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Formosan Termites

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Formosan Termites

Formosan termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, is one of the most destructive termite species in the United states.The Formosan subterranean termite has been called the "Super Termite" because of the its ability to consume wood and increase its colony size much quicker than our native termite species.


Formosan Termites

Formosan Termite

Formosan termite is a subterranean termite species characterized by large populations that share interconnected foraging galleries in soil. When these termites invade a house above-ground, foraging tubes of ca. 0.25 to 0.5 inch diameter may be found connecting soil tubes and the infested house.


Formosan subterranean termite are three primary castes: the reproductives (e.g. king, queen, alates or swarmers, and immature alates or nymphs), soldiers, and workers. The majority of the nestmates are workers that are responsible for acquisition of nutrients. Formosan subterranean termite are yellowish-brown and 12 to 15 mm long (0.5 to 0.6 inch). There are numerous small hairs on the wings of these comparatively large swarmers. Dispersal flights or "swarms" are massive and begin at dusk on calm and humid evenings from April to July. Alates are attracted to lights, so they are usually found near windows, light fixtures, window sills, and spider webs around well lighted areas


Formosan Termites

Formosan Termite Soldier

Major swarms of this termite occur in May and June, but small flights can occur at any time of the year. Swarming is the primary way the termite naturally spreads after it has been transported to a new area. Spread by swarming is slow, however, because the termite is a poor flier. Unassisted, it cannot fly more than 1/4-mile. Moreover, the swarmers are attracted to the closest light source, which is usually no more than 25-50 yards away.


Swarming starts just after sundown on warm, humid, nearly windless evenings. The primary environmental factor that determines whether the termites swarm is the windspeed at the flight slits . If the wind exceeds 2 mph, swarming will not occur. If swarming starts and the wind increases to more than 2 mph, swarming stops. On average, swarming lasts about 30 minutes. Swarming may occur over the entire island chain, over a single island, or on just parts of the island. Not all of the swarmers in a colony will swarm on the same night.Swarmers are attracted to lights. In major swarms, thousands of termites can be seen around street lights or the lights in or around houses. After a short flight, the termites land on the ground and drop their wings. The wings break off close to the termites body when it folds them up and forward.


Life Cycle:The male and female mate within the sealed mating chamber. The first batch of 15-25 eggs is laid about five days later. The eggs hatch in 21-30 days. The newly hatched young must be fed predigested food by the parents, because they are unable to feed themselves. The jaws on young termites are not highly sclerotized (hardened), so they probably can only feed on semiliquid food. They remain in the nursey until they go through two molts. After this, they become functional workers in the colony and can leave the nursery to forage, but they will continue to molt and grow. The queen then lays another batch of eggs. The second group and all subsequent offspring are fed by and acquire the protozoa from the workers in the colony. This process continues until a major colony, made up of 2 million or more termites, is produced. This will take more than seven years.


Formosan Termites

Formosan Termites swarms

The mature queen is a gross, egg-laying machine . She measures about 1" in length, 1/4" in diameter. She weighs more than 100 times her original weight. She appears unusual or gross because all of the growth is in the abdomen. This produces a strange looking insect with a huge abdomen attached to a tiny head, thorax, and legs. Her abdomen is so large that her legs can no longer carry her. Since she cannot move, she must be fed, groomed, and moved by the workers.


All of the queen's increase in size and weight is due to the growth of her ovaries. She can now lay about 2000 eggs a day. She will live in a special queen's chamber for the rest of her life, if the colony is not disturbed. The king's abdomen will also enlarge, although not as much as the queen's. He produces the sperm needed to fertilize the number of eggs laid by the queen. The royal pair may live 20 or more years.


Damage :Formosan subterranean termite does not consume more wood than a single native subterranean termite, however, because of its large population size, a Formosan subterranean termite colony can cause more structural damage in a shorter time. Wood products that are infested by Formosan subterranean termite may be recognized by tapping the wood with a hard object. In severe infestations, Formosan subterranean termite hollows out woods leaving a paper-thin surface. A hollowed wood surface may look blistered or peeled.


Formosan Termites

Formosan Termites Damage

Control: Contract the services of a professional pest control operator. Termites, especially the Formosan subterranean termite, should be handled by a professional. Avoid wood/soil contact. All wood contacting with soil should be pressure treated. Do not install foam board insulation, stucco, or wall sidings below grade during construction.


Make thorough inspections for evidence of termite activity at least once a year, preferably more. A professional pest control operator who has experience with subterranean termites should perform the inspection.


Once found, drywood termites can either be spot-treated by injecting insecticides into the nest or, for large infestations where multiple colonies are in the same structure, fumigated. Inspection and treatment should only be done by a licensed pest control operator2. These termites do not form long tunnels or forage great distances so there is no need to worry about their finding a refuge from the injection or fumigation treatment.



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