Formosan subterranean termites have been inhabiting Georgia since at least the 1990s. These invasive termites are known for being tremendously destructive, as their colonies contain millions of individual termites, far more than the usual 50,000 or so contained within eastern subterranean termite colonies. However, some Formosan colonies can grow to contain as many as 50 million termites, while eastern subterranean termite colonies are not believed to grow any larger than to contain 1 to 2 million termites. While numerous termite pests inhabit Georgia due to the state’s termite-friendly geographic location. Formosan and easter subterranean termites are the two most destructive species in the state. But a home that is infested with Formosan termites is at much greater peril than a home infested with eastern subterranean termites, so it is important that Georgia residents know how to tell the difference between the two species.
Once subterranean termites infest a home, it can take years before the damage they inflict becomes noticeable. Most residents first learn that their home may be infested with termites after noticing mud tubes along the side of their home, or the presence of feces (frass) or wings from reproductive swarming termites littering certain areas in their home. It is rare for residents to find termite specimens after an infestation has already begun, but the emergence of swarming termites (alates) in or around a home is a common sign that a termite colony has become established within or near a home. Alates die quickly upon emerging from their colony nesting sites, allowing homeowners to visually observe the alate specimens for themselves. Formosan subterranean termite swarms are much larger than eastern subterranean termite swarms. Formosan termite alates are also much larger in body size than their native counterparts. Formosan alates are around half an inch in length, while eastern subterranean alates are three eighths of an inch in body length. Formosan alates are caramel colored, while eastern subterranean alates are black. Formosan swarms occur at night during May or early June in Georgia, while eastern subterranean termites swarm a bit earlier in February or March in the state. Another big difference is that Formosan alates are attracted to light, while eastern subterranean alates are not. This makes dead Formosan alates more likely to litter certain areas of a home following a swarm. These areas include window sills, spider webs, porches and inside light fixtures.
Have you ever witnessed a termite swarm before?