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They Come In Different Sizes And Colors

Being situated in the tropical regions, Malaysia has diversified termite species living in different habitats in the country. However, not all termite species are threatening our properties. Out of more than 175 species identified so far in Malaysia, only 10 species are known to invade wooden structures, paper products, cotton clothing or garden trees in and around our properties.

Each termite species comes in different body sizes and colors. Some are only confined to attack interior wooden structure in our properties whilst some are only attacking trees planted in our gardens. Some species are known to be dominant or primary species whilst others are considered secondary species where they emerge only after the primary species is knock out from treated vicinities. You may find some species is prominent in urban area and others are said to be rural in natural where they are found abundance in villages or kampongs.

10 termite species found in Malaysia  
The 10 termite species that threatening our properies in Malaysia and their relative sizes

Knowing exactly what species of termites currently attacking our properties is appropriate in order to employ the right strategy to control and manage them. The threatening 10 species of termites which is of importance to us are arranged in priority order and presented in the following sections. Also be noted that due to difficulty in differentiating the species by their workers, identification of a termite species is always based on the soldiers.


1. asian subterranean termite

Asian Subterranean Termite  

This species is scientifically known as Coptotermes gestroi. It is the most common and most aggressive termite species found in Malaysia and was reported to cause between 60 to 70% of the damages on especially interior wooden structures.

Asian Subterranean termites build their nest underground. When disturbed, the soldier would exude a white fluid for defense purpose. This species also produce rattling sound (click play to listen to the sound ), a mechanism used by soldier to warn off nest-mates by banging their head against the walls. You may hear the sound during a quiet night if your house is infested with this species. Their mud tubes are normally soft and they usually build carton nest (a type of sub nest) inside the infested area.

Soldiers and workers of Asian Subterranean termite
When disturbed, soldier will produce a white fluid
The mud tubes of this species is soft
This is a carton nest found inside an infested wood


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2. common subterranean termite

Common Subterranean Termite  

The scientific name of this termite species is Coptotermes curvignathus. It was reported this species cause about 20% of the total damage done in residential and commercial areas in Malaysia. This is the second most important termite species after the Asian Subterranean termite.

The shape and color is very similar to that of the Asian Subterranean termite and the soldiers would also exude white liquid if disturbed. However, it has a body size of almost double to that of the Asian Subterranean termite. Like the Asian Subterranean termites, this termite species also build their nest underground.

They usually attack live trees in the gardens or open areas. They prefer soft-wood trees like ornamental pine and ornamental palms but they were also found to attack fruit trees like mango trees and other young ornamental trees. On trees, they normally build mud sheath on trunks or branches. Lately, they were also found to attack interior wooden structures like wooden door and window frames, wooden pallet in warehouses and so on. This is the termite species that yearly kill more than 5% of oil palm trees planted in deep peat soil in Sarawak.

    Mud shealth   Mud works    
Soldiers and workers of the common subterranean termite
Mud sheath on a branch of an ornamental tree
Mud sheath built on the base of an oil palm tree
Beside attacking trees, this termite species also attack other materials, for example wooden pallet and carton boxes shown above

3. fungus growing termite

Fungus Growing Termite  

This species is scientifically called Odontotermes spp. This termite species does not directly digest wooden materials they eat, but they use the materials to grow fungus (mushrooms) in their nest. They are well known for their symbiotic association (a special relationship between two organisms in which each provides for the other conditions necessary for its continued existence) with a type of edible mushroom called Termitomyces albuminosa (Cendawan busut). These termites maintain the mush room garden inside their nest and consume material that has been decomposed by the mushroom.

Although this species is normally found outdoors, but incidences of the species attacking interior wooden structures and fittings are increasingly common. It left uncontrolled, they could destroy a big mature tree.




This termite species is capable of falling a big mature tree
Termite mushroom
The mushrooms grow all the way from the nest to above the ground


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4. Red ant termite

Red Ant Termites  

Scientifically, this species is known as Schedorhinotermes spp. The soldiers have two forms, a major form and a minor form which is only half the size of the major. The minor solders move speedily like ants.

This species normally feeds on dead woody materials like dead tree barks, branches, leaves, twigs and tree stumps. However, they become an important secondary termite species that infest interior of premises where previously attacked by subterranean termites which have been eliminated by using baiting systems. This species is known to use the existing tunnels and mud tubes that were previously created by the eliminated subterranean termite species in interior of premises or on a living garden tree.

The major soldier (left) and the minor (right)



A dead tree stump heavily infested by this termite species
Red ant termites reinfested this ornamental palm tree which was previously infested by common subterranean termites

5. common mound building termite

Common Mound Building Termite  

This termite species is scientifically called Macrotermes gilvus. They are known to build hard earthen mound. Like fungus growing termites, this termite species also grow fungus inside their nests. It is one of the main termite pests in oil palm, rubber and coconut plantation. Occasionally they also invade ornamental trees like palm trees and exterior woody materials in residential areas.

This species grow fungus inside their nest. Shown here are the fungus balls on the walls of a nest
A mound built by this termite species just beside the base of a royal palm
Mud works covered the whole orchid planting post (left) and a closer look at it (right)


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6. Tree termite

Tree Termite  

Scientifically known as Nasutitermes spp. This species is commonly known as tree termite as they normally live and feed on tree and build their nest on the tree as well. The soldiers have a distinct long snout on their heads.

This species normally infests trees and rarely a serious termite pest on wooden structures inside premises.

A nest of this termite species built on a tree
A network of mud tubes on the trunk of a water apple tree

7. Long head termite

Long Head Termite  

Scientifically this termite species is called Microcerotermes crassus. The soldier has long head almost the length of its body.

This species is usually found in rural areas (villages or kampongs). They normally build a solid and hard nest on trees or posts. They build thin and extensive mud tubes but their damage done on woody materials is not as serious as the other termite species.

This species build their nest on trees
The mud tubes are thin and extensive
Sometimes, this species would attack books


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8. suicide termite

Suicide Termite  

The scientific name of this termite species is Globitermes sulphureus. The soldier of this species can be recognized by their yellow (sulfur yellow) abdomen and two large and curved mouthpieces. They often found attacking live plantation trees like rubber and oil palm. Nevertheless, they also can be found infesting live ornamental plants in our gardens.

This termite is well known for its suicidal behavior of the soldiers which liberate a sticky yellowish defensive secretion by rupturing their body.

This ornamental palm is attack by suicide termites
Closer look at the damaged area revealed the severity

9. Black macrotermes termite

Black Marcotermes Termite  

Scientifically, this termite is called Macrotermes carbonarius. This is the largest termite found in Southeast Asia. Unlike most of the termite species that foraging in an enclosed environment, Black Macrotermes is one of the termite that is foraging in open areas. They build mound and grow fungus in their nest.

Black Macrotermes mostly feed on dead grass, twigs, and other plant debris and use them to grow fungus in their nest. They are mainly found in the forest, rubber and coconut plantation and rarely found in residential areas.

The mound of Black Macrotermes
Black Macrotermes are seen here foraging in an open area

10. smelly termite

Smelly Termite  

The scientific name of this species is Microtermes spp. A distinct characteristic of this species is that the soldier would release a fluid with a lemon-like odor when disturbed. The size of the soldier is about the same size of that of a worker. They are opportunist where they would use existing or abandon mound of other species to be the nest.

This species is only found in forests and plantations like rubber and oil palm plantation.



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