Naturally Trees - Expert Arborcultural Planning, Advice and Care Since 1998

Arboreal Termites

by | April 6, 2013
Arboreal Termites

Have you noticed large mud ‘termite’ nests in the canopy of your tree?

Termites which build these arboreal nests are called Nasutitermes walkeri and Microcerotermes sp.  The arboreal nest is generally connected to another part of the colony in the root crown of the tree. 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. These tunnels are usually on the surface or just below the soil level. These termites have mud tunnels to connect from the ground to the upper tree canopy. They can also have a maze of tunnels underground.

So what damage do these termites cause!

What’s interesting to note is that these termites rarely do any damage to either the tree or houses. They mostly attack timber in contact with the ground such as fences and poles. They rarely cause significant damage to building timbers however they may attack damp timbers under floors where wood is damp and wood is starting to decay.

Our observations and dissection of many nests found that trees were rarely eaten away. The termites seem to do a little chewing around the bark but for the most part the trees are fine other than a few mud tunnels.

What to do if you have them?

It is wise to identify termites properly to make sure which species are infecting your trees. Look for the mud tunnels, they will be visible, and can be scraped back to find active termites. Arboreal termites are quite large, maybe 5-7mm long, and have a distinct dark head in most cases. 

Now if you are concerned your tree may have been eaten or the strength of the tree jeopardised, there are a number of simple tests that can be performed to determine the integrity of the tree.  Simply tapping the trunk near the nest can help determine if the trunk sounds hollow. Another way is by drilling with a small drill.

If you are concerned about getting rid of these termites without affecting your trees then it is recommended that you consult Naturally Trees before engaging a pest controller.