Monday, October 5, 2009

Dear Queensland Museum

In 1979, a major termite fumigation programme was undertaken throughout Brisbane.

We've asked the Queensland Museum where we can find out which public buildings were treated and what type of chemicals were used in this process, as Dr Brenton C. Peter's wrote about it in his article about the West Indian Drywood Termite in the 'Wildlife Of Greater Brisbane: A Queensland Museum Wild Guide':

The West Indian Drywood Termite (Cryptotermes brevis) is considered the world's most destructive drywood termite and has caused considerable economic damage wherever it has become established. The termite is one of four 'tramp' species in Queensland. Cryptotermes cynocephalus and Cryptotermes domesticus have been introduced from South-east Asia and the Pacific to areas around Cairns and further north, mainly through commerce. Similarly, Cryptotermes dudleyi has been introduced to Thursday Island and is established there.

The West Indian Drywood Termite was first found in Maryborough in 1966 and this discovery was followed by a survey and treatment campaign that was extended to Bundaberg in 1974. The termite was proclaimed a notifiable pest under the Diseases in Timber Act 1975. One year later, it was discovered in several multi-storey buildings in Brisbane and a major fumigation programme began in 1979. About 570 buildings, including suburban houses, and many items of furniture have been treated since then at a cost to the State of $10 million. The extensive infestations in Maryborough and central Brisbane are thought to have resulted from separate introductions of the pest in timber imported with war materials by the US Armed Services during World War II.

Damage is restricted to construction timber, furniture and, occasionally, paper products. There is no record of its occurrence in other situations. A colony of West Indian Drywood Termites can survive in susceptible timber the size of a matchbox for several years. It is most commonly found in pine, especially Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), and cabinet woods including maples (Flindersia spp.), Red Cedar (Toona australis) and Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta).

West Indian Drywood Termites living in Hoop Pine typically produce reddish brown faecal pellets ('frass'). These gradually blacken with age and are usually different in size and shape from that of the Native Drywood Termite. Frass from the West Indian Termite is larger and more pointed. The head of the soldier is also more wrinkled than that of the native species.

The Greater Brisbane Region has a rich diversity of native termites, some of considerable economice importance. The exotic West Indian Drywood Termite is an unwanted addition. However, the major threat it posed in Queensland has been substantilly diminished as a result of the ongoing containment programme.