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Rocky white ants suspected to be voracious West Indian kind

TINY TERROR: He might be small, but the West Indian drywood termite packs plenty of punch and is a huge threat to Australia.
TINY TERROR: He might be small, but the West Indian drywood termite packs plenty of punch and is a huge threat to Australia. Contributed

AUTHORITIES are on high termite alert as investigations into a suspected case of the most destructive species in the world begin in Rockhampton.

A suspected infestation of the West Indian drywood termite was discovered by a pest inspector in a North Rockhampton home earlier this week and with its destructive reputation, Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) authorities aren't taking any chances.

It is believed the infestation of West Indian drywood termites was brought to Rockhampton with the furniture of a South African family who moved to Australia about six years ago.

The family discovered the infestation in a lounge chair, which had been brought over from South Africa, when insects recently began flying out of the chair.

The West Indian drywood termite is an introduced species in Australia with cases considered rare nationally.

Despite this, it has caused considerable economic damage to timber-in-service in Brisbane, Maryborough, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Townsville.

CQ Building and Pest Inspections owner Casey Van Hese said as long as the right authorities were notified of West Indian drywood termite discovery, there was minimal threat of it spreading.

"I found the West Indian drywood termites in a home in Koongal many years ago and we had to notify the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry," Mr Van Hese said.

"There is no risk to the public or properties as long as it is reported to the authorities."

Queensland DAFF Biosecurity spokesperson Sacha Kitson said officers were investigating the reported case of West Indian drywood termites, but could not verify whether the case was yet confirmed.

If the case is confirmed, experienced pest inspector Shane Warner of Charlie's Pest Control said a large- scale government operation would take place.

"It is completely controlled by the Australian Government in regards to introduced species and national quarantine," Mr Warner said.

AUSTRALIA'S WORST PESTS

  • Cane toad
  • Feral pig
  • European wild rabbit
  • Asian honey bee
  • Tramp ants

"First of all they will test if it is the West Indian species, then if it is, they will inspect adjacent houses to the infested house and then a tent will go up over the house and it will be fumigated.

"They will also monitor the home for some time afterwards."

Mr Warner, who has been in the pest control industry since 1995, said he had never come across the West Indian drywood termite before and it was extremely rare.

"The last time I heard about a case of West Indian drywood termites was about 15 years ago in Gracemere," he said.

"They are very similar to the native Australian drywood termite and you can easily mistake them for the Australian drywood.

"I think it really reconfirms the need for people to regularly have their homes inspected."

Government officials will be able to confirm whether the West Indian drywood termite has been accurately identified in the local home by early next week.

Topics:  daff, furniture, pest



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