Formosan Termites

The Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, is one of the most destructive termite species in the world today.

In the United States it causes tremendous property damage resulting in enormous treatment and repair costs.

It is sometimes referred to as the "Super Termite" because:

• It has large colonies.

• The territory of a single colony can be up to 300 feet.

• It infests a wide variety of structures (including boats and high-rise condominiums).

It eats wood at a rapid rate. In Florida, Formosan termite swarms usually occur from April through July on calm, warm, and humid evenings. Swarms are quite large with up to tens of thousands of alates. The swarmers are attracted to lights and are often found around windows, light fixtures, windowsills, and spider webs in lighted areas. After swarming and landing on the ground, the alates break off their wings and search for a mate. Once a mate is found, the male and female search for a crevice in damp ground or wood, hollow out a small chamber, and crawl inside. The pair, now known as the king and queen, mate and within a few days the queen starts laying eggs. The young, known as larvae, hatch from the eggs and are fed by the king and queen.

A mature colony contains distinct groups called castes. These castes look different from one another and each has a special duty within the colony. The king and queen are the primary reproductives and are responsible for reproduction. If the queen or king dies or the colony becomes large, secondary reproductives may form and begin reproduction. Soldiers defend the colony against predators and other natural enemies. Workers take care of and feed the larvae, reproductives and soldiers, tend the eggs, build and maintain the nest, and search for food. Alate nymphs become alates when they are fully grown.

Formosan subterranean termite colonies are much larger than those of native subterranean termite species. Some have been estimated to have over 8 million individuals compared with about 1 million termites in large native subterranean termite colonies.

Like many other termites, the Formosan termite feeds on wood and other materials that contain cellulose which is the main structural component of plants. Bacteria and other single-celled organisms live in the termite digestive system and digest cellulose providing nutrition and energy for these termites. Although they feed mostly on wood, they will eat other cellulose-containing materials such as cardboard and paper. However, they are known to chew through foam insulation boards, thin lead and copper sheeting, plaster, asphalt, and some plastics. Contrary to popular myth, Formosan Subterranean termites do not eat concrete nor can the soldier's defensive fluid dissolve holes in concrete. These rumors continue because Formosan subterranean termites are always digging through the soil. Because of this continuous activity, they are likely to find cracks and crevices in concrete or mortar and gain entry to a structure. This can fool someone into thinking that Formosan subterranean termites can eat through solid concrete.

Although nesting mostly below ground, some Formosan termite colonies will build above-ground nests that are not connected to the soil.

Nests can be made in structures where the temperature does not get too hot or cold and there is plenty of moisture. Sources of moisture include:

• plumbing, water heater, and roof leaks

• condensation from air conditioning units

• poor drainage from gutters and flat roofs

• seepage and rainfall on boats and ships

• porches, balconies, rooftops, etc. with plants or landscaping that are frequently watered