Subterranean Termite

Formosan subterranean termite

The Formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus) is an invasive species of termite. It has been transported worldwide from its native range in southern China to Formosa (Taiwan, where it gets its name) and Japan. In the 20th century it became established in South Africa, Hawaii and in the continental United States.

The Formosan subterranean termite is often nicknamed the super-termite because of its destructive habits. This is because of the large size of its colonies, and the termites' ability to consume wood at a rapid rate. A single colony may contain several million individuals (compared with several hundred thousand termites for other subterranean termite species) that forage up to 300 feet (100 m) in soil. A mature Formosan colony can consume as much as 13 ounces of wood a day (ca. 400 g) and severely damage a structure in as little as three months. Because of its population size and foraging range, the presence of a colony poses serious threats to nearby structures. Once established, Formosan subterranean termites have never been eradicated from an area.

Formosan subterranean termites infest a wide variety of structures (including boats and high-rise condominiums) and can damage trees. In the United States, along with another species, Coptotermes gestroi, also introduced from south east Asia, they are responsible for tremendous damage to property resulting in large treatment and repair costs.

The Formosan subterranean termite acquired its name because it was first described in Taiwan in the early 20th century, but C. formosanus is probably endemic to southern China. This destructive species was apparently transported to Japan prior to the 17th century and to Hawaii in the late 19th century (Su and Tamashiro 1987). By the 1950s, it was reported in South Africa and Sri Lanka. During the 1960s it was found in Texas, Louisiana, and South Carolina. In 1980, a well-established colony was thriving in a condominium in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Formosan termites are rarely found north of 35 north latitude. They have been reported from eleven states including: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Their distribution will probably continue to be restricted to southern areas of the United States because the eggs will not hatch below about 20C (68 F).

Eastern subterranean termite

Reticulitermes flavipes, the eastern subterranean termite is the most common termite found in North America. These termites are the most economically important wood destroying insects in the United States and are classified as pests. They feed on cellulose material such as the structural wood in buildings, wooden fixtures, paper, books and cotton. A mature colony can range from 20,000 workers to as high as 5 million workers and the queen of the colony lays 5,000 to 10,000 eggs per year to add to this total.

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