The Difference between Formosan and Subterranean Termites

/ / Insect Control, Pest Control, Pest Control Products

c/o: newscientist.com

To the average homeowner, termites might seem like they are all the same. They’re small, stubborn pests that chew through wood and cause internal damage to structures. Yet for pest control companies, termites are not all the same, and knowing which ones we’re dealing with is helpful in controlling and eradicating the infestation. The two types of termites that are commonly confused with each other are the formosan termites and the subterranean termites.

What are Formosan Termites?

Formosan termites (Coptotermes Formosanus) prefer warm climates and are heavily abundant in the southern states, Louisiana included. This termite is also known as an introduced subterranean termite, first introduced from East Asia. Although these resourceful pests have made their home in the southern part of the U.S., they have been seen as far north as the Canadian border. This leads researchers to believe that formosan termites will eventually become mainstream across the country.

Formosan termites build nests in the soil and use mud tubes to bring moisture to their colonies. These termites eat wood and other cellulose materials, and they have successful working orders that include reproductives, workers and soldiers. Formosan termites are fierce and will defend their territories. They can also do damage in a short amount of time, as the queen can lay 1,000 eggs in one day.

What are Subterranean Termites?

Subterranean termites (Reticulitermes) have a very successful working order as well, with reproductives, workers and soldiers. They rely heavily on this working order, especially during the springtime when they send out swarmers to reproduce. The queen can lay thousands of eggs in a day, and these eggs hatch into destructive termites that can collapse an entire building within a short amount of time.

Like other types of termites, subterranean termites live in colonies underground and spend their days searching for food. Their colonies consist of two million members. A subterranean termite diet consists of wood and cellulose material, and the termites get their moisture from building mud tubes.

What is the Difference between Formosan and Subterranean Termites?

One difference between the two is that formosan termites are more localized to the southern states while subterranean termites are found throughout the U.S. In fact, subterranean termites are found in every state but Alaska. They do prefer the warmer climates as the formosan termites do, but they are more widespread across the U.S. than the formosan species.

A second difference between the two termites lies in their physical appearance. Formosan termites have a longer body and a shorter head with two short pinchers. The subterranean termites have long heads and bodies with long pinchers. Formosan termites have a translucent orange color while the subterranean species has a translucent gray/brown color. Both have long wings and look like flying ants in their swarmer form, which is when they go out looking for mates to reproduce their colonies.

However, the main disparity between formosan and subterranean termites is that formosan termites build cartons that bring moisture to their nests. This ability allows them to build nests without having to return to the soil for moisture like subterranean termites. This small but handy ability allows formosan termites to be especially efficient in their working order since they can bring moisture to their nests without having to take the additional step of returning to the soil.

Identifying formosan and subterranean termites is something that most homeowners won’t be able to do because both termites build tunnels in the soil, unlike drywood termites that live within the wood. All termites eat the same thing – wood – so your home’s structure, bookcases, shelving and furniture are all at risk for being eaten. If you happen to see winged termites flying around the doors and windows, chances are high that you have an infestation nearby. Contact a professional exterminator like Dugas Pest Control for immediate identification and eradication. Both formosan and subterranean termites are stubborn pests, but they won’t stand a chance against our team.