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  • Writer's pictureJon Stoddard

Florida's Formosan Termites: What You Need to Know

Formosan termites are the most aggressive termite species found in the United States. They were initially believed to have come from China and Taiwan and were named after Formosa, Taiwan's former name. They are larger than most other termites and can be very destructive.

Where are Formosan Termites Found?

These termites prefer a mild climate, such as those found in Florida, Southern California, and Hawaii. Formosan termites were recently identified in Port Orange and New Smyrna Beach, Fl. Other coastal towns such as Palm Coast, Ponce Inlet, Daytona Beach Shores, and Ormond Beach are also just as susceptible to these types of termites.

Formosan Termite Behavior

The termites feed on wood, like their eastern subterranean cousins. They create mud tunnels to get around, both below and above ground.

One difference, though, is Formosan termites will also construct aerial nests above ground. Known as 'cartons,' these structures act as a secondary nest for the termites. Both Formosan and subterranean termites make chambers and tunnels inside wood going along the grain rather than against it.

They will enter buildings via utility lines, expansion joints, and open cracks, like subterranean termites. Once they have access, they will eat anything literally with cellulose (an essential plant fiber from wood pulp). An adequate moisture meter can be used to find high moisture areas in the walls indicating a termite presence.

Formosan termites feed on wood much faster than subterranean termites, and they can inflict a substantial amount of damage in a surprisingly short period.

Biology of Formosan Termites

These pests have their own caste system. There are reproductive swarmers, as well as soldiers and workers. It's the 1/8-inch long workers who eat wood to digest the cellulose.

The soldiers are roughly ¼-inch long, and they have a teardrop-shaped head and big mandibles. Eastern termites have big square heads, which makes the Formosan ones easy to identify.

Reproductive swarmers, also known as alates, are ¼-inch long and a tan color. They have four wings, all of equal lengths. It's the alates' job to create new colonies. If you see a swarm of these in your house, you can be sure you have an active termite colony.

Termites are in the Isoptera family, and these are actual social organisms. Their metamorphosis cycle includes an egg, nymph, and adult. You might be surprised to learn a queen can live up to fifty years! This is much longer than any other insect's possible life span.

The word termite comes from termes, a Latin word that means woodworm. Termites were once known as wood ants or white ants in Old English, but now we know that ants and termites differ. Termites are closely related to cockroaches.

They communicate with one another using chemical pheromones. Their antenna is used to sense heat, vibration, taste, touch, and pheromones. Termites have back and front wings of equal size, unlike swarming ants. The males and females pair up and travel around together to look for a new place to start a new colony. This is known as swarming.

Swarming termites will take their 'nuptial flight,' which means they will fly in various directions for a short period before their wings break off. Once they land, they will mate, communicating with one another using pheromones. These alates will become king and queen if they find a suitable colony location and mate for life. Termite Swarmers are sometimes confused as ants. Learn the difference between ant and termite swarmers in this short video.

So when do swarming reproductive termites decide to take flight? That depends on environmental conditions such as rainfall, moisture, wind speed, and time of day, and colony size. The size of a Formosan termite colony depends on how much cellulose is available to nourish them.

What Do Termites Eat?

Just like subterranean termites, Formosan ones eat wood. They digest the cellulose in the wood using a bacterial in their gut called protozoa. Protozoa are single-celled organisms that help the termite digest the cellulose.

Interestingly, the insects' exoskeleton is made of chitin, a biopolymer very similar to cellulose's biopolymers.

Termite Queen

The queen might not lay many eggs to start with, but she can deposit up to a thousand eggs a day in a mature colony. The king and queen never leave the nest and mate for life.

Because of the queen's large size, she is unable to feed herself. She depends on worker termites for grooming and food. If she disappears from the termite colony, the king will make pheromones to help produce new queens.

Termite Workers

The workers are to blame for the termite damage we find. They also feed the king, queen, and soldiers and look after the larvae. Worker termites do everything necessary to keep the colony healthy.

Termite Soldiers

Termite soldiers help keep the colony safe from invaders. A termite soldier has big mandibles and a large head. If invading ants threaten the colony, termite soldiers attack. The termite soldiers will battle to the death to protect the king and queen, workers, and homes.

According to a documented scientific study, a termite's age helps determine who defends the colony if it is attacked. It was once thought the best candidate to do this would be a sterile, young soldier.

However, this study showed that older soldiers defend the colony and attack invaders better than the younger ones. This helps ensure the overall survival of all the colony's soldiers. A predator ant and both young and old soldier termites were placed together in a petri dish. The older termites attacked first and would fight to the death. The younger ones were more hesitant and timid.

Facts About Formosa Termite Infestations

American homeowners spend billions of dollars every year preventing and controlling termites. They are a severe structural pest in Florida and can inflict a lot of damage to a building very quickly.

Because termites break down and recycle dead tree limbs, branches and wood, they are ecologically important.

Hex-Pro Bait Stations

Formosan termites molt to grow. The word molt originates from the ancient Latin word meaning to change. Hex Pro bait stations use the molting process to stop the termites from thriving. Their exoskeletons are made up of an outer and inner protein layer. After consuming the bait, they are unable to molt.

Hex Pro once a year is a top brand in termite protection for homes not suitable for trench and treatment methods or other termite treatment types. Each bait station is a defense line containing dense cellulose with an insect growth regulator, preventing molting and the development of both Formosan and subterranean termites. Disrupting the termites' development leads to the decline and eventually the death of the whole colony. The termite bait is checked on an annual basis unless needed before then. This line of termite baiting systems is far more superior than most others that only act as monitoring stations with pieces of wood in them.

It's a good idea to carry out more frequent inspections and have an annual WDO Inspection (WOOD DESTROYING ORGANISM INSPECTION) for checkups or structures with active infestations or a history of termites. There are various options to consider with the Hex Pro annual bait stations if active termites are already present. It works exceptionally well for above-ground termites in aerial nests.

If you would like more information about hex Pro Bait Stations or a preferred, more effective Liquid Barrier treatment with Fipronil-based products, contact us, email, or visit us today for a free estimate and consultation. We also provide Tent Fumigation services for Drywood Termites and Termite spot treatment methods.



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