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What Makes Formosan Termites Different & The Best Treatments To Get Rid Of Them

For most homeowners, looking for early signs that you have a termite infestation is about as far as you want to take it. If you think you see these destructive pests, you might choose to call an exterminator immediately. However, once you realize the cost to treat your home for termites, which can be several thousand dollars or more, you may be ready to learn a bit more about these insects and try some DIY treatments first. Before you attempt to deploy any of the different ways to get rid of termites, it's important to understand the exact species you're seeing around your home. Some types of termites require different treatment methods, which makes identification an important first step.

One of the kinds of termites you may not see all that often is the formosan species. Its primary difference from other termites is that it's more destructive than other species, so you must keep an eye out for it. It typically has large colonies and aggressively seeks out food, causing extra destruction. The formosan termite originated in China, Taiwan, and Japan. It migrated to Hawaii in the 1800s and then began appearing in the southeastern United States in large numbers in the 1960s. It continues to be primarily found in the southern U.S., as well as in Virginia, North Carolina, California, and Tennessee.

Why are formosan termites different from other termites?

Compared to other types of these insects, formosan subterranean termites tend to build larger underground colonies. Sometimes, the colony may be as much as 10 times larger, even when the amount of food and other resources available is similar. Because of such large colonies, they can be more difficult to control and eliminate versus other species. Additionally, formosan colonies tend to have larger numbers, as their queens create more offspring than other types of termites. Larger numbers in the colony cause greater levels of destruction in your home. They attack a larger variety of wood than other species, and they destroy it at a faster rate to satisfy the requirements for food of the bigger colony. 

Formosan termites are slightly larger than other species, but it can be difficult for a homeowner with little experience treating termites to be able to tell the difference at a glance. When swarming, the formosan insects are about 1/2-inch in length and are brownish-yellow in color. Other subterranean termite swarmers are black and about 3/8-inch in length.

Among the worker and soldier insects, formosans have an oval or teardrop-shaped head instead of a rectangular one. The formosan soldiers are more aggressive than typical termite soldiers, and they may even bite, although the bite is not dangerous. Soldiers are far more plentiful in the formosan colony, perhaps as much as 20% of the population, versus about 1% to 3% with typical subterranean termites.

Ways you can treat formosan termites

The best way to treat formosan termites is by calling an exterminator. By hiring a professional, you receive assurances of elimination of these destructive insects. The professional exterminators also have some chemicals available to treat the formosan species that you cannot use in a DIY job.

However, you may want to take some preventative measures to treat them before they can establish a colony or to try to eliminate them after you initially notice them. One of the best ways to prevent them from attacking your home is through the use of liquid termiticide. You can buy concentrated termiticide on Amazon for $89, although some shipping restrictions exist for some states. Create a trench around your home and mix liquid termiticide into the ground, which creates a barrier. Formosan termites seek out moisture in the ground, so they're more likely to encounter the liquid chemical. Follow any instructions for the application precisely to avoid risk to pets.

You also may want to use bait stations to try to control formosan subterranean termites. When the termites absorb the toxic substances hidden in the bait stations and take them back to the colony, they can infect multiple insects, making them an effective option. Because formosans are especially attracted to moisture, bait stations that consist of liquid pesticides are effective. You can purchase bait control stakes at Amazon for $56 that contain hexaflumuron as the primary active ingredient. Hexaflumuron appears in liquid termiticides.