Study: Fungi for Formosan Termite Control

The Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes Formosanus (Shiraki), has been called the "super termite" because of the amount of damage it can cause. The colonies are very large — often containing millions of termites. They can forage as far as 300’ from their nest to find food.

Since these termites were accidentally imported into the United States, they have caused millions of dollars annually in treatment costs and repair expense. An article on reveals a breakthrough in controlling these destructive pests.

Researchers at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have found a strain of fungus that can eliminate the winged forms of Formosan subterranean termites. The fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae, has been widely used for controlling various insects, including mosquitoes and flies.

This application seems to be a breakthrough. Previous methods for controlling the Formosan subterranean termite focused on killing the workers. This was challenging because the colonies are very large. The colony can be spread over a large area, including aerial nests above the ground.

This fungus eliminates the winged termites. These wigged termites, called alates, are sexually mature adult termites. Their role is to fly out of the colony, find mates, and start new colonies.

The alates appear in the spring. Their flights are common along the Gulf Coast during warm evenings. The researchers hope that the fungal treatment can help prevent the spread of Formosan subterranean termite colonies.

Until researchers develop an effective way to deliver the fungal treatment, experts recommend that homeowners have an annual termite inspection. Termite control professionals can recognize the signs of termite activity. They can point out structural and landscaping issues that can give termites easy access to the home. If treatment is needed, they can recommend the most effective way to exterminate termites.