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Formosan Termites can be found in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and most of the gulf coast states. They are especially heavily populated in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. They have been found as far north as Dallas, Texas as as far west as Southern California.
Formosan Termites are like most subterranean termites in regards to their appearance. They have 3 forms – workers, soldiers and alates (swarmers). However, identification only requires the study of the alates and soldiers. The Formosan Termite alate is .5 -.6 inches long with a yellowish-brown body. The Formosan Termite soldier is identified by its head, which is a teardrop shape and orange-brown in color.
The soldiers have white bodies and curved mandibles. A unique quality about them is that they will secrete a milky white substance from their head when they attack. Another important fact regarding all Formosan Termites is that their wings are covered in hairs..
Formosan Termites are a specific species of Subterranean Termite. They have been called the “super termite” due to the fact that they are more aggressive and destructive than their relatives.
It has been reported that Formosan Termites are responsible for nearly $2 billion in yearly property damage. In the United States, they are commonly found in the following Southern States Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. However, they have also been found in Arizona, Hawaii, Texas and California as well.
While Formosan Termites cause many problems for residents in the United States every year, they did not originate from here. This species is believed to have originated from Eastern Asia, or more specifically, Taiwan and southern China.
Formosan Termites swarm in the spring and summer months. They often swarm at night. The alates will shed their wings after flight and find a safe place to mate (moist wood) and begin their colony by laying eggs. Mature colonies of Formosan Termites can have anywhere from 1-10 million termites within them. However, it generally takes between 3 and 5 years for a colony to mature.
Once a Formosan colony is mature, the damage it can cause can be massive. It has been reported that mature colonies can cover one or more acres of land and go through roughly 13 ounces of wood in a single day. At this rate, a single colony of Formosan Termites can destroy a wooden structure in approximately three months.
Like all termite species, Formosan Termites feed on wood and paper products due to the amount of cellulose these objects contain. However, they have also been known to attack over 50 plant species and even some non-cellulose items including asphalt, plastic, mortar, rubber, creosote and soft metals when looking for moisture and new food sources.
The nests that Formosan Termites create are called “carton nests”. These nests are made of saliva, chewed wood and excrement. Most of these nests are created within structures that the termites have hollowed out or used as a food source.
What makes Formosan Termites different from Native Subterranean Termites is the fact that they will make carton nests out of the wood that resemble packed cardboard inside a wall. It is not uncommon to find entire walls full of the "carton" material.
As the “super termite,” Formosan Termites aren’t very particular about where they live. Their only requirements are that it is somewhere close to food and moisture. While the majority of the colonies are found in places close to the ground, there have been some found in aerial areas as well. Formosan Termites have been found in tree trunks, logs, wooden beams, utility poles, piers, foam insulation, under porches and many other places where moisture is readily available. It is also not uncommon to find them in crawl spaces, foundation crevices, attics and beneath sinks.
When looking for Formosan Termites – look for the common infestation signs. These include large swarms of alates in the Spring and Summer evenings, hollow sounding wood, mud tubes or carton nests inside walls.
Winged formosan Termite Alates (swarmers) (left).
They are much lighter in color and much larger
than typical subterranean termites pictured on
the right. Size - up to 3/4 inches long
Formosan Termites are controlled by the same methods as Drywood Termites when they are in wood not in contact with the ground. Where there is ground contact, structural changes and or modification to eliminate moisture may be necessary, together with ground treatment as recommended for subterranean termites.
There are termiticides and baits such as the Hex Pro Termite Baiting System have been successful at getting rid of Formosan Termites, as well as other termite species. Bora Care can be used as a wood treatment to help prevent Formosan termite infestations. Termidor does a good job as a soil treatment but care should be taken to avoid contamination of water sources.
The most common way to apply these termiticides is by applying it in “trenches” that go around the infested structure and/or foaming it into the walls. If the structure is on a slab or cement foundation, it may be necessary to drill into the foundation slab and inject the termiticide beneath it.
The termite baits such as the Hex Pro Termite Baiting System that are being used to control termites have less chemicals than the other methods do, making them more consumer-friendly and a popular choice as well.
One of the most common forms of treatment used against formosan termites is fumigation. Vikane is a popular fumigant used by pest control companies to fumigate for Formosan Termites. However, unless your soil has been treated, fumigating the home will not keep Formosan Termites from returning. It can be a successful treatment if you’ve found nests trapped in structures, but the general rule is that the soil needs to be properly treated before fumigation will work. The bottom line on Formosan termite control is that the nest has be found and removed if inside the wall of the structure.
Complete removal of the carton nest and then treatment using Bora Care, Optigard Flex, Termidor or Premise should then be made to the entire area. If elimination of the carton nest is not practical, then the use of Hex Pro Termite Baiting System and complete soil treatment is highly recommended. We sell several termite baiting kits for Formosan Termite control. The control you obtain with these kits depends on how large the colony size is, where it is located, and how much moisture is inside the walls of the structure. If a soil treatment can be made successfully, then termite baiting may not be necessary. But in cases where the Formosan Termites are deeply embedded inside the walls of structure, and removal of their nest (walls) is not practical, a termite baiting system such as Hex Pro Termite Baiting System (Sentricon) may be the only choice.
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