Potential Invasive Termites in India and Importance of Integrative Taxonomy


  • C. M. Kalleshwaraswamy Department of Entomology, College of Agriculture, Keladi Shivappa Nayaka University of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences (KSNUAHS), Shivamogga 577204, Karnataka




Identification, Kalotermitidae, Rhinotermitidae, traded commodity, woodeating, nest constructing, places of origin, invasives, number, Indian perspectives, NCBI accessions, threats to biodiversity


Termites are ubiquitously abundant in the tropics and subtropics. Globally 28 species are considered invasive among the 2937 species in nine families known. Among the invasive species, most are considered nuisance organisms to humans in urban areas, and a few have invaded natural forests. Generally, the invasive termites share three qualities: (i) they eat wood, (ii) make nests in wood, and (iii) they quickly generate secondary reproductives. These qualities are the most common in the Kalotermitidae and Rhinotermitidae (Blattodea: Isoptera), which enhance their opportunities for producing viable and reproductively capable individuals. Species of the Termitidae cannot produce secondary reproductives, and this is attributed as a reason for their lack of invasiveness. The 28 species recognized as strongly invasive have the potential to widen their geographical range from their present distribution locations. According to available data, 10 out of the 17 recognized invasive species have expanded their area of occurrence since 1969. Among the 28, three are known in India, although their exact distribution data in the Indian subcontinent, the damage they inflict, and consequent economic loss are yet to be worked out in detail. Climate change, intensifying urbanization, and globalization, acting either individually or in combination, are likely to exacerbate ecological and economic effects. Strict quarantine measures and appropriate treatment of every wood material imported are imperative. Efforts have been made to list the potential invasive termites in India based on imported-wood material. Approximately 70 species reported in the GenBank database for about 300 species known from India, emphasizing a dire need for accurate morphological and molecular determinations. Gene sequences of some of the Indian termite species submitted are incorrectly identified, as their presence and distribution in India is doubtful. Therefore, in this article, I discuss the importance of the combined and efficient use of morphological and molecular taxonomy in determining termites in India.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...




How to Cite

Kalleshwaraswamy, C. M. (2023). Potential Invasive Termites in India and Importance of Integrative Taxonomy. Indian Journal of Entomology, 85(4), 1088–1104. https://doi.org/10.55446/IJE.2022.694



Review Articles


Abe T. 1987. Evolution of life types in termites. In: Kawano S, Connell JH, Hidaka T (Eds.). Evolution and coadaptation in biotic communities. University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo. pp. 126-148.

Ahmad F, Fouad H, Liang S-Y, Hu Y, Mo J-C, 2019. Termites and Chinese agricultural system: applications and advances in integrated termite management and chemical control. 28(1): 2-20.

Arias-Estévez M E, López-Periago E, Martínez-Carballo J, Simal-Gándara J C, Mejuto J C, and García-Río L. 2008. The mobility and degradation of pesticides in soils and the pollution of groundwater resources. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 123(4): 247-260.

Austin J W, Szalanski A L, Scheffrahn R H, Messenger M T, Dronnet S, Bagnères A G. 2005. Genetic evidence for the synonymy of two Reticulitermes species: Reticulitermes flavipes and Reticulitermes santonensis. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 98(3): 395-401.

Austin J W, Szalanski A L, Scheffrahn R H, Messenger M T, McKern J A, Gold R E. 2006. Genetic evidence for two introductions of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae), to the United States. Florida Entomologist 89: 183-193.

Bain J, Jenkins M J. 1983. Kalotermes banksiae, Glyptotermes brevicornis and other termites (Isoptera) in New Zealand. New Zealand Entomologist 7(4): 365-371.

Borges P A V, Myles T G, Lopes D H, Ferreira M, Borges A, Guerreiro O, Simões A. 2007. Estratégias para combate e gestão das térmitas nos Açores. In: P.A.V. Borges & T. Myles (eds.), Térmitas dos Açores. Princípia, pp. 112-122, Lisboa.

Bose, G. 1984. Termite fauna of southern India. Records of the Zoological Survey of India 49: 1-270.

