Formosan Termites, Coptotermes spp. come from
China, Formosa, and Japan. They have been introduced to
Hawaii and the Continental United States. It is thought
that they were imported through the military supply crates
being brought back following World War II. In Texas they
were first identified in 1956 at a shipyard in Pasadena.
Currently there are 19 counties in Texas that have been
positively identified as having an infestation of Formosan
Subterranean Termites. The majority of the sightings are
along the Gulf coast with scattered sightings inland. The
sightings inland are due to the transportation of infested
soils or materials (ex. Lumber, wood crates, or mulch).
Formosan Subterranean Termites have been positively
identified in the following counties in the state of
Texas: Angelina, Aransas, Bexar, Brazoria, Collin, Dallas,
Denton, Galveston, Henderson, Hidalgo, Harris, Jefferson,
Liberty, Nueces, Orange, Rockwall, Smith, Tarrant, Travis.
Texas Formosan Map)
What are Formosan subterranean
termites and where did they come from?
termites are a non-native pest believed to have been brought into
the United States after World War II on military ships carrying
supplies from east Asia and the Pacific Islands. Their main points
of entry were New Orleans and Lake Charles, La.; Galveston and
Houston, Texas; and Charleston, S.C.
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, and Texas.
difference between these termites and other termites?
colonies are much larger (containing about ten times the number) than
native termite colonies. One important difference is that Formosan
termites build more nests above ground. They attack live oak, ash trees
and water-bound live bald cypress trees and are known to infest more
than 50 living plant species. Because of their more aggressive nature
and larger colony size, they are replacing the native species. When they
do invade a home, they inflict more damage because of their greater
numbers. They are also more difficult to control than native species for
a variety of biological reasons. Since they can build nests above
ground, they are able to avoid the traditional toxins that are placed
into the soil for termite control. Also, there are so many members in a
colony that they can find ways to penetrate breaches in treated soil.
They can also begin colonies from above ground if sufficient moisture,
food and a suitable environment exists.
How much damage do
they cause homeowners?
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
How do I know if I
have Formosan termites?
The best way to
detect this pest is to consult with professional pest control operators
and have annual inspections. A homeowner can help by maintaining a
constant vigil for signs of the termites, including looking for mud
tubes on slabs, foundations or piers. These tubes are a sure sign of
termite presence, but may represent an old infestation. Tiny holes
appearing in walls or ceilings should be examined by a trained
professional to determine whether they are caused by termites or other
wood-destroying insects. While a few alates (flying termites) may come
into a home during swarming season, the appearance of more than a few
termites flying inside the home or deposition of many wings may indicate
an active colony hidden within the walls of a home. Not all termites are
Formosan and it takes a practiced eye to know which termite is present.
Some drywood termite alates look very much like Formosan alates at first
glance. The methods of control of these species are very different, so
accurate identification is essential.
Can I apply my own
There are some
termiticides available from do-it-yourself centers, but proper
application and strict adherence to label directions are absolutely
essential to effective control. Termite galleries (tunnels through which
termites travel) may be 1/32 of an inch in diameter, so even a tiny area
of untreated soil could allow termites to avoid a "treated" area. Some
states have recently allowed do-it-yourself baiting systems to be sold,
but again proper application and strict adherence to the label
instructions are imperative for them to be successful in termite
control operators (PCO) have the experience and insight needed to help
design the most effective treatment program. You should familiarize
yourself with as much information about termites as possible and talk to
several companies to determine all of your options. Be certain to
understand what the operators propose and get bids in writing so that
you can compare the various proposals. There are several valid options
for termite control and you have some time to make comparisons, but
termite infestations will not "just go away." These termites can dig
underground tunnels in untreated soil bypassing treated soil to invade
your home. It takes a trained professional to detect all possible
entryways to your home.
Among the many
options you will be presented are fumigation, which kills termites in
the walls of your home, but not ones hiding in the soil below. Usually,
the PCO recommends a soil treatment in combination with fumigation to
prevent the underground termites from invading your home again. New
monitoring and baiting technologies have been developed and are
successful in controlling both native and Formosan subterranean
Can't I just have my house chemically treated
Although you should talk to a professional pest control operator
about treatment, you can still reduce some of the risks of infestation
by reducing or eliminating water sources such as leaky pipes and roofs;
removing any wood and debris in contact with the soil, like wood
trellises connected to homes; replacing damaged sills and floors, and
sealing cracks in concrete and other structural materials. Formosan
termites can eat door frames, window sills, rafters and wall studs.
Many different types of termite treatment exist. Most are designed
to prevent termites from invading your home by repelling them from the
immediate area of treatment. These products are designed to last for a
relatively long period--more than five years--but each will break down
eventually. The products must last at least five years in order to be
registered as a termiticide. Different soils and soil conditions affect
the rate of breakdown. Activities that disturb the soil or addition of
new soil over the treated areas allows termites to tunnel through
A preconstruction treatment regimen and regular inspection are
needed to keep termites at bay. New monitoring/baiting techniques are
designed to work either alone or in conjunction with soil treatments.
These systems use wood blocks that are inspected at regular intervals to
determine termite presence and activity. Only when there is activity are
the blocks replaced with a toxin-treated food source which the termites
eat and share with their nestmates, resulting in severe population
reduction of the colony or even death of the colony. These methods use
much less toxin than soil treatments and represent an aggressive
approach to termite control rather than the protective approach used in
My house is made of brick. Is it protected
against Formosan termites?
Not necessarily. These termites can eat door frames, window sills,
rafters and roofing in addition to the wooden framing behind the brick
of your home. Some new homes have steel framing to prevent structural
damage from the termites, but the termites can eat many items containing
cellulose, including picture frames, furniture and paper. No home is
"termite- proof" unless there is no cellulose within for them to
consume. Some new buildings and homes have suffered from Formosan
How long does it take Formosan termites to
cause severe damage?
It generally takes a few Formosan termites up to 10 years to
establish a large colony. However, if the nest is already large, the
termites can cause devastating damage to homes within a short time. The
biggest problem in this regard is that you often don't know that they
are present until they have already done substantial damage. These are
insects which live in moist dark places and are not apt to show
themselves to you. Protection against infestation is probably the best
Is there a particular place I should look in my
house to find these termites?
Any place where wood is in contact with the soil, like wood
trellises connected to the house; where there's a water source (such as
leaky pipes), like in the basement or behind walls; or where there's
structural damage, like cracks in the concrete or in the floors. Check
the outside of your home for termite trails--mud tubes 1/4- to 1-inch
wide. Look carefully at nearby trees for mud trails which are sometimes
more evident after a rain; check for mud deposited well above ground in
tree branch notches or in branch stubs. These signs could be evidence of
termites lurking in the trees that could also infest your house.
What are flying termites or termite swarms?
These flying members, called alates, are mature termites that fly
off to mate and establish new colonies. The flying Formosan termites are
tan colored, generally swarm at night and shed their wings after a
Is there a certain time of year I should look
Mature Formosan subterranean termites typically swarm in the
evening on warm, humid, windless evenings from the end of April through
June. During the rest of the year, infestations can be detected by
looking for the signs of Formosan termites, including mud tubes and tiny
holes appearing in indoor ceilings and walls.
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