Non-destructive Detection of an Invasive Drywood Termite, Cryptotermes brevis (Blattodea: Kalotermitidae), in Timber


  • Janet McDonald Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Australia
  • Christopher Fitzgerald Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Australia
  • Babar Hassan University of th Sunshine Coast, Australia
  • Jeffrey Morrell University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia



West Indian drywood termite, Termatrac, microwave detection, detection depth, wood density


Reliable drywood termite detection in structures is challenging but is critical for effective management. A microwave-based non-destructive method was evaluated for detecting termite activity. This study evaluated factors affecting the ability of this device to reliably detect Cryptotermes brevis in timber. The device displayed a high probability of successfully detecting C. brevis in naturally infested boards. The system detected termites 97% of the time when used at the highest sensitivity level, while producing few false positives. The number of termites did not affect detection ability, and detectable signals were produced even when a single termite was present. Detection success decreased with both increasing wood density and testing perpendicular to the grain in abrupt transition timber species. The device detected termites to a maximum depth of 45 mm in southern pine (Pinus spp.), but sensitivity declined with increased wood density with the detection limit declining to only 20 mm in denser Tasmanian oak (Eucalyptus spp). The device could only detect termites in samples with densities between 392 to 511 kg/m3 in 38 mm thick radiata pine samples. The results support the ability of microwaves to reliably detect C. brevis in timber.



Download data is not yet available.


Brodie, G., Thanigasalam,D.B., Farrell, P., Kealy, A., French, J.R.J. & Ahmad (Shiiday), B. (2021). An In-Situ Assessment of Wood-in-Service Using Microwave Technologies, with a Focus on Assessing Hardwood Power Poles. Insects 2020, 11: 568. doi: 10.3390/insects11090568

Brooks, S.E., Oi, F.M. & Koehler, P.G. (2003). Ability of canine termite detectors to locate live termites and discriminate them from non-termite material. Journal of Economic Entomology, 96: 1259-1266.

Duarte, S., Amaral, C., Gaju, M. & Nunes, L. (2014). Testing of non destructive methods and wood natural and conferred durability for drywood termites Cryptotermes brevis Walker detection and control. Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Environmentally-Compatible Forest Products. Universidade Fernando Pessoa, Porto, Portugal.

Evans, T. (2002). Assessing efficacy of TermatracTM; a new microwave based technology for non-destructive detection of termites (Isoptera). Sociobiology, 40: 575-584.

Evans, T.A. (2010). Invasive termites, Biology of termites: A modern synthesis. Springer, pp. 519-562.

Evans, T.A., Forschler, B.T. & Grace, J.K. (2013). Biology of invasive termites: a worldwide review. Annual Review of Entomology, 58: 455-474. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-120811- 153554

Lewis, V., Forschler, B. & Dhang, P. (2014). Management of drywood termites: past practices, present situation and future prospects, In: Dhang, P. (Ed.), Urban insect pests: sustainable management strategies. CAB International, Boston, pp. 130-153.

Lewis, V. R. (2009). Assessment of devices and techniques for improving inspection and evaluation of treatments for inaccessible drywood termite infestations. Final Report to the California Structural Pest Control Board Sacramento for Structural Pest Control Research, Sacramento, CA.

Lewis, V.R. & Haverty, M. (1996). Evaluation of six techniques for control of the Western drywood termite (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae) in structures. Journal of Economic Entomology, 89: 922-934. doi: 10.1093/jee/89.4.922

Lewis, V.R. & Lemaster, R.L. (1991). The potential of using acoustical emission to detect termites within wood, In: Haverty, Michael I.; Wilcox, W. Wayne, Technical Coordinators. Proceedings of the Symposium on Current Research on Wood-Destroying Organisms and Future Prospects for Protecting Wood in Use; September 13, 1989; Bend, OR. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-128. Berkeley, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, US Department of Agriculture; p. 34-37.

Mankin, R. (2004). Microwave radar detection of stored-product insects. Journal of Economic Entomology, 97: 1168-1173. doi: 10.1093/jee/97.3.1168

Perry, D.T. (2019). The use of an essential oil adjuvant to improve the efficacy of heat treatments for the Western drywood termite, PhD Dissertation, University of California, Riverside, USA. 105p.

Peters, B.C. (1990). Infestations of Cryptotermes brevis (Walker) (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae) in Queensland, Australia 1. History, detection and identification. Australian Forestry, 53: 79-88.

Recil, H., Mai, T.C., Sbarti, Z.M., Pajewski, L. & Kiril, E. (2016). Non-destructive evaluation of moisture content in wood using ground-penetrating radar. Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems, 5: 575-581. doi: 10.5194/gi-5-575-2016

Scheffrahn, R.H., Křeček, J., Ripa, R. & Luppichini, P. (2009). Endemic origin and vast anthropogenic dispersal of the West Indian drywood termite. Biological Invasions, 11: 787-799. doi: 10.1007/s10530-008-9293-3

Scheffrahn, R.H. & Su, N.-Y. (1997). Drywood termite control: weighing all the options. Lauderdale REC Research Report, 97-1. http://flrec. ifas. ufl. edu/entomo/StructuralEntomology/drywood/drywood, htm, University of Florida, USA.

Taravati, S. (2018). Evaluation of low-energy microwaves technology (Termatrac™) for detecting Western drywood termite in a simulated drywall system. Journal of Economic Entomology, 111: 1323-1329. doi: 10.1093/jee/toy063

Woodrow, R.J. & Grace, K. (1997). Cooking Termites, Pest Control, USA, pp. 57-62.

Zahid, I., Grgurinovic, C., Zaman, T., de Keyzer, R. & Cayzer, L. (2012). Assessment of technologies and dogs for detecting insect pests in timber and forest products. Scandinavian Journal of Forestry Research, 27: 492-502.




How to Cite

McDonald, J., Fitzgerald, C., Hassan, B., & Morrell, J. (2022). Non-destructive Detection of an Invasive Drywood Termite, Cryptotermes brevis (Blattodea: Kalotermitidae), in Timber. Sociobiology, 69(4), e7881.



Research Article - Termites