Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory

<I>Nasutitermes exitiosus</I>, nasute soldier

Nasutitermes exitiosus, nasute soldier


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Compiler and date details

J.A.L. Watson, L.R. Miller & H.M. Abbey, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia


The Termitidae, which is the largest family of termites, includes 25 genera and at least 266 species in Australia (Watson & Gay 1991; Watson & Abbey 1993). Twenty of the genera are endemic, and many are poorly understood. There are many undescribed species (Watson & Abbey 1993). The Australian termitids are placed in two subfamilies, the Termitinae and Nasutitermitinae. The two other subfamilies of Termitidae, the Apicotermitinae and the fungus-growing Macrotermitinae, prominent in the termite faunas of Africa and Asia, do not occur here. The Termitinae include 19 genera in Australia: Amitermes and its close allies Ahamitermes, Drepanotermes , Incolitermes and Invasitermes; Microcerotermes; and genera of the Termes–Paracapritermes complex, Apsenterotermes, Cristatitermes, Ekphysotermes, Ephelotermes, Hapsidotermes, Hesperotermes, Lophotermes, Macrognathotermes, Paracapritermes, Pericapritermes, Protocapritermes, Saxatilitermes and Xylochomitermes. Pericapritermes is represented by a single species on Cape York Peninsula; it is allied to P. schultzei (Holmgren) from New Guinea, but its identity has not been resolved. Pericapritermes is, therefore, omitted from this Catalogue. No undescribed species are known of Ahamitermes, Drepanotermes, Incolitermes, Invasitermes, or genera of the Termes–Paracapritermes complex, but there are many undescribed species of Amitermes, and the taxonomy of Microcerotermes is in a chaotic state (Watson & Abbey 1993).

Six nasutitermitine genera occur in Australia. They are placed in two groups, the Subulitermes group and the Nasutitermes group. Australitermes and Macrosubulitermes are the Australian members of the Subulitermes group, and Nasutitermes, Occasitermes, Occultitermes and Tumulitermes the local members of the Nasutitermes group. No undescribed species are known in the endemic genera Australitermes, Macrosubulitermes, Occasitermes or Occultitermes. Several undescribed Australian species of Nasutitermes are known, and some described species may be complex. The taxonomy of the endemic genus Tumulitermes is in disarray; we document 18 species, but Tumulitermes may be a complex of genera and include 50 species or more (Watson & Abbey 1993). Despite their predominance in the Australian fauna, the termitids cause only minor economic losses. Nasutitermes exitiosus does substantial damage to timber in service in the Canberra region (Watson 1988), but is of minor importance elsewhere. Two species of Nasutitermes with arboreal nests, N. graveolus and N. walkeri, can also damage buildings. Microcerotermes serratus causes severe damage to railway sleepers in the north-west of Western Australia, but appears to be benign elsewhere. Species of the Australian harvester termite genus Drepanotermes have been implicated in damage to pasture in arid and semiarid Australia, but the damage appears to be a secondary consequence of poor range management (Watson & Gay 1970; Watson et al. 1973). Other termitids do minor damage at most, and only a few species are involved. Most termitids feed on weathered wood, plant detritus, dry grass, and humic materials in the soil and in the nests of other termites. Some Australian species of Termitidae have very large colonies. A large colony of Nasutitermes exitiosus contained more than 2.5 million termites (Gay & Wetherly 1970). The nests of mound-building species may be large, e.g. Nasutitermes triodiae with mounds to ca 7 m high, and Amitermes meridionalis with tombstone-like mounds oriented north-south and 3–4 m high and long (Watson & Gay 1991).

Jones (2013) listed 21 species in this family for Barrow Island, Western Australia, including 4 new species of Amitermes, 1 Nasutitermes, 2 Tumulitermes and one identified as Tumulitermes cf. peracutus (Hill, 1925).



Alate: Antennae with 13- to 18-segmented; ocelli present; frontal gland and fontanelle present, sometimes vestigial or absent; mandibular dentition various; pronotum generally narrower than head or of similar width; forewing scale about the same size as, or slightly longer than, hindwing scale; tarsi 4-segmented; tibial formula 3/2–3/2–3/2.

Soldier: antennae of 10- to 20-segmented; eyes lacking; fontanelle present, sometimes discharging through frontal nasus; mandibles well developed and variably denticulate, except in nasute genera; pronotum narrower than head, saddle-shaped; tarsi 4-segmented; tibial formula 3/2–3/2–3/2.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
08-Jul-2014 TERMITIDAE 08-Jul-2014 REVIEWED Dr Federica Turco (QM)
12-Feb-2010 (import)