber between jurisdictions; they can fly short distances.
At risk: Timber in service, structural timber, dry wood,
furniture, timber fences and power poles. They are not
found in living trees.

Drywood termites are easily transported in infested wood,
even small pieces. Credit: Jack Clunies-Ross

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Keep it out

Drywood termite infestation of buildings can impact building safety and property values. There are three species of particular concern:

  • Drywood termite (Cryptotermes dudleyi) – absent from Australia
  • Western drywood termite (Incisitermes minor) – absent from Australia
  • West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis) - present in some areas of Australia

Drywood termites do not need contact with soil, so most of the measures used to prevent subterranean termites getting into buildings do not prevent drywood termite infestation.

The drywood termites:

  • are considered a major pest of structural timber, especially timber in boats
  • have been intercepted at the border
  • can be found in boat wreckage and in fishing vessels.
  • build colonies, some containing up to several thousand termites that can survive up to 10 years
  • have winged termites, called alates, that swarm at a particular time of the year to spread to and infest timber in new areas.

Stop the spread

The West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis) is present but under management in Queensland. It is considered the world’s most destructive drywood termite.

  • This species affects softwoods and hardwoods.
  • It feeds on sound dry timber, wooden furniture and structural wood that is kept dry.
The Western drywood termite is one of three species of biosecurity concern in Australia. Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker, Museum Victoria, PaDIL.
The first signs of drywood termite might be piles of frass, tiny droppings, that they leave behind. PaDIL.


Importing goods

To keep exotic drywood termites out of Australia, never ignore Australia’s strict biosecurity rules.

Import shipments may need to be treated and certified, so before you import, check our Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).

Travellers and people moving interstate

International travellers need to declare wooden products obtained overseas.

Interstate travellers can avoid spreading existing infestations of drywood termites by checking Interstate Quarantine rules before you move timber items.

What to look for

Infestations can be detected by:

  • discarded wings found near windows, in spiderwebs or a light source (like removable light fittings)
  • flying winged termites found within households
  • tapping affected timber, it may have a hollow sound
  • checking painted timber which can appear bubbled or cracked
  • the presence of dry, sand-like faecal pellets (frass) coming out of tunnel openings
  • finding frass in cone shaped piles or in circular patterns on the surface of infested wood.

Where to look

  • Termites live in a closed system of tunnels without light and can live in any wooden part of a building, in furniture, wooden ornaments or even paper articles.
  • Thoroughly examine second-hand timber and furniture for exotic drywood termite activity.
  • Find them by breaking open the thin surface of the wood to expose the termites in their tunnels.
  • Even small pieces of wood can be infested.


If you work with or handle imported goods, look for frass and tunnels in timber. Tap timber to find termite tunnels.

What to do

If you think you have found exotic drywood termites:

  • take a photo
  • contain the item and insects (this may be as simple as closing the doors on a shipping container or covering infested furniture with plastic)
  • collect a sample of frass or termite wings, if possible, without disturbing the insects.

Read the detail

Last reviewed: 14 September 2020
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