Formosan Termite Control

The Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes Formosanus (Shiraki), has been called the "super termite". It is probably the most aggressive subterranean termite in the United States.

One Formosan termite eats about the same amount of wood as a native subterranean termite. The potential for damage comes from the fact that colonies of Formosan subterranean termites can have millions of insects. These large termite colonies can cause significant damage to a home or building.

Formosan subterranean termites were first identified in Hawaii around 1905. Because of increases in commerce, they were accidentally introduced into ports in the Southern states. By now, these termites are well established along the Gulf Coast and the Southeastern states. They are found from Texas to South Carolina. They have also been found in Southern California.

Formosan termite control begins with an inspection and proper identification. Workers are so similar to native subterranean termites that even experts have trouble telling them apart. Formosan termite soldiers and swarmers are very distinctive. They are the best way to identify Formosan termites.

Formosan termite soldiers have teardrop-shaped heads. They are very aggressive and will readily pinch a finger with their large jaws, called mandibles. The soldiers can squirt a milky liquid from an opening on the front of the head.

Formosan subterranean termite swarmers come out of the nest in the evening. (Native subterranean termites swarm around lunchtime.) Formosan termite swarmers are attracted to lights and they often gather around streetlights or the lights of buildings.

The swarmers are about ½" long. The body is yellowish or brownish. These swarmers have tiny hairs that cover their wings. Their wings are very different from the wings of other termite swarmers.

Formosan subterranean termites live in the ground. They usually attack homes from underneath the foundation. They make mud tubes like native subterranean termites do. Most treatments for Formosan termites include an application of liquid termiticide as a soil barrier.

Depending on the construction, the termiticide would normally be applied around the outside of the foundation. If the house has a crawl space, the inside of the foundation would also be treated. If the house is built on a slab, it is normal to drill near the plumbing penetrations and expansion joints to apply termiticide under the slab.

Many treatments for Formosan termites include the installation of termite baits. The same type of bait that is used for native subterranean termites will also eliminate Formosan termites.

Since Formosan termite colonies contain many thousands of termites, it is common to double or triple the usual number of baits. Because these termites eat so aggressively, it is normal for termite baits to be checked more often than those that are used for native subterranean termites.

Formosan termites often build above ground nests. They make these nests from chewed wood, soil, saliva, and droppings. The material is called carton. The carton nests are often built inside of walls, especially if there is a moisture source, like a plumbing leak nearby. During a treatment for Formosan termites, it may be necessary to open a wall to expose a carton nest.

Whenever possible, carton nests are removed. If they cannot be removed, they can often be treated with aerosol insecticide. In severe cases it is sometimes necessary to fumigate the house to eliminate all of the termites in above ground carton nests.

Homeowners can help prevent Formosan termites from attacking their home. Leaks and other sources of moisture can be corrected. Any wood on the house that is in contact with the ground should be removed or changed to eliminate termite entryways. Firewood should be stacked on a rack and be stored away from the home.

Siding should not be touching the soil and soil in the flowerbeds should not be higher than the level of the home’s slab. Mulch should be raked away from the foundation to prevent termites from moving up into the wall of the house. It is normal for the pest control professional that does the treatment to point out conditions like these when they make their inspection.
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