Government taskforce to counter termite outbreak


A Government taskforce team has been established in Lautoka to counter an outbreak of what appears to be a new species of termite that infests in wooden buildings. The termite outbreak is currently found to be contained within Lautoka’s rural and suburban areas.
Specimens of the termite have been sent to Department of Primary Industries in Brisbane, Australia, for authentication. Results are expected back within a month. According to a report by the Forestry Department, termite infestations in wooden building in Fiji has never been a serious issue until now.
“The current method of this attack has serious repercussions and it is vital to note the extent of damage it is capable of sustaining,” the report said.  
“Structural damage may result from severe infestation putting the structure at risk and in case of buildings; it will pose a serious threat to its occupants.”
“Economic losses to proper owners can be enormous through its attacks on buildings in major population centers.”  
According to Acting Senior Biosecurity Officer (West) Mr Lemeki Ratucicivi initial surveys so far have indicated the presence of these termites in Lautoka’s rural and suburban areas running from Natabua to Vitogo.
“So far we have identified 74 houses within that boundary that have been infested by this pest and most of the affected houses are located in the Tavakubu (26), Tawatawa (20), and Naikabula (14) areas.”
“Other areas include Anian Road in Vitogo, California Road in Lovu, Natabua, Saru, Tomuka and Vaivai.”
“Our initial survey of some properties in the city of Lautoka has so far yielded no evidence to indicate the presence of this pest in the city area and our survey will continue until we have covered the whole city and its suburban and rural areas”.
Mr Ratucicivi stressed it was difficult at this time to pinpoint the origin of the termite, but what they could determine so far is that the termite is not a local species and appears to thrive on dead wood.
“Hopefully this will come up as we continue with our investigations so that it can assist us in our efforts to eradicate the pest.”
According to the Forestry Report Fiji has nine species of termites, six of which are considered forestry pests. The species are: Coptotermes acinaformis, Prorhinotermes inopinatus, Cryptotermes domesticus, Glyptotermes taveuniensis, Incisitermes repandus, Neotermes papua, Neotermes samoanus, Nasutitermesolidus and Nasutitermes.

“Initial identification undertaken by Biosecurity Authority of Fiji Islands in consultation with Koronivia Research Station and Forestry Research confirmed that it is Coptotermes species of the Isoptera order and Rhinotermitidae family,” the report said.
“Only one species of Coptotermes acinaformis of Coptotermes genus found in Fiji and the specimens of the wood infesting termite in Lautoka have been sent to Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane for authentication with the assistance of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to speed up the termite identification process.
Mr Ratucicivi said the presence of this termite only came to light towards the end of last year after it was highlighted in a media report when it infested a house in Tavakubu.
“Our surveys so far seem to indicate that the outbreak is mostly confined in rural and suburban areas of Lautoka.”
 “Inspection surveys showed that wooden building structures in the Tavakubu areas are the most badly affected that warrants immediate vacation by its occupants for safety reasons.”
“Our discussions with affected homeowners seem to indicate that the pest has been around for quite some time and there is an urgent need to identify measures to contain and eradicate the termite.”
“Some homeowners we interviewed during our survey told us that they had noticed termite damages in their houses for the last three years.”
The Termite Taskforce Committee was set up by the Commissioner Western comprising representatives from the Commissioner Western’s office, Lautoka City Council, Ministry of Primary Industries (Agriculture & Forestry), Ministry of Health, Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Fiji Police and the Secretariat of the Pacific Communities (Land Use Section).
Findings of the Taskforce also showed that termites do not only restrict themselves to wooden structures, but will also consume wall paper, plastics, paper products, fabric made from plant fibers, carpet, art work, books, clothing, furniture, compact boards and valuable documents.
“There were also heavy termite infestations on trees such as mango, tamarind, coconut, cassava, citrus, pawpaw, rain tree and ornamental plants such as Rose.”
 “The infestation concentrated mostly under barks and base of stems and they seem to attack parts of the tree where there is visible damage.”
“This indicates to us that the termite only thrive on dead wood as its food source (dry and rotting wood) thus reducing life period of trees.”
“We also found that majority of the buildings infested by the termites were old and were renovated using old timber such as Oregon and new timbers such as Damanu, Laubu, Yasiyasi, treated Kauvula, Kaudamu and treated Pine procured from different sources.”
Mr Ratucicivi said the Taskforce will be submitting its report to the Commissioner Western and will also brief the Minister for Primary Industries on the urgent need to place the affected area under quarantine so that measures could be taken to contain and eradicate the pest.