The Asian Subterranean Termite is the second most destructive subterranean termite in the world. Incursions have been recorded in countries in South East Asia, Hawaii, and Florida where populations have established for more than 30 years and damage costs have amounted to billions of dollars.
The two species arrived in South Florida on oceangoing yachts, scientists say, with infestations tending to originate in marinas and inland waterways before spreading into neighborhoods. Unlike Australia, which requires strict inspections to make sure oceangoing pleasure boats don’t bring in exotic pests, the United States requires no such screening, allowing boats from the Caribbean and elsewhere to bring termites into South Florida undetected.
Asian Subterranean termites build their nest underground. They socially organize themselves into three groups which include reproductives, soldiers and workers.
The Reproductive’s lay the eggs. Most colonies have one pair of primary reproductive’s; the king and the queen. A queen can live for about 20 years and lay 1,000 eggs a day. A colony can have about 60,000 to 1 million termites in it. Only the king and queen have eyes. The rest of the termites are blind and navigate using scent and moisture trails. Kings and queens are usually darker than the rest of the termites in the colony. The vast majority will end up as lunch for lizards, birds and other creatures. But just two of the fertile couples can found a colony that in a few years will produce millions of termites. Although they can be spread quickly by boats, the natural spread of these termites is slow. They tend to fly only a few hundred yards – and at most a half-mile – to establish new colonies. And once they do establish the colony, it takes four or five years for that colony to produce fertile offspring ready to fly off and extend the species’ range. The spread of these species found dozens of new infestations that could be attributed to boats. The swift spread through Broward and Palm Beach counties took place via boats, with the first arriving on oceangoing yachts and other boats picking up termites in marinas and spreading them into waterfront neighborhoods.
The Soldiers is tasked to defend the nest from invaders, usually ants and termites from other colonies. The wide range of jaw types and large heads provide means that effectively block narrow termite tunnels against ant entry. A tunnel-blocking soldier can rebuff attacks from many ants. Soldiers’ heads are often darker than their bodies. They can exude a white toxic fluid for defense purpose. They also produce a rattling sound, a mechanism used by soldier to warn off nest-mates by banging their head against the walls. You may hear the sound during a quiet night if your house is infested with this species.
The Workers are a milky or cream color. They have smaller, saw-toothed mandibles, which allow them to take small bites of wood and carry building materials. As their name suggests they do most of the work in the colony. They dig tunnels, gather food and care for young. They also feed the king, queen and soldiers, who are unable to feed themselves. Workers and soldiers are sterile.
The Asian Subterranean termites love moisture and like to live in cool, dark, damp and moist places. They feed on cellulose found in wood, paper products, clothes and trees such as mango, lemon, coconut and cassava etc. These termites spread to places with infested materials or fly around in swarms. They usually fly in large numbers- hundreds to thousands- in the afternoons and are attracted to light. They do not bite people.
As for the future, he said, “Obviously they’re going to keep spreading. They’re so deeply entrenched. They’re subterranean termites, they’re hard to get to and they’re here to stay forever.”
Gary Stanford, an environmental specialist with the Florida Department of Agriculture, which oversees pest-control operators, says the agency recommends that every home have a termite contract that covers subterranean and Drywood termites.
All homes in Florida are subject to a termite infestation. Professor Phil Koehler of The University of Florida has said, “two thirds of all homes build since 1987 has had termites with five years.” Because of this all homes should have a yearly termite inspection to prevent costly damage created by unseen termites eating at the wood in your home for years.
If you live in Naples, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, or anywhere in Southwest Florida and would like more information on termite protection, call our office, 239-455-4300, or look us up on our website at collierpestcontrol.com. Remember, Florida does not have to be shared with insects.