condensed discuss document expanded export feedback print share remove reset document_white enquire_white export_white report_white

Explore topics

Termite Nomenclature Outbreak at the Museum

discuss document export feedback print share

Termite Nomenclature Outbreak at the Museum

Grace Yee
Collection Technician, IDEA Project

In the depths of the wet collection in the entomology department at Tāmaki Paenga Hira, a termite collection was recently rediscovered that had been given to the museum by John Mackgill Kelsey in March 1975. J. M. Kelsey was an entomologist, specialising in pasture and crop insects, that worked in the Entomology Division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (D.S.I.R.) in Lincoln. These specimens were mainly from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, the Pitcairn Islands and USA and were collected in the 1920s-1940s.

\u003cem\u003eKalotermes brouni \u003c/em\u003e, New Zealand drywood termite. Collection of Auckland Museum \u003ca href =\"\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eAMNZ86685\u003c/a\u003e

Kalotermes brouni , New Zealand drywood termite. Collection of Auckland Museum AMNZ86685

© Auckland Museum

As part of the IDEA project, over 90 new termite species have been added into Tāmaki Paenga Hira’s database, thanks to J. M. Kelsey’s collection. There are three species of termites native to Aotearoa: Kalotermes brouni, Stolotermes ruficeps and S. inopinus. Several Australian species have also been introduced to Aotearoa with the importation of Australian timber (e.g., Kalotermes banksiae, Glyptotermes brevicornis, Coptotermes acinaciformis and Coptotermes frenchi), which are known to cause considerable damage to timber.

\u003cem\u003eCoptotermes frenchi,\u003c/em\u003e subterranean termite, native to Australia. Collection of Auckland Museum, \u003ca href =\"\" target=\"_blank\"\u003eAMNZ165430.\u003c/a\u003e

Coptotermes frenchi, subterranean termite, native to Australia. Collection of Auckland Museum, AMNZ165430.

© Auckland Museum

Rediscovering this collection is particularly valuable as several of the species in this collection have few georeferenced records in GBIF. At the time of writing Glyptotermes eucalypti only had 1, Neotermes jouteli had 2, Odontotermes vulgaris had 6 and Stolotermes queenslandicus had 7 georeferenced records. Georeferenced records are valuable for understanding a species’ range, including its historical range and predicting range shifts, such as in response to climate changes. This highlights the importance of cataloging the backlog of museum collections to increase the data available for researchers and can aid in species distribution models to predict changes in populations due to environmental factors. This begs the question of how many more specimens and/or objects are waiting to be rediscovered in the depths of museum collections and the hidden value that they hold.

Termite species at Auckland Museum

Discuss this topic

Join the discussion about this article by posting your response on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #amdiscuss.

Support the collection

Help us do more. Donate now and be part of your Museum’s journey to stimulate inspiration, learning and enjoyment.


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

Thorne, Barbara L., & Lenz, Michael., (2001) Population and colony structure of Stolotermes inopinus and S. ruficeps (Isoptera: Stolotermitinae) in New Zealand. New Zealand Entomologist 24(1) p. 63-70.

Clark, A. F., (1938) Termites in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal Forestry 4(3) p. 177-179.

Cite this article

Yee, Grace. Termite Nomenclature Outbreak at the Museum. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 10 October 2022. Updated: 11 October 2022.