“We had a big Formosan termite swarm on the Coast last night. These were outside on the patio this morning, but there were even more inside. Linda is still vacuuming the things up. We have already called the pest control company. They said they are swamped with calls, but they will get someone here as soon as they can.”
Formosan termites are non-native pests that were first found in the state in 1984. Today they occur in portions of 25 south Mississippi counties and their range is slowly expanding. Their biology and the damage they cause is similar to that of native, eastern subterranean termites, but there are important differences. It’s a bit like the difference between black bears and grizzly bears, with Formosans being the grizzlies.
Formosan termites have larger colonies, are more aggressive in attacking buildings and can cause more damage in less time. Formosan termite swarmers are also a bit larger than eastern subterranean termites and swarm later in the year. On the Coast they usually swarm around Mother’s Day, but swarming can extend into June farther north. They also differ in color; Formosan swarmers are golden brown and are about ½ inch long, including their wings. Unlike eastern subterranean termites, which swarm during the day, Formosan termites usually swarm shortly after dark and the swarmers are attracted to lights. In heavily infested neighborhoods huge numbers of swarmers may be seen flying around streetlights. Seeing large numbers of swarmers inside a building is an indication that the building has an active termite infestation and needs to be professionally treated. Seeing large numbers of Formosan termite swarmers flying in areas outside a building is an indication that Formosan termites are present in the area and that all buildings in the area need to be properly protected from termites.
Just how big are Formosan swarm events in areas that are heavily infested? Big enough to show up on weather radar. Check out this article showing a swarm event in 2016. Be sure to check out the time-lapse images showing how the swarm expanded over Lake Pontchartrain.
Control: Treatment for Formosan termites is similar to that for eastern subterranean termites, but if you live in an area where Formosan termites are established, it is especially important to be sure your home is protected from termites. This is also true for native termites, which occur in every county in the state. Termite control is not a do-it-yourself project! You need to hire a licensed commercial pest control company for this job.
See Extension Publication 2568, Protect Your House from Termites for information on termite biology, how to hire a pest control company, and how to avoid conditions that increase risks of termite attack. Page 7 of this publication contains a map showing counties where Formosan termites are known to occur. If you plan on building a house soon, see Extension Publication 2765, What Homebuilders Need to Know about Termites. For additional information on termite identification, biology and control see the MSU Extension Termite Website.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
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