Also known as the super-termite, Formosan termites are an invasive insect with a worldwide reputation for destruction. These termites are not picky eaters and have been known to devour entire boats, condominiums and other larger wooden structures with ease. Once they are established in an area, there is no known cure or successful method for removal.
Their ability to create large colonies quickly, combined with its insatiable appetite, means this is one of the most destructive termites known to man. Common colonies of Formosan termites may have several hundred termites living inside. Formosan termites may exceed tens of thousands or even a million termites at any one time.
Formosan Termites Identification
Southern states are more likely to see this pest; Georgia and urban Louisiana show exceptionally high numbers of these creatures. In May through June, southern residents may be more likely to see swarms of termites leave their nests to mate. These swarming insects are larger in size than their native counterparts and may be almost an inch in length. They have white, furry wings and a light tan body. The wings are much larger than the body, and these insects are not known to be attracted to lights, like many other insects.
Soldier Formosan termites are slightly smaller and do not have wings like swarming termites but share their same tan coloring. Soldiers may excrete a sticky substance if disturbed and are considered somewhat dangerous. They account for the largest part of a Formosan termites colony and will bite unsuspecting fingers if provoked, often with several attackers at once.
Formosan Termites Habitat
Named after the region in which they were discovered in Taiwan, Formosan termites traveled around the globe in the 1950’s via cargo ships and are now established in southern America and South Africa. They have been found in Hawaii, and sightings have been reported in ten other states including, Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, California, and Mississippi.
Formosan termites require a minimum temperature of 62 degrees Fahrenheit in order for their eggs to hatch, and as such, it is thought that their localized areas of devastation will be contained to these warm climate areas. They eat a plethora of materials, especially aged wood, and require extensive amounts in order to feed their vast colonies. These colonies burrow deep into wood and form nests in these structures from which they feed. The adults will only leave to mate and are otherwise self-sufficient in their environment.
Life Cycle of Formosan Termites
Formosan termites breed in the same way as other species, but do so on a much larger scale. Colonies can reach upwards of 70,000 adult termites, all of which are capable of swarming from their nest in search of their mates. Once in the air, males and females will pair off together and become a king and queen of their own respective colony. They will seek out a new location which has a substantial food source (paper, wood and other starchy materials), in which the female will lay her dozens of eggs.
Once the eggs hatch, Formosan termites become larvae and will be dependent on their mother and father to provide food. They will undergo several insar phases, in which they will feed and then shed their skin. This allows for rapid growth and the maturity of wings, legs and other physical attributes of a fully grown adult. This phase only lasts a few short weeks before the larvae are given their own caste. A caste is a role within the colony, the majority of termites will become workers while others will provide protection.
Unlike other termites, however, female Formosan termites lay a second batch of eggs within two months, and the offspring will repeat this process. This double insemination, combined with the short lengths of time between maturity, means that the entire colony will be much larger in population sizes than other common termites, and will also require much more food to sustain them. It can take between three and five years for a population to reach its peak, at which time almost one million termites may be present.
Formosan Termites and Humans
Formosan termites were introduced to South Africa and America in the 1950’s when large, wooden cargo ships, which were infested with termites, docked in Hawaii and southern America. Since then, they have spread throughout the southern states and caused massed destruction with sightings in over 11 states.
Formosan termites are particularly destructive and may also be known as a super-termite. This encompasses their destructive reputations and are thought to be the most destructive and difficult termite species in the world. This is a bold claim, considering that termites in general are already one of the most destructive domestic pests known to man.
Georgia has shown a rapid acceleration in Formosan termites the past ten years, exceeding all other states by a significant amount. These creatures have also established a strong presence in New Orleans, with damages estimated at $100 million dollars per year prior to hurricane Katrina.
Formosan Termites Control
If you suspect you have found Formosan termites in your home, on your boat, or anywhere else, it is important to report your sighting to your local university. Most southern states have established a center for monitoring and documenting sightings or may be able to signpost you to the nearest available facility. This is absolutely essential in controlling these creatures over the long term and is mandatory on any potential sighting.
Please note, regular pest control agencies will not be qualified to deal with this pest, and at present, there is no known way to remove a nest permanently or even successfully. This is not only a pest in its truest form, but it is also a long term problem that causes great expense for many homeowners. A pest control agency is not advised in this case, other than to help confirm Formosan termites sightings and they should only direct you to your local university for more information.
Pest control may require several elements. Traditional and newer chemicals may be applied and the area monitored by state authorities for analysis. Formosan termites have shown a high resilience to chemical and alternative treatments, and further studies of how they react is required in order to find a solution to this widespread problem. Congress has funded over $5 million toward research to date. Do-it-yourself irradiation is not recommended under any circumstances. Pest control from an agency is not advised past confirming Formosan termites.
Formosan Termites Entomology
Formosan termites belong to the animalia kingdom, under the arthropoda phylum. They are generally classed as insecta, and are one of the many insects which create the Blattodea order and belong to the Rhinotermitidae family. They have their own genus, the coptotermes and are specifically known as C. formosanus.