Bravey T, Verkerk R. 2010. Termite eradication programme. Information Leaflet. Update No. 19, UK Dep. Communities Local Gov. London.

Buczkowski G, Bertelsmeier C. 2017. Invasive termites in a changing climate: A global perspective. Ecology and Evolution 7(3): 974-985.

Cachan P. 1949. Les termites de Madagascar. Mémoires de l’Institut Scientifique de Madagascar. Série A: Biologie Animale, 3(2), 178-275.

Chouvenc T, Li H, Austin J, Bordereau C, Bourguignon T, Cameron S L, Cancello E M, Constantino R, Costa-Leonardo A M, Eggleton P, Evans T A, Forschler B, Grace J K, Husseneder C, Křeček J, Lee C, Lee T, Lo N, Messenger M, Mullins A, Robert A, Roisin Y, Scheffrahn R H, Sillam-Dussès D, Šobotník J, Szalanski A, Takematsu Y, Vargo E L, Yamada A, Yoshimura T, Su N. 2016. Revisiting Coptotermes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae): a global taxonomic road map for species validity and distribution of an economically important subterranean termite genus. Systematic Entomology 41: 299-306.

Constantino R. 1998. Catalog of the living termites of the New World (Insecta: Isoptera). Arquivos de Zoologia 35(2): 135-230.

Constantino R. 2002. The pest termites of South America: taxonomy, distribution and status. Journal of Applied Entomology 126(7-8): 355-365.

Dahlsjö C A, Romero V C S, Iñiguez E C I. 2020. Termite diversity in Ecuador: a comparison of two primary forest national parks. Journal of Insect Science 20(1): 1-6.

DeHeer C J, Kutnik M, Vargo E L, Bagnères A G. 2005. The breeding system and population structure of the termite Reticulitermes grassei in southwestern France. Heredity 95: 408-415.

Donovan S E, Eggleton P, Bignell D E. 2001. Gut content analysis and a new feeding group classification of termites (Isoptera). Ecological Entomology 26: 356-66.

Dronnet S, Chapuisat M, Vargo EL, Lohou C, Bagnères A G. 2005. Genetic analysis of the breeding system of an invasive subterranean termite, Reticulitermes santonensis, in urban and natural habitats. Molecular Ecology 14: 1311-1320

Evangelista DA, Wipfler B, Béthoux O, Donath A, Fujita M, Kohli MK, Legendre F, Liu S, Machida R, Misof B, Peters RS, Podsiadlowski L, Rust J, Schuette K, Tollenaar W, Ware JL, Wappler T, Zhou X, Meusemann K, Simon S. 2019. An integrative phylogenomic approach illumine tes the evolutionary history of cockroaches and termites (Blattodea). Proceedings of Biological Science 286 (1895): 2018-2076.

Evans T A, Forschler B T, Grace J K. 2013. Biology of invasive termites: a worldwide review. Annual Review of Entomology 58: 455-474.

Evans T A, Inta R, Lai, J C. 2011. Foraging choice and replacement reproductives facilitate invasiveness in dry wood termites. Biological Invasions 13(7): 1579-1587.

Evans T A. 2010. Invasive termites. pp 519-562. In: Bignell D E, Roisin, Y Lo, N. Biology of Termites: A Modern Synthesis, (eds). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. p576.

Evenhuis N L. 2007. Checklist of the Isoptera of Fiji. Technical Report 38(12), Bishop Museum Honolulu, HI. p38.

Ferreira M T, Borges P A V, Nunes L, Myles T G, Guerreiro O, Scheffrahn R H. 2013. Termites (Isoptera) in the Azores: an overview of the four invasive species currently present in the archipelago, Arquipelago. Life and Marine Sciences 30: 39-55.

Gay F J Watson J A L. 1982. The genus Cryptotermes in Australia (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae). Australian Journal of Zoology, Supplementary Series, 30(88): 1-64.

Gay F J. 1969. Species introduced by man. In Biology of Termites, ed. K Krishna, F M Weesner, New York: Academic press 1: 459-494.

