Like other subterranean termites, Formosan termites also have 3 forms – alates (swarmers), soldiers and workers. However, identification requires only the study of the soldiers and alates. The Formosan termite soldiers are identified by their head, which is a teardrop shape and brown-orange in color. The Formosan termite alate is 12 – 15 mm long with a yellowish-brown body.
The soldiers have white bodies and curved mandibles. Another characteristic is that when attacked, Formosan termites will secrete a milky white substance from their head. Their wings are also covered in hairs. Soldiers comprise about 10% of the colony.
Formosan termites are also called as the “super termite”, this is because they are more destructive and aggressive than their relatives. A single colony may contain several million individuals whereas other subterranean termite species only several hundred thousand). They also have the ability to consume wood at a rapid rate. A mature colony may consume as much as 13 ounces (about 400 g) of wood a day and can seriously damage a structure in as little as 3 months.
In the United States, this species is commonly found in the following Southern States Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Virginia, Souh Carolina and North Carolina. However, they have also been found in Arizona, Texas, Hawaii, and California as well. Formosan termites are in fact originated from southern China to Formosa (Taiwan, where it gets its name).
Formosan termites feed on wood and paper products (like all termite species). They can infest and destroy otherwise healthy trees. They also have been known to attack over 49 plant species, and even some non-cellulose objects like plastic, rubber, soft metals, asphalt, mortar and creosote when looking for moisture and new food sources.
Formosan termites are most visible during their annual mating flight. Queens can produce 1,000 eggs a day.
The nests that Formosan Termites create are called “carton nests”. They use wood and soil cemented together with their feces and saliva to build these nests, within walls. These nests house thousands of Formosan termites as well as hold moisture. Large cartons can actually cause walls to bulge. Once established, these termites can live indefinitely without soil contact.
What makes Formosan termites different from other subterranean termites is that they make their carton nests that resemble packed cardboard inside a wall and in many cases you can find entire walls full of this “carton” material.
Formosan termite control begins with eliminating sources of moisture both outside and inside of your home. Inside, homeowners should reduce humidity in areas such as crawl spaces, basements and attics with proper ventilation.