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Termite Spotlight: Subterranean Termites

Termite Spotlight: Subterranean Termites

South Florida’s unique tropical ecosystem supports more species of household pests than anywhere else. Most homeowners in South Florida know that they need to protect their most valuable investment from the heartache and financial headache of termite damage. Aside from the cost associated with termite damage repair, termite damage can decrease your home’s value and even worse, homeowner’s insurance doesn’t usually cover termite damage. Adding to the unpleasant subject of termites, for some homeowners, out of sight is out of mind. In the past, those termites you couldn’t see infesting your home, in out of the way places like your basement, needed a while to do any major damage to your home.

Enter Formosa and Asian subterranean termites

Well, times have changed. Since the 1980s and 90s, several invasive termite species are, as the University of Florida (UF) reported, “on track to infest over half the structures in South Florida by 2040.” It’s a sobering thought but these aggressive termites are voracious eaters on a mission to multiply. South Florida does have its own native subterranean termite species but the invasive Formosan and Asian subterranean termites leave those guys in the sawdust, building larger colonies, with millions instead of a few thousand members.

Invasive subterranean termites were most likely introduced to the US via shipping containers

Formosan subterranean termites: Coptotermes formosanus, the most widely distributed termite of economic concern gets its name from an early 1900 description of this species in Taiwan but is thought to be endemic to southern China. Reports point to accounts of Formosan termites in Japan before the 1800s and in Hawaii during the late 1800s. In the 1950s, reports of Formosans in South Africa were soon followed in the 1960s by instances in Texas, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Then, in 1980, a well-established colony was discovered in a condominium in Hallandale, Florida. Today, Formosan termites can be found in almost every urban area in Florida including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, according to the UF Entomology Department.

Asian subterranean termites: Coptotermes gestroi, similar to the Formosan termite is endemic to southeast Asia. Collected in 1932 in the Pacific, on the Marquesas Islands, as well as in the Indian Ocean’s Mauritius and Reunion Islands, in 1936 and 1957, respectively, Asian subterranean termites were first reported in Brazil in 1923 and in Barbados in 1937. Recently collected in West Indian islands, the list of Asian termite locations include all major islands in the Caribbean, the Bahamas, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and southern Mexico. In 1996, Asian subterranean termites made landfall in the continental US in a storefront and church in Miami. 1999 found an Asian subterranean termite infestation in a Key West home.

Both Formosan and Asian subterranean termites are established in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties today, making these locations the only place in the world where these species overlap territories. Due to warmer temps, both species are swarming at the same time, leading UF researchers to keep a lookout for a new hybrid super-species.

Identifying subterranean termites

Native subterranean termites – Averaging 0.3 inches in length, including wings with dark brown bodies, native subterranean termite alates generally swarm February through March, usually after a rainstorm in the morning or around dusk.

Asian subterranean termites – About ½ inch in length, yellowish-brown in color with hairs on their wings, Asian subterranean termite alates swarm February to April.

Formosan subterranean termites – Yellowish-brown bodies with small hairs on their wings, Formosan termite alates, range in size from about ½ inch to a little over a ½ inch. Swarming occurs April to July beginning at dusk on calm and humid evenings.

Formosan and Asian swarms can be distinguished from native subterranean termites by the massive number of alates in prenuptial flight. The soldiers of both Formosan and Asian subterraneans feature a large forehead opening, known as a fontanelle, thought to be used for spraying a sticky substance to fight off predators.

Swarming may indicate termite activity

After termite alates swarm in order to find mates and start new colonies, they lose their wings and burrow into a quiet place to breed. Discovering discarded wings outside your home could be a sign to check further for termite activity. Alates are attracted to light so if you’re finding discarded wings on windowsills and near other light sources inside your home, you should contact a pest professional as soon as possible, as this may indicate a termite infestation.

Other signs of subterranean termite activity

Subterranean termites live in a network of nests under the soil outside your home. In order to access your home through wood to ground contact or through damp wood near your foundation, subterranean termites build mud tubes that worker termites use to transport wood from your home to feed the throngs of hungry termites in nests below. Invasive subterranean termite colonies can support multiple queens, building networks that contain millions of members.

With so many mouths to feed, invasive termites are much more aggressive than native subterranean termites and can destroy a home in a matter of months. Mud tubes running up the walls of your foundation indicate subterranean termite activity.