Grace J K, Cutten G M, Scheffrahn R H, McKevan D K. 1991. First infestation by Incisitermes minor of a Canadian building. Sociobiology 18(3): 299-304.

Grace J K, Woodrow R J, Yates, J R. 2002. Distribution and management of termites in Hawaii. Sociobiology 40(1): 87-94.

Gray B. 1968. Sustainable termite management using an integrated pest management approach. Pacific Insects 10(2): 301-323.

Harit A K, Gajalakshmi S, Abbasi S A. 2014. Swarming of the termite Coptotermes gestroi in north-eastern Puducherry. Zoology and Ecology 24(1): 62-69.

Haverty M I, Woodrow R J, Nelson L J, Grace J K. 2000. Cuticular hydrocarbons of termites of the Hawaiian Islands. Journal of Chemical Ecology 26(5): 1167-1191.

Hemachandra J P, Edirisinghe W A I P, Karunaratne, Gunatilleke C V S. 2012. An annotated checklist of termites (Isoptera) of Sri Lanka. National Science Foundation Colombo, Sri Lanka

Inward D, Beccaloni G, Eggleton P. 2007. Death of an order: a comprehensive molecular phylogenetic study confirms that termites are eusocial cockroaches. Biology letters 3(3): 331-335.

Jenkins T M, Dean R E, Verkerk R, Forschler B T. 2001. Phylogenetic analyses of two mitochondrial genes and one nuclear intron region illuminate European subterranean termite (Isoptera:

Rhinotermitidae) gene flow, taxonomy, and introduction dynamics. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 20(2): 286-293.

Jones D T, Eggleton P. 2000. Sampling termite assemblages in tropical forests: testing a rapid biodiversity assessment protocol. Journal of Applied Ecology 37:191-203.

Jouquet P, Chaudhary E, Kumar A R V. 2018. Sustainable use of termite activity in agro-ecosystems with reference to earthworms. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 38(1): 1-11.

Junqueira L K and Florencio D F. 2018. Termite damage in agriculture areas and implanted forests: an ecological approach. pp. 37-50. In: Khan M A. and Ahmad W. Termites and sustainable management (eds.). Springer. p324.

Evans T A. 2010. Invasive termites. pp519-562. In: Biology of Termites: A Modern Synthesis, (eds). Bignell D E, Roisin, Y Lo, N. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. p576.

Kalleshwaraswamy C M, Pavithra H B, Vidyashree A S, Sathisha G S. 2018. Comparative termite (Isoptera) diversity in three different habitats of Shivamogga district, Karnataka, India. Journal of Entomological Science 53(2): 219-229.

Kalleshwaraswamy C M, Shankaramurthy M. Viraktamath C A, Krishna Kumar, N. K. 2015. Occurrence of Tuta obsoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechidae) in the Malnad and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions of Karnataka, India. Florida Entomologist 98 (3): 970-971.

Kaiser D, Lepage M, Konaté S, Linsenmair K E. 2017. Ecosystem services of termites (Blattoidea: Termitoidae) in the traditional soil restoration and cropping system Zaï in northern Burkina Faso (West Africa). Agriculture Ecosystem and Environment 236:198-211.

Kaur G, Anantharaju T, Gajalakshmi S, Abbasi S A. 2017. Inventory of termite species in thickly vegetated region of Northeastern Puducherry, India. International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation 9(8): 265-272.

Kaur G, Gajalakshmi S, Abbasi S A. 2013. Termite biodiversity in Pondicherry university campus: a reappraisal on the basis of feeding preference studies. International Journal of Chemical and Environmental Engineering Systems 4:30-38

King E G, Spink W T. 1969. Foraging galleries of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus, in Louisiana. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 62: 536-542.

Kiritani, K, Morimoto N. 2004. Invasive insect and nematode pests from North America. Global Environmental Research 8(1): 75-88.

Kirton L G, Brown V K. 2003. The taxonomic status of pest species of Coptotermes in southeast Asia: resolving the paradox in the pest status of the termites, Coptotermes gestroi, C. havilandi and C. travians (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae). Sociobiology 42: 43-63.

