Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Chemicals and pesticides

Timber pests and fungi

Marine borer damage

Marine borer damage


There are three types of fungi that destroy wood: brown, white and soft rot. Fungi spores are in the air and will only take root and cause decay in timber if the moisture content of timber is greater than 20% and less than 60%.


In New South Wales, subterranean termites – also known as white ants – cause the most damage to timber. They live underground or in mounds, and build mud tunnels so they can access timber to feed on the cellulose it contains.


Some beetle larvae feed on timber. One family of beetles, the lyctids, may live over a year inside their wood food source before emerging as adults through small ‘shot’ holes. Sometimes fine wood dust (frass) can be found on horizontal surfaces below the holes.

Marine borers

Borers also live in marine environments.

Marine borers include shipworms (Teredo navalis), which are molluscs that grow up to 45cm long.

Isopods also attack wood immersed in sea water. They are much smaller, only about 3mm long, and look like slaters. They attack timber in large numbers and eat it away, layer by layer.

Page last updated: 12 May 2016