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Subterranean Termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis)

Subterranean Termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis)

Subterranean Termite (Mastotermes darwiniensis)

Structure, Appearance and Characteristics


  • 11.5-13.0mm in length.
  • Tarsi - 5 segments.
  • Pronotum large, saddle shaped.

Life Cycle

Gradual / Incomplete metamorphosis (egg – nymph – adult). Queen lays eggs in batches of approx 20 joined together to form one mass. A nymph after hatching passes through 4-7 moults before becoming a mature worker, soldier or winged reproductive. Nymphs resemble the adults or mature castes. Nymphal stage lasts approx 2-3 months, depending of food and climactic conditions. No pupal stage exists. Soldiers and nymphs live 1-2 years. Kings and Queens live longer (often over 20 years. Some records of original queen living 50 years).

There are 4 different castes of adults:

  1. Queen & King:
    The queen and king are the original winged reproductives (alates). When a new colony is formed the pair must feed and care for the young until there are sufficient soldiers and workers to take over the duties of the colony.
  2. Nymph (Pseudergate):
    This caste is a ‘worker like’ caste. It is the most abundant caste in the colony, performing all the tasks in the colony except defence and reproduction. It is this caste that does the damage to timber.

    Unlike the true workers in other families of termites, the nymphs may either: Continue as nymphs; Moult to presoldiers and then soldiers; Moult to reproductives, ultimately reaching winged reproductives, and leave the parent colony; or Form functional reproductives (neoteinics) in the same colony.

    Males and females whose sexual organs and characteristics have not developed. Wingless, blind and sterile. Thin cuticle which makes them susceptible to desiccation. Will only leave the security of underground tunnels and shelter tubes when humidity is high or in the search for new food sources.
  3. Soldier:
    Most distinctive caste and the easiest caste from which to identify a species. The role of this caste is to defend the colony. Males and females whose sexual organs and characteristics have not developed. Like workers, they are susceptible to desiccation and seldom leave the colony or shelter tubes. The fontanelle is used to discharge a secretion associated with defence, since it is a repellent to ants and other enemies of termites.
  4. Reproductive:
    The future kings and queens. Having compound eyes, they are darker in colour and have a more dense cuticle than workers and soldiers. They are often larger. When fully winged (alates) a colonising flight will occur when humidity and temperature conditions outside approximate the conditions inside the colony, normally in summer months.


Non-mound-builder. Nests in trunks and root crowns of trees and stumps. Most subterranean galleries occur in the first 30 cm of soil. The range of this species is a least 70 m. It attacks houses, buildings, bridges, posts, poles, and many other animal and plant products. Found in tropical areas, mostly north of the Tropic of Capricorn in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory and on coastal islands.


Workers feed on wood, wood products, leaves, bark. The cellulose of wood is digested by intestinal protozoa. The other castes are fed by the workers from oral and anal excretions. Protein is also required in the diet, which is usually supplied by fungi that decay wood and vegetation.

Pest Status

The most destructive species within its range of occurrence. It also ringbarks and kills living trees and damages crops such as sugarcane.The nymphs are the caste that cause the damage.


Refer to our Termite Section.

Our licensed technicians can assist you with a flexible, tailored solution to meet your needs and prevent these pests from becoming a problem in your home or workplace. Please contact us to see how we can help you maintain an environment free of these and other pests.


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