Krishna K, Grimaldi D A, Krishna V, Engel M S. 2013. Treatise on the Isoptera of the World: Volume 3. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 377: 623-973.

Li H F, Ye W, Su N Y, Kanzaki N. 2009. Phylogeography of Coptotermes gestroi and Coptotermes formosanus (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) in Taiwan. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 102: 684-693.

Maiti P K. 1983. Temite (Isoptera) fauna of West Bengal, India, their recognition, biology and ecology. Records of the Zoological survey of India (Occasional Paper) 42: 1-152.

Miller D. 1941. The species of termites in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Forestry 4: 333-334.

Myles T G. 1999. Review of secondary reproduction in termites (Insecta: Isoptera) with comments on its role in termite ecology and social evolution. Sociobiology 33: 1-91.

Nagaraju D K, Kalleshwaraswamy C M, Iyyanar D, Singh M, Jain R K, Kasturi N, Ranjith M, Mahadevaswamy H M, Asokan R. 2020. First interception of two wood feeding potential invasive Coptotermes termite species in India. International Journal of Tropical Insect Science 41(2): 1043-1052.

Nunes L. 2010. Termite infestation risk in Portuguese historic buildings. In wood science for conservation of cultural heritage –Braga 2008, ed. J Gril, pp. 117-22. Florence, Italy: Firenze Univ. Press.

Olaniyan A, Ibikunle O A, Olayanju A B, Olagoke B E, Olawoor W A. 2015. Effects of termites on construction timbers in Ibarapa east local government area of Oyo state in Nigeria. International Journal of Latest Research in Engineering and Technology, 1(7), 40-48.

Peck S B. 2001. Smaller Orders of Insects of the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador: Evolution, Ecology and Diversity. Ottawa: National Research Council Press.

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

Phillip B, Pearson H, Bennett S. 2008. Australian termites in New Zealand. Biosecurity 82: 12-13.

Plant Quarantine Information System, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, http://plantquarantineindia.nic.in (accessed on 10 December 2021).

Rajamohana K, Basak J, Poovoli A, Sengupta R, Baraik B, Chandra K. 2019. Taxonomy of termites: A beginner’s manual. ENVIS Centre on Biodiversity (Fauna), Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata. Pp. 71.

Rana A, Chandel R S, Verma K S, Joshi M J. 2021. Termites in important crops and their management. Indian Journal of Entomology 83(3): 486-504.

Roonwal M L, Chhotani O B. 1965. Zoogeography of termites of Assam region, India, with remarks on speciation. The journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 62(1): 19-31.

Schabel H G. 2006. Forest entomology in East Africa: forest insects of Tanzania. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. pp.328.

Scheffrahn R H, Chase J A, Mangold J R, Krěcěk J, Su N Y. 1999. First record of Reticulitermes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) from the West Indies: R. flavipes on Grand Bahama Island. Florida Entomologist 82(3): 480-482.

Scheffrahn R H, Darlington J P E C, Collins M S, Krěcěk J, Su N Y. 1994. Termites (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae, Rhinotermitidae, Termitidae) of the West Indies. Sociobiology 24: 213-238.

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.

Scheffrahn R H, Krecek J, Szalanski A L, Austin J W, Roisin Y. 2005. Synonymy of two arboreal termites (Isoptera: Termitidae: Nasutitermitinae): Nasutitermes corniger from the Neotropics and N. polygynus from New Guinea. Florida Entomologist 88: 28-33.

Scheffrahn R H, Krecek J. 1999. Termites of the genus Cryptotermes Banks (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae) from the West Indies. Insecta Mundi 13(3-4): 111-171.

Scheffrahn R H, Su N Y, Chase J A, Forschler B T. 2001. New termite (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae, Rhinotermitidae) records from Georgia. Journal of Entomological Science 36(2): 109-113.

Scheffrahn R H, Su N Y, Chase J A, Mangold J R, Grace J K, Yates J R. 2000. First record of Cryptotermes cynocephalus Light (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae) and natural woodland infestations of C. brevis (Walker) on Oahu, Hawaiian Islands. Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society 34:121-125.

