The Formosan subterranean termite has been found in Japan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, South Africa, and the continental United States. Although officially reported in Hawaii in 1913, newspaper reports indicate that the termite was on the island as early as 1869. The first report of the Formosan termite in the continental U.S.
It was reported in Louisiana in 1966 and Charleston, South Carolina in 1967, and has since spread across the southern U.S. Formosan termites often form aerial nests made up of chewed wood, soil, saliva, and fecal material. These nests can be as large as several cubic feet and found in both the soil and above ground level.
While the species wasn’t described until the 1900s, there is evidence of the termite being transported from China to Japan before 1600, and from there to Hawaii during the late 1800s. The first reports of Formosan subterranean termites in Hilton Head and other parts of South Carolina occurred during the 1960s.
The first infestations of Formosan termites in Texas were discovered in 1956 around the Houston Ship Channel in Pasadena, Harris County. Since then, Formosan termites have been detected in 30 Texas counties.
There have been reports of Formosan termite infestations in all the major metropolitan areas in Texas. It is believed that Formosan termites were transported to the Houston Ship Channel in wooden shoring timbers from the Far East.
It is estimated that 25% of the infestations in southeast Florida have no ground contact. In contrast, native subterranean form aerial colonies only in rare instances (less than 1%). Thus, the voracity, adaptivity to new conditions, as well as overwhelming number of individuals within a colony enables the Formosan subterranean termite to be an impressively destructive invasive pest species.
Swarms occur from May to June in Florida and Louisiana, and from May to July in South Carolina. Formosan termite swarms occur from dusk to midnight and the alates are attracted to light. After a short flight (usually not more than 20-50 yards) the alates lose their wings, pair off, and seek small crevices in moist wood to begin the new colony.
Mature colonies can have a population of 10 million foraging workers, soldiers, a primary queen, and several secondary reproductives. The foraging territory of a mature colony can occupy several thousand square feet. : The Formosan subterranean termite was first described as a species in 1909 from specimens collected on the Asian island of Formosa (currently known as Taiwan).
It is almost impossible to identify Formosan termite workers, however, the soldiers and alates look very different and are easy to identify. Homeowners and pest management professionals should watch for isolated infestations. Shoring timbers and recycled railroad ties are often taken from docks and railways and are then used for the construction of terraces or backyard planting beds.
In contrast to native subterranean termite colonies that number hundreds of thousands of members, a single Formosan subterranean termite colony can include several million members. These numbers make Formosan subterranean termites a more serious threat to homes. Each insect doesn’t consume more than any other termite species, but the concentration of colony members means they can cause more damage in a shorter period.
Although ants often swarm at the same time of year as do termites, it is easy to distinguish ants from termites by the shape of their bodies, wings, and antennae. They are also referred to as psuedergates Soldiers: Formosan termite soldiers have tear-dropped or egg-shaped heads compared to the more rectangular head of native subterranean termites.
When disturbed, they will exude a small amount of a white defensive secretion from a gland called the fontanel, located on the front of the head. They can also attach themselves to a finger with their mandibles (mouthparts). Soldiers will make up between 5-10 percent of a colony.
They swarm at night in late May and early June and are attracted to lights. They have a dense covering of hair on their transparent wings. Termite larvae typically hatch within a few weeks. They are approximately the same size as the eggs from which they hatched and are immediately tended to by worker termites.
However, they comprise a large part of a termite colony and require constant feeding; worker termites ingest wood to feed the colony’s larvae.
The Formosan termite is known to attack over 50 species of living plants as well as structural lumber. This termite is often described as aggressive in both its feeding habits and foraging tendencies.
Although laboratory studies indicate that the individual Formosan termites eat slightly more wood than the native subterranean termites, larger colonies can cause severe structural damage to unprotected homes in 2 years. The Formosan subterranean termite usually enters structures from colonies maintaining contact with the ground to provide the necessary moisture requirements.
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