Timber quarantine in Queensland

Quarantine procedures for importing wood into Queensland are the same as those for all Australia and are administered by the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Two photographs combined displaying (in Figure 1) Frass of the West Indian drywood termite and (in Figure 2) Logs stored under water spray to prevent attack from the five-spined bark beetle.

From top: (Figure 1) Frass of the West Indian drywood termite, Cryptotermes brevis.

(Figure 2) Logs stored under water spray to prevent attack from the five-spined bark beetle Ips grandicollis.

Australia has an estimated 147 million hectares of native forest capable of producing wood for commercial use, as well as nearly two million hectares of hardwood and softwood tree plantation resource. The wood and paper manufacturing industries have an annual turnover of $9.9 billion and account for more than 83,000 jobs. There is also considerable capital investment in timber-in-service as most of Australia's dwellings are timber-framed. So there is much at stake should exotic insects capable of damaging these resources, or threatening other elements of Australia's unique flora and fauna, enter this country.

In the past, Australia's relative geographic isolation provided a natural barrier to the entry of pests and diseases, while the duration of sea travel enforced a period of quarantine on people and goods. However, natural defences are being eroded by increasing volumes and speed of people and cargo traffic. Exotic insects that are potentially a biosecurity threat to Australia's forests and timber could enter in living plants or plant propagative material, in logs or sawn timber, in personal effects, furniture and other manufactured wooden articles, in timber packaging or in ships' dunnage.

Two photographs combined displaying (in Figure 3) an infestation of the longicorn beetle in a chair and (in Figure 4) tunneles of exotic carpenter ants in sawn oregon pine timber

From top: (Figure 3) Infestation of the longicorn beetle, Stromatium fulvum, in a chair imported from Italy.

(Figure 4) Tunnels of exotic carpenter ants, Camponotus sp., in sawn Oregon pine (Douglas fir) timber.

The pests and the risks

Many wood-boring insects (pests of both trees and timber) have a long life cycle and may spend their entire life in dried timber. Their cryptic habits make them difficult to detect, particularly in the early stages of infestation. The risk of transporting wood borers in logs and sawn timber increases as the size of the pieces of wood and amount of bark present increases. Pests are commonly introduced in wood packing materials (including crates, boxes, pallets, bracing, and dunnage) because they are used throughout the world in the international transportation of goods.

Australia has had several very costly experiences with exotic borers and tree pests, and in some cases the problems are ongoing. For example, two pests found in Queensland, the sirex wasp Sirex noctilio and the West Indian drywood termite Cryptotermes brevis (Fig.1) are costing the Australian economy millions of dollars each year in tree losses, timber damage and control measures.

There are many other pest species overseas which could be devastating if introduced here. Among these are insects that can attack seasoned timber such as the longicorn borers Hylotrupes bajulus and Stromatium species (Fig. 3), carpenter ants, Camponotus species (Fig. 4), the bostrichid borers, Heterobostrychus aequalis (Figs. 5, 6 and 7) and Sinoxylon anale. Australia has no longicorns or ants known to attack seasoned timber and only one bostrichid, Bostrychopsis jesuita, with this ability. Although Australia has its share of serious termite pests, the Formosan termite Coptotermes formosanus and the drywood termite Incisitermes minor (Fig. 8) could cause great concern if they entered Australia.

It is not only the known forest and timber pests in other parts of the world that represent a threat. An insignificant or unknown borer brought to the Australian environment without its complement of natural enemies could cause enormous and costly damage.

Four photographs combined displaying (in Figure 5) an adult boxwood borer (in Figure 6) an infestation of boxwood borer in a cricket bat from India (in Figure 7) damage by the boxwood borer to slats of an imported louvre door and (in Figure 8) Western drywood termite causing extensive damage to the timber components in a vintage car

From top: (Figure 5) An adult boxwood borer.

(Figure 6) An infestation of boxwood borer in a cricket bat from India.

(Figure 7) Damage by the boxwood borer to slats of an imported louvre door.

(Figure 8) Western drywood termite causing extensive damage to the timber components of a vintage car.

Quarantine protection

Quarantine at Australia´s border is the responsibility of the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR). The Queensland Government administers the Biosecurity Act 2014, which enables control measures to be implemented should exotic organisms enter Queensland. West Indian drywood termite (C. brevis) is restricted matter under this Act.

DAWR recognises that all timber imports are a potential threat and takes appropriate practical action. This includes:

  • controlling the milling of all imported logs at nominated locations
  • inspecting all commercial timber imports and treating (by fumigation) consignments where infestation is detected
  • compulsory fumigation of high-risk timber commodities
  • inspecting and treating imported timber articles
  • inspecting timber packaging, such as crates and cases, and treating where necessary
  • controlling (including permanent treatment) timber components of cargo containers, pallets and timber packaging. This type of treatment is required to satisfy full container load requirements
  • controlling timber dunnage.

Australia´s quarantine restrictions are not aimed at preventing the importation of all wooden articles. Only those articles infested, or likely to be infested, with timber pests are sent for treatment.

Importers can minimise delays by importing timber free of pests and should ensure that timber packaging is treated according to Australian plant quarantine entry specifications before import. Care exercised by importers in the first instance will speed delivery at the port of entry to Australia and minimise the opportunity for dangerous timber pests to enter the country.

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Last updated 06 March 2013