Formosan termites are a recent invader from Asia (Formosa an older name for Taiwan). This kind of termite has spread in the United States, primarily in the southern states.
They've also hit Hawaii and to a lesser extent California. They can't
spread easily beyond this, however, because they cannot hatch
their eggs if the temperature is too low.
They are subterranean (meaning they live in colonies underground, and tunnel from there into your house). They came to the U.S. in the fifties and sixties, primarily to port cities where they were transported by boat.
They spread very quickly because they can establish colonies in various wooden garden products (and even potted plants). Sometimes they've even caused power outages by eating through power cables.
This kind of termite is particularly damaging to property. While their colonies start off small, they grow to be much bigger than those of termites native to the U.S. They can range for several hundred feet underground, meaning that one colony could potentially attack several houses in a neighborhood. They also eat wood at a faster rate than other kinds of termites, and they will eat a lot of other random things that other termites usually don't (boats, for example).
What do I do to get rid of Formosan termites?
The same things you would do to get rid of regular termites (discussed throughout this site). All of the methods such as bait, liquid treatment, etc. will work just as well on the Formosan kind. You'll need to call out a professional exterminator and have them inspect the house, and then have them treat it. There are a couple of extra pointers I'd give if you find out you've got the Formosan variety:
1) Let all your neighbors know. Unlike with regular termites, the colony may not just be at your house - it may be a single, large colony that could be damaging their property, too.
2) Act fast. With regular termites, you've got years before they do any real damage. That's true to some extent with the Formosan kind - it takes them several years before a colony gets big enough to do anything. But once it is that big, the damage comes fast - in months, not years. And you don't have any way of knowing whether the colony is a small one or a big one.
3) If your neighbors are stubborn and won't do anything, consider using bait treatment. The termites will spread it throughout their colony (so you can attack across your property line, and don't have to worry about only killing part of the colony).
4) Don't just check your house. And don't just check wood. They're known to eat through all kinds of things, so look for damage anywhere on your property.
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