Contact a professional

Subterranean termites, especially Formosan and Asian termites, should be handled by professional, trusted pest control technicians. Hulett Environmental Services, a leader in South Florida pest control for over 45 years employs certified and licensed, entomologist-trained technicians that address your subterranean termite issues. Utilizing our IPM, or integrated pest management system, we use environmentally conscious approaches to pest control. Just call Hulett!

Brace Yourself, Termite Season is Upon Us

Termite Season is Upon Us

According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), the southeastern US is bracing for a heavy termite season, as the weather starts to get warmer and spring approaches. The pest control resource pointed to the southeast as a “particularly prevalent place” to encounter these wood-eating “silent destroyers” who can “chew through wood, flooring, and wallpaper without any immediate signs of damage.” The NPMA goes on to say that “termites cause more than $5 billion each year,” adding the kicker that these are “costs typically not covered by homeowners’ insurance.”

The NPMA stresses the importance of homeowners knowing what types of termites are active in their areas and how to prevent them from causing damage to your home. Additionally, noting the importance of trusting your termite suspicions to a pest control professional as opposed to taking on the termite fight yourself, the NPMA throws the spotlight on several types of termites South Florida residents may be dealing with this spring.

Subterranean Termites

The hotter the climate, the more subterranean termites you’re likely to encounter. While extremely common in southern states, South Florida is now under siege, by not only native subterranean termites but also two more aggressive species from southeast Asia, Formosan and Asian subterranean termites. “By far the most destructive termite species,” invasive subterranean termites live in a network of underground nests, populated by up to 2 million members in a colony. Accessing your home from mud tunnels used to transport food, worker class subterranean termites bite off small pieces of wood to feed the expanding throngs of colony members.

Due to their aggressive natures, Formosan subterranean termites can collapse an entire building in a lot less time than drywood termites and native subterranean termites. Formosan termites also infest trees, shrubs, utility poles, timber, railroad trusses and have even been found on boats in the Florida Keys. The average Formosan termite colony can consume a one-foot 2×4 in less than a month.

  • Tell-tale signs of subterranean termite activity
    • Earthen tunnels running from the ground to walls near foundations
    • Earthen tunnels running up trees and utility poles
    • Hollow sounding live trees

Drywood Termites

Drywood termite colonies are much smaller than subterranean colonies, with around 2,500 members. Primarily attacking walls, flooring, and furniture, drywood termite infestations can take a while to discover because these pests live inside the structures they are infesting. Termites usually enter homes through direct ground to wood contact or through water-damaged wood. Because drywood termites can survive with only the water in the wood they eat, they have been found infesting eaves, soffits and other wooden areas on upper stories of homes and other buildings. Drywood termites can be problematic to treat as they can form more than one colony within the same structure.

  • Tell-tale signs of drywood termite activity
    • Signs of swarming indoors
    • Presence of “frass,” piles of sawdust-like pellets, excreted by dry wood termites
    • Hollow sounding floors, walls, and furniture
    • Buckling walls and floors that can resemble water damage

Conehead Termites

Resembling subterranean termites by their habit of building mud tubes, conehead termites, currently confined to Broward County are named for the dark brown, pointy heads of the soldier caste that dispenses a sap-like substance conehead termites spray at predators, such as ants, lizards, and other termites. These hungry and highly destructive pests build free-standing nests on the ground and in structures, as well as in trees. With nests up to 3 feet in diameter, with a hard, chewed wood surface, conehead termites forage on the ground, allowing them to move faster than subterranean termites who can only move wood through tubes underground.

  • Tell-tale signs of conehead termites
    • Dark brown tubes running up trees on the ground or up walls of structures
    • Large, round nests in trees, on the ground or on structures

Termites require professional control protection year round

In South Florida, where termites come with the territory, it is essential to connect with a professional pest control company who has your back against termites. Our 45 years of experience as a leader in South Florida’s pest control community has earned us a ranking as one of the top 20 pest control companies in the US.

Using sustainably responsible baits and the most effective materials and technology, our licensed and certified technicians create a protective boundary around your South Florida home.

Get ready for this spring, with a free in-home termite evaluation and take advantage of Hulett’s $100 off coupon for termite control. Just call Hulett!

South Florida Homes at Risk for Termite Damage during Termite Season

South Florida Homes at Risk for Termite Damage during Termite Season

Two subterranean termite species swarming now in South Florida are raising concerns for homeowners and entomologists alike, as well as the beginning of drywood termite swarm season…

Hulett Environmental Services, pest control’s finest, encourages South Florida homeowners to be aware that researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences predict that the Formosan subterranean termite and the Asian subterranean termite are on track to cause damage to at least half of the structures in the greater Southern Florida area by 2040.

