'Termite hell' for Golden Bay man after he woke covered in insects

by Hamish Cardwell / 18 January, 2018

Luke Concannon, his partner and their three-year-old daughter found themselves in "termite hell". Photo /  Supplied

MPI to analyse whether the termites were a benign native species or destructive Australian invader.

A Golden Bay man spending his first night in his new house says he woke to "termite hell", with his bed, walls and floor covered in hundreds of creepy crawlies.

Luke Concannon, his partner and their three-year-old daughter moved to Ligar Bay east of Takaka in December, and had only finished erecting their tiny house the week before.

The kitset, 10m-square 'tiny' house had just been put together with the help of some friends over Christmas, and in early January the rest of his family had headed to the North Island for a wedding.

Mr Concannon said he and a friend were sleeping in the house for the first time when he felt things crawling over him during the night - but thought it was mosquitos or sandflies.

"I woke up in the morning and I went to scratch something and it was this tiny little crawly ant thing crawling across my chest.

"I squished it and threw it away, and ... there were hundreds of wings all over the bed and all over my duvet, and just little crawly ant things ... all over the floor and the walls."

Luke Concannon with his partner Milo Haigh and their daughter Rātā. Photo / Luke Concannon

Termite 'hell'

He says he was "completely horrified", and it brought to his attention an innocuous feature on their property - an old pine tree stump right beside their new house.

"Since I experienced termite hell that night I have realised that it's the most termite-looking tree stump ... I have ever seen.

"So we just hadn't put two and two together when we placed the house there.

"So they've been living in that stump, and potentially underground, all around the house."

A Golden Bay man spending his first night in his new house says he woke to

Mr Concannon said he was not sure if the insects were a benign native New Zealand species or the Australian termite, which is a widespread and destructive timber pest over the Tasman, and he has sent off samples to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to be analysed.

The swarm only lasted a couple of days, and the insects have since disappeared or died.

He said he had since given the house a thorough spring cleaning, and has even come to like the little critters.

"I learned about them a little bit, and they don't bite, and they're very small, probably 5mm long.

"I had one night when I was on my own on the land and it was pitch black and I turned a torch on and they were all over the wall, we've built this outdoor kitchen out of ply ... and they were each in pairs doing this mating dance.

"And it actually felt quite cool watching them, this force of nature occurring in front of me."

NZ species benign but Australian termites a pest - MPI

MPI said New Zealand's three native termites were typically quite secretive and often were only spotted during their winged reproductive stage, when they swarm in summer.

They are not considered destructive and do not form large colonies.

However, it said the Australian subterranean termite was a significant pest, and it has mounted biosecurity responses to it six times in the past 10 years - mostly in and around Auckland and the central North Island.

MPI said Australian termites can cause structural damage to houses, but infestations can be safely treated with insecticides.

The most recent outbreak was in Omaha, in 2014, but there was also one in Nelson, 100km south east of Takaka in Golden Bay, in 2009.

MPI said in all these cases the pests were eliminated, and it has cracked down on importing requirements of Australian hardwood poles and used railway sleepers which were blamed for the outbreaks.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

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