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Subterranean Termite (Nasutitermes walkeri)

Subterranean Termite (Nasutitermes walkeri)

Subterranean Termite (Nasutitermes walkeri)

Structure, Appearance and Characteristics


  • 5.0-7.0mm in length.
  • Nasute head - head drawn out into a beak.
  • Head not constricted near its centre when viewed from above.
  • Fontanelle present.
  • Tarsi - 4 segments.
  • Abdominal cerci - 2 segments.
  • Pronotum saddle shaped, anterior lobes.

Life Cycle

Gradual / Incomplete metamorphosis (egg – nymph – adult). Queen lays eggs singly. 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 Workers 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. Worker:
    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. 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.


Construct arboreal nests in trees, on the main trunk, in a fork or on a large branch. The outside casing is soft and friable and easily broken or penetrated. The arboreal nest is connected to another part of the colony in the root crown or another subterranean part of the tree. The connection with the two sections is internal and external in most cases. Shelter tubes are characteristic of this species and are often found on the outside of the tree trunk. Subterranean tunnels radiate from the base of the tree to various food sources. Tunnels are usually on the surface or just below the soil level. Found along eastern coastal areas in Queensland and New South Wales.


Workers feed on decayed and weathered timber, particularly when it is in contact with the soil. The cellulose of wood is digested by intestinal bacteria. 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

When the environment is damp and ventilation is poor, these species will damage timber and etch the surface of sound wood. The workers 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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