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A source for information on termites

Formosan Termites



Formosan subterranean termite workers look similar to those of native subterranean species. Soldiers are different in that they orange=brown-oval shaped heads with black mandibles. Swarmer’s are yellowish-brown with 2 pairs of wings of equal length. They are about 1/2 to 3/5 inch long from head to wingtip. The wings are covered with small hairs.

Varies in size from 1/5 to ½-inch in length for alates, including the wings.

The Formosan subterranean termite has been transported worldwide from its native Southern China to Formosa, Taiwan- where it gets its name - and Japan. Within the last 100 years it has become established in South Africa, Hawaii and the continental United States.

Sometimes referred to as the “Super Termite”, Formosan subterranean termites produce very large colonies, with the territory of a single colony sometimes reaching 300 feet. They can infest a wide variety of structures, including boats and high-rise condominiums.

Termite swarms tend to occur from April through July on warm, humid evenings a single Formosan subterranean termite individual does not consume more wood than a single native subterranean termite; however, because of its large population size, a Formosan termite colony can cause more structural damage in a shorter time.

Although they start small, a single Formosan termite colony may produce over 70,000 alates. The nest starts small, with only one batch of eggs, and may take from 3-5 years before the colony reaches substantial numbers. However, they can swell to huge capacities, with colony containing several million termites.

The Formosan subterranean termite generally invades structures from the ground, often entering through expansion joints, cracks and utility conduits in slabs. Any wood coming into contact with soil can invite infestation. Unlike subterranean termites, they can form aerial colonies that have no ground connection. The flat roofs of high-rises, for instance, are ideal in that they always have pools of rain water. These colonies can be formed as long as there are adequate food and moisture sources available.

The Formosan termite species is characterized by interconnecting underground foraging galleries in the soil. When these termites invade an above-ground structure, foraging tubes ¼” to ½” in diameter may be found connected to the infested house.

Another characteristic of Formosan subterranean termite is the presence of carton nest material that is made of termite excrement, chewed wood, and soil. Carton nests are usually found in structure voids such as between walls and beneath sinks.

Studies also show that Formosan termites infest many species of living plants. They are also known to attack structural lumbers and living plants because they are sources of cellulose. However, this termite is also known to attack non-cellulose materials such as plaster, plastic, asphalt, and thin sheets of soft metal (lead or copper) in search of food and moisture. The Formosan termite is also persistent in finding small cracks in concrete that they enlarge and use as foraging routes.

Economic Significance:
Formosan termites are the most aggressive and destructive timber pests in the United States. Their huge nests containing millions of termites relentlessly seeking and devouring structural timbers, utility poles, and even ships and barges. They can even infest living trees. They often cause power failures by chewing through electric cables. Their large colonies can cause substantial structural damage to a home within 6 months.

There are numerous ways you can reduce the chance of your home being infested by Formosan and other subterranean termites. Remove any wood or cellulose-containing material that is in direct contact with soil. Do not leave wooden planters, tubs, trellises, firewood or stakes on top of or in bare ground.

Anchor wooden posts for fences, decks, porches, sheds, etc. in cement so that no wood is in contact with soil. Pressure-treat structural wood at or near ground level with a wood preservative. They protect against wood-decaying fungi which can attract termites. Eliminate or reduce mulch or wood chips around the foundation of your home. This eliminates cool and moist soil conditions favored by Formosan and other subterranean termites.

Install rain gutters to prevent water from dripping down the perimeter of your home. Fix or replace leaky outdoor faucets and water lines. Allow gutter downspouts and A/C condensate to empty out at least one foot from the house. Keep sprinklers from wetting the walls of your home, and make sure the ground next to your home slopes away so that water does not pool next to it.

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