What are Formosan subterranean termites?
Formosan subterranean termites are an aggressive non-native termite
species. Formosan termites have a horrific appetite and can destroy
wood as long as there is a water source nearby. Their diets consist
of anything that contains wood fiber (homes, buildings and live trees),
crops and plants. Formosan termites can penetrate plaster, plastic
and asphalt to get to a new food source. They build large carton nests
above or below ground. A highly fertile queen, a long life span, and
an extensive foraging system from a central nest site result in much
larger colonies than native termite species.
Where are they found? How many
states are infested with them?
The termites have been found in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia,
Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee,
Where did they come from?
It's believed they were first brought into the United States on military
ships carrying supplies from the Pacific after World War II. Their
main points of entry were New Orleans and Lake Charles, La.; Galveston
and Houston, Texas; and Charleston, S.C.
Why are they such a problem now?
The pest's destruction is now becoming visible as structural damage,
like decaying floors, falling walls and deteriorating trees become
more prevalent. The last organo-chlorine termite poison was banned
in 1988 because of human health and safety concerns. Their chemical
replacements are not as effective or long-lasting, so the pest has
had a chance to thrive in the United States.
What's the difference between these termites
and other termites?
Formosan termite colonies are much larger than native termite colonies.
A mature Formosan termite colony can produce about 2,000 eggs a day.
The colony can contain millions of termites. They are a greater problem
than native termites because they build more nests above ground, and
their colonies contain more individual termites. There are so many
members in a colony that they can find ways to penetrate breaches in
treated soil. Formosan termites attack live oak, ash, water-bound live
bald cypress trees and at least 50 species of plants.
How much damage do they cause?
Formosan termites cost consumers more than $1 billion a year, including
the cost of repairs. In New Orleans alone, it's estimated that the
pest infests as many as 30 percent of the historic live oak trees and
can cost individual homeowners several thousand dollars a year in damage
and control costs.
How do these termites get into homes and buildings?
They dig underground tunnels in untreated soil and can bypass treated
soil to infest homes, buildings and trees. These termites do most of
their damage inside walls. They get into walls from the soil, roof
or some other hard to detect pathway. All they need is a nearby food
and water source to sustain the colony.
How do you control Formosan termites?
New techniques and pesticides are being developed to combat the Formosan
subterranean termite. People can help prevent infestations by reducing
or eliminating water sources such as leaky pipes; removing any wood
and debris in contact with the soil, like wood trellises and roofs;
replacing damaged sills and floors, and sealing cracks in concrete
and other structural materials. A qualified pest control operator is
the best source of advice and treatment.
For more information, contact the Southern Regional Research Center,
Agricultural Research Service, USDA, New Orleans, La. 70179. Telephone: