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Plantwise Technical Factsheet

live-wood tea termite (Sri Lanka) (Glyptotermes dilatatus)

Host plants / species affected
Camellia sinensis (tea)
Coffea canephora (robusta coffee)
Erythrina subumbrans (December tree)
Grevillea robusta (silky oak)
Hevea brasiliensis (rubber)
Moringa oleifera (horse radish tree)
Syzygium aromaticum (clove)
Theobroma cacao (cocoa)
List of symptoms/signs
Leaves  -  wilting
Stems  -  internal feeding
Stems  -  rot
Whole plant  -  internal feeding
Whole plant  -  plant dead; dieback
G. dilatatus is often detected during pruning as the pruning cuts reveal the tell-tale galleries. Attack is initiated by swarmers, which descend on wood-rotted snags, i.e. pruned cut ends affected by dieback and wood rot. The developing colony forms a network of galleries within the heart wood of branches and progresses over time towards the main trunk and collar. In longitudinal section they produce a 'honeycombed' appearance in the wood. There are no other visible symptoms at this initial stage. Damage to non conducting tissue does not cause any visible debilitation and attack rarely extends to the roots.

The network of galleries spreads rapidly as the colony size increases and the galleries extend into the conducting tissues. This causes water stress during dry weather and results in early wilting of affected branches, which may die in continuous dry weather. Dead branches are readily noticed in the field (Vitarana, 1986).

In the advanced stages of attack, the bark has a pitted appearance. When the galleries reach the sap wood and damage the bark tissues, the wounds callous giving rise to the characteristic pitted appearance often seen at the base of mature branches and the collar of affected tea bushes.

Attack by G. dilatatus is distributed randomly throughout the field and is not confined to groups or patches of bushes (Ranaweera, 1962).
Prevention and control
Chemical Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de-)registration of pesticides, we are for the moment not including any specific chemical control recommendations. For further information, we recommend you visit the following resources:


In Sri Lanka, an integrated management strategy is currently recommended to minimize termite attack. This strategy involves the use of modest-yielding, hard-wooded clonal selections in place of soft-wooded, high-yielding clones; balanced fertilizer mixtures with enhanced potash and a N/K ratio of 1:1 or 2:3 in place of mixtures with a high proportion of N; compulsory cleaning of all dead-wood and snags following pruning, 18-20 inches above ground level, and treating larger prune cuts with an anti-fungal wound-dressing; and extensive interplanting of the green manure crop G. sepium to serve as a diversionary host.
G. dilatatus became a serious pest of tea in low altitude tea plantations in Sri Lanka in the late 1960s, especially in the more recently replanted high-yielding clonal tea fields. With progressive infestation of tea bushes, the crop loss was enormous. Rapid escalation in the loss of productivity up to >50-60% resulted in the total collapse of affected tea bushes and huge capital losses. A modest estimate of the damage caused during the 1970s and early 1980s is the total collapse of about 50,000 ha of replanted tea fields. The cost of replanting at that time (1970s) was estimated at Sri Lankan Rupees 200,000/ha (equivalent to US$ 11,500/ha).
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