Finke Gorge National Park

FaunaBlack Headed Goanna Clam Shrimp Denham Stick-insect Nasutitermes triodiae Pied Butcherbird Sand Goanna Scarlet Percher Shield Shrimp Spinifex Pigeon Western Bowerbird Yellow-faced Whip Snake

The termites responsible for the iconic large termite mounds found in the Top End are from the species Nasutitermes triodiae, who are also know as the cathedral termites.

Pictured here are the activities of the same species of termites Nasutitermes triodiae, that are also found in Central Australia, in this case Palm Valley. In the following image, you can see the tubular mud structure created by the termites for feeding on the individual blades of spinifex.

Nasutitermes triodiae creating termite mud tube along the blades of spinifex grass, Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park
Nasutitermes triodiae creating termite mud tube along the blades of spinifex grass, Palm Valley

It is believed that the termites that have created these mud tube structures, have travelled underground, radiating from a termite mound somewhere close by, up to several metres away. Mounds in Central Australia are much smaller then those up north.

Nasutitermes triodiae termite mound, Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park
Nasutitermes triodiae termite mound, Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park

The termites Nasutitermes triodiae, have created tubular mud structures encasing each blade of spinifex grass, referred to as “feeding tubes”. If you are able to view the tubes at night, you will have a better chance of catching a glimpse of the termite activities. The grass is consumed from within the mud tube structure, leaving the hollow tube behind. The mud tubes themselves are fragile.

Nasutitermes triodiae creating termite mud tube along the blades of spinifex grass, Palm Valley, Finke Gorge National Park
Nasutitermes triodiae creating termite mud tube along the blades of spinifex grass, Palm Valley

Very little research has been done to see what happens under ground with this species of termite and in particular, with those termites in the arid region of Central Australia, and what the size of their nests are underground.

These termites are a grass eating species of snouted termite, and are also sometimes referred to as the spinifex termite, being often found in Spinifex (Triodia) Grasslands.

It is an amazing sight to see these structures created by the same species of termites as found in the Top End. These tubular mud structures encasing each blade of spinifex grass, are referred to as “feeding tubes”. If you are able to view the tubes at night, you will have a better chance of catching a glimpse of the termite activities. The grass is consumed from within the mud tube structure, leaving the hollow tube behind. The mud tubes themselves are fragile.

It is thought that the spinifex grass and the remains of the spinifex grass belong to either Triodia scariosa and / or Triodia pungens.

Central Australia is an arid region with very little moisture, hence some termite species are subterranean. The main colony that would have created these tubular shapes will be subterranean (to beat the heat). There will most likely be a mound nearby, although very small compared to the giant mounds further north.

The pictured termite mud tubes were up above the chasm that forms Palm Valley. Just a few metres away was the following termite mound, no higher then half a metre.

Check out our Blattodea section on Nasutitermes triodiae.


Many thanks to Graham Brown and Jarrod Lea for help with ID of this species, from NT Field Naturalists’ Club Inc, Facebook group and Alix Simpson for help with ID of this species, from Entomology Australia “Invertebratology” Facebook group


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Blattodea
  • Infraorder: Isoptera
  • Family: Termitidae
  • Genus: Nasutitermes
  • Species: N. triodiae
  • Binomial name: Nasutitermes triodiae

Footnote & References

  1. Parallel evolution of mound-building and grass-feeding in Australian nasute termites, Biology Letters, 2017 The Royal Society Publishing, Arab DA, Namyatova A, Evans TA, Cameron SL, Yeates DK, Ho SYW, Lo N. 2017 Parallel evolution of mound-building and grass-feeding in Australian nasute termites. Biol. Lett. 13: 20160665. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2016.0665, https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsbl.2016.0665
  2. NT Field Naturalists’ Club Inc, Facebook group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/ntfieldnaturalistsclub
  3. Entomology Australia “Invertebratology” Facebook group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/507004496955277

Finke Gorge National ParkCamping & Picnic Area Boggy Hole Palm Valley Fauna Flora

FaunaBlack Headed Goanna Clam Shrimp Denham Stick-insect Nasutitermes triodiae Pied Butcherbird Sand Goanna Scarlet Percher Shield Shrimp Spinifex Pigeon Western Bowerbird Yellow-faced Whip Snake