Facts, Identification & Control
Formosan termites prefer warm climates and densely populate certain areas of the American South. Also known as an introduced subterranean termite, the Formosan termite is found in states across the southern U.S., including Alabama, Florida, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee. However, they have also been located in smaller populations as far north as the Canadian border.
Formosan termites are social insects with three distinct forms (castes): the wingless or winged reproductives (alates), the protector soldiers and the workers. Since Formosan termite workers look very much like workers of other termite groups, the soldiers and winged alates are the castes that are useful to provide a correct identification. Since differentiation between Formosan termites and other termite groups is not easy, it is best to contact your pest management professional for help with providing an accurate identification.
The head of a Formosan termite soldier is oblong, whereas indigenous subterranean termites have rectangular heads. Formosan termite soldiers are also more aggressive when defending the nest than native subterranean termite soldiers.
When disturbed, the soldiers release a white liquid that is used for defense.
The alates, or swarmers, are yellowish-brown and about ½ inch long. Alates have a thick covering of small hairs on their otherwise transparent wings.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Formosan termites are a type of subterranean termite that nests within the soil. They invade structures from the soil directly through wood to ground contact, or using mud tubes they construct up from the soil. Formosan termites also can construct a carton which helps retain moisture in the nest. This can allow them to build nests that do not require them to return to the soil like most subterranean termites. Like all termites, they consume cellulose material such as wood.
Colonies contain a queen which can produce more than 1,000 eggs per day. New colonies are created when winged males and females are released from the colony and swarm. They mate and go on to found new colonies.
Signs of Formosan Termite Infestation
Homeowners performing renovations may discover termite damage. As termites consume the wood they leave behind smooth sided galleries. Damaged wood may also cause walls or other parts of the structure to sag.
In late spring or early summer, Formosan colonies may produce swarms of winged males and females called reproductives. They are about 15 mm long, including their wings. They can be differentiated from winged ants by their straight antennae, equal-length front and hind wings, as well as their straight-sided waist.
Formosan termites are native to East Asia and were introduced to the United States in the 1940s, following World War II. Formosan termites were thought to have entered the country via various port cities, resulting in patchy concentrations. Their populations have continued to spread throughout the United States on cargo shipments of wood and other cellulose-based goods. Most scientists believe that Formosan termites can be spread through infested wooden railroad stakes.
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