Interestingly, it is important to note that not even concrete homes are safe from some termites as they can breach through to your attic and even furniture both inside and outside your home. Just because homeowners do not see the termites does not mean they are not there…as in South Florida there are two types of homes: Those that have termites and those that will. Better safe than sorry is definitely the case so yearly termite home inspections are heavily recommended.

Subterranean termite population expanding!

Currently, Florida houses six invasive termite species but UF researchers are focusing their attention on the Formosan and Asian subterranean termites because expanding numbers of these species pose the potential to cause the most damage to the Greater Miami Beach/Palm Beach/Ft. Lauderdale areas. Also recently discover was an Asian Formosan subterranean species that is a cross, and has been called the “Super Termite”. Hulett, other companies and industry experts hope to see this species eradicated or at least unable to spread throughout Florida due to its heavily destructive nature.

About subterranean termites

  • Natives of China, Formosan workers are cream-colored and wingless, soldiers have elongated brown heads and mandibles and brownish-yellow undersides, while supplementary reproductives are light-colored and primary reproductives range from brown to black with wings. Most South Florida residents will only see the termites swarming, which appear this time of year (as it is termite season) and have wings.
  • Asians are a tropical species, endemic to Southeast Asia. Asian alates range from caramel to brownish yellow and after swarming, keep their wings longer than most other termites. Formosans look very similar to Asian alates. Hulett was actually the first company in Florida to discover the Asian subterranean termite had spread to our area.
  • Subterranean termites swarm in the morning or early evening usually after a rain in the spring or summer, but can swarm at any time of the year.
  • Formosan termites build giant underground nests containing millions of termites. They move fast and cause damage not only quicker but at a higher rate, and require immediate treatment when discovered to avoid further home damage not cover by homeowner’s insurance.
  • Formosan termites destroy structural timbers, utility poles and other timber structures, including ships and barges within a few months. They have even been known in some cases to move through concrete.
  • Asian termites have been detected in boats and in homes near the shore in South Florida; they are voracious eaters and can even eat holes in rubber and plastic in their search for wood and the food it takes to reach the wood.
  • Formosan and Asian termite infestations can occur even in living trees, such as oak, cypress, pine and maple. Formosan termites often also cause power failures, chewing through electrical cables. There termites than swarm from these areas to nearby homes starting a new colony.

Fundamentally, subterranean termites cause most of the termite damage worldwide.

Globally, Formosan and Asian subterranean termites are responsible for damage totaling around $32 billion dollars annually at least. This figure includes structural damage repairs, as well as pest control services. The University of Florida study, led by Professors Nan-Yao, Su Rudy Scheffrahn and Assistant Researcher, Thomas Chouvenc is set for a June 2016 publication, in Florida Entomologist, and states that Formosan and Asian subterranean termites account for most of the termite damage worldwide.

Oddly, in the continental US, the overlap of these two subterranean termite species occurs only in South Florida, home to 6 million residents. Formosan termites can be traced all along the Florida coastlines and beyond, and the Asian subterranean termites continue to spread to new areas raising concern in the pest control industry. It is important to keep in mind how quickly termite species have been known spread and move.

Study analyzes increasing termite activity

By analyzing the geographic spread of subterranean termite specimens from 1990-2015, the UF study estimates that any home or structure within a 500-foot radius of a Formosan or Asian subterranean termite would be at risk for a termite infestation, and that is the minimum as cases have occurred from farther distances.

Since 1990, these two types of termites have expanded their ranges considerably in Florida. Because of the distances these two types of termites fly and due to a rising increase in moving termite-infested material from one location to another, the UF Gator team said that as a result, “the number of infested structures has increased exponentially.”

Another potential threat, according to the University of Florida study is that Formosan and Asian termites have been able to breed producing a stronger, super breed termite hybrid. Known by most as the “super termite” found only here in South Florida recently.

Fortunately, South Florida homeowners do have a variety of options for both preventative and curative treatments and can contact Hulett Environmental Services; as we have been treating South Florida homes for termites for over 45 years and are a full service, fully licensed and certified family business. We offer a free home and landscape inspection with no obligation, and then customize a family and pet-friendly termite prevention and monitoring plan for your South Florida property.