The Formosan subterranean termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki, is one of the most destructive termite species in the world today. In the United States it causes tremendous property damage resulting in enormous treatment and repair costs. It is sometimes referred to as the “Super Termite” because:
- It has large colonies.
- The territory of a single colony can be up to 300 feet.
- It infests a wide variety of structures (including boats and high-rise condominiums).
- It eats wood at a rapid rate.
Do Formosan Subterranean Termites Eat Anything Else Besides Wood?
Although they feed mostly on wood, they will eat other cellulose-containing materials such as cardboard and paper. However, they are known to chew through foam insulation boards, thin lead and copper sheeting, plaster, asphalt, and some plastics.
Is It True They Eat Concrete?
Contrary to popular myth, FORMOSAN SUBTERRANEAN TERMITES DO NOT EAT CONCRETE nor can the soldier’s defensive fluid dissolve holes in concrete. These rumors continue because Formosan subterranean termites are always digging through the soil. Because of this continuous activity, they are likely to find cracks and crevices in concrete or mortar and gain entry to a structure. This can fool someone into thinking that Formosan subterranean termites can eat through solid concrete.
Where Do They Live?
Subterranean termite species, such as the Formosan termite, generally live underground. They tunnel through the soil in search of food. Unlike native subterranean termites, Formosan termites build large nests. These are made of carton, a hard material the workers make from soil, chewed wood or plant matter, and their own saliva and feces. Carton nests are quite impressive – a large, rock-like mass constructed by hundreds of thousands or millions of termites.
Although nesting mostly below ground, some Formosan termite colonies will build above-ground nests that are not connected to the soil. Nests can be made in structures where the temperature does not get too hot or cold and there is plenty of moisture. Sources of moisture include:
- plumbing, water heater, and roof leaks
- condensation from air conditioning units
- poor drainage from gutters and flat roofs
- seepage and rainfall on boats and ships
- porches, balconies, rooftops, etc. with plants or landscaping that are frequently watered
How Can I Get Them Identified?
If you are not sure if the termites you have are Formosan, you can send or bring soldiers and alates to your County Extension office for identification. Here are some tips for sending or bringing your samples:
- Preserve the termites in rubbing alcohol and keep them in a small, non-breakable container with a tight-fitting, leak-proof cap or lid.
- Termites mailed in envelopes or sandwich bags dry out, get crushed, and break apart if they are not first put into a sturdy container. This often makes identification difficult.
- Do not stick termites on tape or tape them to paper. This makes identification difficult.
- Be sure to include the wings if you have alates.
Remember, the better the condition your samples are in, the easier it will be to identify them.
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