Formosan Termites: What You Need to Know

formosan termites

Formosan termites—one of the most aggressive and devastating termite species in America. They’re native to Central America and the Far East but were introduced to the United States in 1956. They feed on materials containing cellulose, just like most subterranean, or underground, termites, but their colony sizes are much larger than others. This allows them to attack a greater variety of wood much faster than other species. Their reproductive capabilities are extreme—a typical colony can exceed one million termites. Essentially, they’re every homeowner’s worst nightmare. Here’s what you need to know about them. 

Identifying Formosan Termites

Considered “social” insects, Formosan termites have a very high level of organization within their colonies. Much like ants, they cooperate with each other, have different jobs within the colony, as well as different reproductive roles. There are three levels, or castes, found in each colony: reproductives, soldiers, and workers. 

Formosan worker termites are usually white or off-white and can be difficult to distinguish from other termite species. To really tell if the termites in your home are Formosan termites, you’ll need a soldier or a reproductive termite to properly identify the infestation. 

Soldier termites have egg or teardrop-shaped heads and are much more aggressive than subterranean termite soldiers native to America. If you find one and disturb it, it should exude a small amount of a white defensive secretion from a gland at the front of its head. Soldiers typically make up 5-10% of a Formosan termite colony. 

Winged reproductive Formosan termites are yellowish-brown and about 12-15 mm. They’ll typically swarm at night in May and early June and are attracted to light. Their wings have a dense covering of hair—there are other dry wood termites that look similar, but an expert can tell them apart easily. 

Signs of Infestation

If you notice mud shelter tubes, swarmer termites, termite wings as described above, or damaged wood, you might have an active infestation on your hands. Swarming reproductive Formosan termites on window sills or near indoor lights is the most common sign of an infestation. 

Shelter tubes rise up from the woil up the side of a foundation and indicate an underground termite infestation. If you were to break one open, you’d find Formosan termite workers and soldiers. 

Damaged wood can be hard to identify—the damage often isn’t obvious the first time you look but is an indication of a current (or past if you’re lucky) termite infestation. Damaged wood can even be hidden under a coat of paint. Tap it with a hard object, and if it sounds dull or hollow, it could be remnants of termite damage. 

You could also find an above-ground Formosan termite nest—it will be made of chewed wood, soil, saliva, and fecal matter. They can get as large as several cubic feet and can be found underground as well, although those are very difficult to find. 

The Damage

While the damage Formosan termites cause is very similar to other species of subterranean termites, they are much, much faster because of their massive colony sizes. They’ve even been known to eat through non-cellulose material like thin sheets of soft metal, asphalt, plaster, rubber, and plastic. 

If you suspect you have Formosan termites in or around your home, there’s no time to lose. Call Vulcan Termite & Pest Control now.