Scheffrahn R H, Su N Y. 2005. Distribution of the termite genus Coptotermes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) in Florida. Florida Entomologist 88: 201-203.

Sharma K R, Jaiswal D K, Babu S R, Saraoj A K. 2018. Impact of invasive insect pests species on agroecosystem in India and their management. Indian Journal of Agriculture and Allied Sciences. 4(1): 19-26.

Sharanabasappa, Kalleshwaraswamy C M, Asokan R, Swamy H M, Maruthi M S, Pavithra H B, Hegde K, Navi S, Prabhu S T, Goergen G. 2018. First report of the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), an alien invasive pest on maize in India. Pest Management in Horticultural Ecosystems 24:23-29.

Simpson S J, Sword G A, Lo N. 2011. “Polyphenism in Insects”. Current Biology. 21 (18): 738-749.

Sornnuwat Y. 1996. Studies on damage of constructions caused by subterranean termites and its control in Thailand. Wood Research: Bulletin of the Wood Research Institute Kyoto University 83, 59-139.

Su N Y, Ye W, Ripa R, Scheffrahn R H, Giblin-Davis R M. 2006. Identification of Chilean Reticulitermes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) inferred from three mitochondrial gene DNA sequences and soldier morphology. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 99: 352-363.

Sun J Z, Lockwood M E, Etheridge J L, Carroll J, Hollomon C Z, Coker C E H, Knight P R. 2007. Distribution of Formosan subterranean termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) in Mississippi. Journal of Economic Entomology 100: 1400-1408.

Sundararaj R, Selvaraj K, Kalleshwaraswamy C M, Ranjith M, Sumalatha B V. 2020. First record of the invasive woolly whitefly, Aleurothrixus floccosus (Maskell) from India. Indian Journal of Entomology, 81(4): 88-91.

Szalanski A L, Scheffrahn R H, Austin J W, Krecek J, Su N Y. 2004. Molecular phylogeny and biogeography of Heterotermes (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) in the West Indies. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 97: 574-585.

Thistleton B M, Neal M, Peki M, Dobunaba J. 2007. Mastotermes darwiniensis in the Lae area of PNG: an assessment of current and potential status of the incursion, and options for management, final report. Canberra, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Australian Government.

Tsai C C, Chen C S. 2003. First record of Coptotermes gestroi (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) from Taiwan. Formosan Entomologist 23: 157-161.

Vargo E L, Hussender C, Grace J K. 2003. Colony and population genetic structure of the Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus, in Japan. Molecular Ecology 12: 2599-2608.

Venkatesan T, Kalleshwaraswamy C M, Ankita G, Ashika T R. 2021. Intrusion pathway of invasive Asian subterranean termite, Coptotermes gestroi (Wasmann) from the Neotropics into the Indian mainland. Current Science 120 (11): 1778-1781.

Vidyashree A S, Kalleshwaraswamy C M, Mahadevaswamy H M, Asokan R, Adarsha S K. 2018. Morphological, molecular identification and phylogenetic analysis of termites from Western Ghats of Karnataka, India. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology 21(1): 140-149.

Wasmann E. 1896. Neue Termitophilen und Termiten aus Indien, I-III. Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova 36(2) 16: 613-630.

Williams R M C. 1976. Factors limiting the distribution of building-damaging dry-wood termites (Isoptera, Cryptotermes spp.) in Africa. Material und Organismen 3: 393-406.

Xie Y, Li Z, Gregg W I, Li D. 2001. Invasive species in China: an overview. Biodiversity and Conservation 10: 1317-1341.

Yamada A, Inoue T, Wiwatwitaya D, Ohkuma M. 2007. A New conceptof the feeding group composition of termites (Isoptera) in Tropical ecosystems: Carbon source competitions among fungus growing termites, soil feeding termites, litter layer microbes and fire. Sociobiology 50: 135-153.

Zorzenon F J. Campos A E C. 2014. Subterranean termites in urban forestry: Tree preference and management. Neotropical Entomology, 44: 180-185.

Most read articles by the same author(s)