University of Hawaii Termite Project

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Home Research Focus on Coptotermes gestroi

A focus on Coptotermes gestroi
(formerly Coptotermes vastator)

Coptotermes vastator

Philippine Milk Termite
Coptotermes gestroi


Coptotermes vastator

Coptotermes vastator

The Philippine milk termite is a major structural pest in the Philippines and in Guam. It was first found in Hawaii in 1963, infesting a house that has since been demolished. C. gestroi was not found again in Hawaii for 25 years.

Then in the Fall of 1999, it was discovered infesting several homes and trees in Barber's Point and Ewa Beach, Oahu. In 2000, a few more infestations were found in the same area, including one at Hickam Air Field. At present, C. gestroi seems to be limited to this single region of Oahu.

We are conducting lab and field studies with this new invader to understand more about its biology and ecology, how it might differ from its close relative the Formosan subterranean termite, and how interactions with Formosan subterranean termite colonies will affect its ability to spread further in Hawaii.

Coptotermes gestroi is difficult to distinguish from the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus. One clue is that the swarmers (alates) are much darker in color than typical Formosan termite swarmers. A second distinguishing feature, visible only with a microscope, is that C. gestroi soldiers have only one hair (setum) on each side of the pore (fontanelle) found on the front of their heads, while C. formosanus soldiers have two hairs on each side of the fontanelle.

Coptotermes formosanus soldier Coptotermes vastator soldier
Illustration by Dr. R. Joseph Woodrow

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