Here in Florida, termites are as much a part of our lives as sunburns and hurricanes. As residents of the Sunshine State, we should be concerned about all these things, but not really fearful of them.
When it comes to termites, though, there is a new player in the game in Volusia County: the Formosan Termite. Here’s what you need to know about them.
The Formosan Termite
Formosan termites are an invasive species of subterranean termite that came to Florida from Asia in the 1950s, hitching a ride on materials shipped to our ports. They are similar to our native termites, with a few significant differences.
- To start with, Formosan termite individuals are significantly larger than any of our native termites.
- Formosan termite colonies are also much larger than typical termite colonies. (A mature Formosan termite colony can have several million individuals, while a native colony usually numbers several hundred thousand at most.)
- Another notable difference is that Formosan termites are incredibly aggressive as they search for and consume food (wood).
Identification photos may be found here.
Combining these three traits in one species creates the potential for real headaches, for homeowners and pest control pros alike. Formosan termites are found in fallen tree branches, homes, boats, and even live trees. This makes it very easy for them to spread once they are established.
The world of pest control professionals and academics has been monitoring and attempting to control their spread since they arrived on our shores. Still, while our efforts have slowed their progress, the invasion continues.
Take note, Volusia County homeowners—that means that, unfortunately, Formosan termites are now here.
Formosan Termites Arrive in Volusia County
I’ve been hearing unverified reports of Formosan termites for a couple of years now, but I became involved in a homeowner’s struggle with them just last month.
I was called to an Ormond Beach home near the intersection of Granada Boulevard and Nova Road. My purpose was to inspect the home for what another pest control company had indicated were Formosan Termite.
I admit that I was skeptical when I arrived, because pest control companies for years have been using fear of these termites to scare homeowners into unnecessary treatments. I assumed this would be another episode in that drama.
However, the situation became glaringly obvious as soon as I saw the extensive damage to the home. Once I observed the individual termites at close range, there was no question we were dealing with Formosan termites.
Through no fault of their own, the homeowners didn’t know about this type of termite before. (Did you?)
As a result, they may have overlooked the initial warning signs of swarmer wings and mud stains. Or perhaps there weren’t any warning signs…
The University of Florida explains it as follows:
“Any wood-to-ground contact is an inviting entrance for Formosan subterranean termite infestations. In some occasions, however, Formosan subterranean termite can form colonies that are not connected to ground, called aerial colonies.
If a pair of alates [reproductive termites] successfully finds suitable conditions, i.e., adequate food and moisture sources in a building, they can initiate a colony with no ground connection. The flat roofs of high-rise buildings, because they always pool rainwater, are ideal places for the Formosan subterranean termite to initiate aerial infestations if portals of entry are found.
Our survey data indicated that more than 25% of the infestations found in urban southeastern Florida are caused by aerial colonies (Su and Scheffrahn 1987).”
By the time our unlucky homeowners contacted pest professionals, the beasts were in the roof framing and had done considerable damage. Repair estimates were in the tens of thousands of dollars, in addition to costly treatments to rid the home of termites in the first place.
Preventing Formosan Termites
Please know that I haven’t written this blog to scare you, my fellow homeowner. I only want to inform you of the changing landscape of termites in our area. The good news is that Formosan termites are not widespread in Volusia County, and traditional treatments can prevent and eliminate them if performed early.
Homeowners should follow the same guidelines to prevent Formosan termites as they would for any other termite, including:
- eliminating moisture near the structure (gutters and sprinklers)
- removing sources of termite food from near your home (firewood and landscape timbers)
- turning off porch lights during swarming season
These efforts will help to prevent problems with Formosan termites. Still, the most important thing you can do is to have an annual inspection and preventative treatment performed by a reputable pest control company.
Make sure that the contract you sign includes Formosan termites in the list of covered pests. I also always recommend that the agreement contains a damage repair provision obligating the pest control company to make repairs if the treatment fails. (Ours do.)
Early detection is the key to solving any termite infestation. Let us know if you would like a free inspection. We’ll be glad to get you on the schedule if you call 386-673-1557.
Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.
Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control