Formosan Termites: How to Handle this Growing Threat

Formosan termite, foraging through wood and dirt
Formosan termites are one of the most destructive pests in the country. Read on to learn what you should know about them to protect your home. (DepositPhotos)

Formosan subterranean termites strike fear in the hearts of homeowners, particularly residents of Hawaii and the southern United States.

According to a report by the Department of Agriculture, they’re one of the most destructive pests in the country. Each year, over $1 billion is spent in the U.S. for preventive and remedial treatment and to repair damage caused by Formosan termites.

Termite house damage, seen beside a pest control worker removing the termites
The U.S. spends $1 billion each year to prevent or treat damage caused by Formosan termites.  (DepositPhotos)

Despite myths to the contrary, Formosan termites can’t chew through concrete; nor can they leap tall buildings in a single bound. Even so, they’re often referred to as “super termites” because they’re aggressive, able to build nests above ground and form extremely large colonies.

While native termite colonies often number in the hundreds of thousands, Formosan colonies include millions of individuals. One Formosan queen can live as long as 20 years and lay as many as 2,000 eggs a day.

Worker Formosan termites search for food up to 250 feet from their colony.

About Formosan Termites

Formosan termites are native to China and migrated to North America on military transports returning from World War II. They are now found in at least 11 states, including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Formosan termites are rarely found farther north than 35° N latitude because their eggs can’t hatch below 68°F.

Wood chip mulch
Wood chip mulch helps retain moisture in planting beds, and can protect termites.

Preventing Their Spread

The best way to prevent an infestation of Formosan termites is to make your home uninviting by cutting off their access to food and water.
To accomplish this goal:

  • Remove dead trees as well as scrap wood, paper and cardboard from your yard.
  • Prevent wood from coming into direct contact with bare ground around your home.
  • Use pressure-treated wood for structures at or near ground level.
  • Anchor wooden posts for fences, decks, porches and sheds in cement.
  • Eliminate wooden planters, tubs, trellises and stakes.
  • Keep plants and landscaping materials at least a foot away from buildings.
  • Avoid using wood chips for mulch close to the house.
  • Install and maintain rain gutters to direct water away from the walls and roof of the house.
  • Add downspout extenders to deliver runoff at least a foot away from the foundation.
  • Repair leaks in outdoor faucets, indoor fixtures, water lines, drains and appliances immediately.
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