Communique – Drywood termite on Cocos (Keeling) Islands non-eradicable

The National Biosecurity Management Group (NBMG) has considered the incursion of drywood termites (Cryptotermes dudleyi) on Cocos (Keeling) Islands under the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement and determined the pest is not technically feasible to eradicate.

In making its decision, the group considered the recommendations provided by the National Biosecurity Management Consultative Committee. This committee was established to provide technical advice in response to the outbreak of drywood termite (C. dudleyi) on Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The committee advised the NBMG it was not technically feasible to eradicate the pest, based on expert survey information provided in a report commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in July 2015.

The survey report concluded that drywood termites are prevalent in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and as some buildings are constructed with untreated timbers they are susceptible to termites. Whole of building fumigation with wood penetrating fumigants is the only proven way to eradicate dry wood termites from a building. However, such fumigations would have no residual effect and buildings would become re-infested from the residual population. In addition, the probability of further drywood termite introductions is high with evidence that termites can arrive on the islands on floating debris.

There are strong border quarantine measures and mandatory quarantine interventions in place for movements of wood and wood products from island territories to mainland Australia. To help limit the spread of drywood termite on the islands, the use of recycled or driftwood timbers in and around buildings is discouraged and treated timbers are recommended for use in all building construction and repair activities. Additionally the Australian Government is investigating options for the longer term management of the pest on Cocos (Keeling) Island and will keep residents informed of any outcomes of the process.

Background

Drywood termite (Cryptotermes dudleyi) is an exotic pest. Despite several quarantine interceptions at ports of entry, there is no evidence to suggest that this species is established in mainland Australia. The termites are difficult to detect and often go unnoticed until damage is extensive or obvious through excessive frass deposits or their young begin to fly. Young termites are very weak flyers and rarely fly any great distance from the parent colony. Instead they opt to start new colonies within the timber or building they were released from, or in adjacent items.

Further information

If you suspect drywood termites in your wood or wooden items from Cocos (Keeling) Islands, phone the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.