The Three Ways In Which Subterranean Termites Disperse Into New Habitats

March 19, 2020 | Posted In: Georgia Pest & Termite Control

Georgia is home to several termite species that are destructive pests of finished lumber within homes, and the state is located in the most termite-heavy region in the country. Multiple species of subterranean and drywood termite pests infest homes throughout Georgia all year round, but subterranean termites are by far the most economically significant house pests in the state and the entire country. Native termite pest species that can be found in all areas of Georgia include light and dark southern subterranean termites and southeastern drywood termites. The eastern subterranean termite is the most abundant, commonly encountered, and economically costly termite pest species in Georgia.

Two non-native termite pest species have become established in the state. One of these species, the powderpost termite, cannot be found in the natural environment; instead, these termites are occasionally discovered infesting objects made of, or containing, wood components, most notably furniture. The Formosan subterranean termite is another non-native termite pest species in Georgia, and it was first discovered in the state back in 1993. These invasive subterranean termites are unique for dwelling in massive colonies that can contain more than ten million individuals, which makes them particularly destructive to the finished wood sources they infest. Luckily, state authorities have succeeded in preventing the Formosan subterranean termite from spreading throughout the state, and infestations remain rare.

Subterranean termites disperse into new areas in three ways known as swarming, budding, and the human transport of termite infested materials. Seasonal swarming is the most common form of termite dispersal, and subterranean termite species generally swarm from February until late spring in Georgia. Budding occurs when workers and secondary reproductives within a subterranean termite colony lose contact with the central nesting site. These lost workers construct new nests where secondary reproductives produce additional workers and soldiers, resulting in an entirely new colony. Since drywood termite colonies are contained entirely within above ground wood items, they are frequently transported to new habitats by humans, especially when people move out of state. It is rare for humans to inadvertently transport subterranean termites to new habitats when moving or by means of interstate commerce, but the Formosan subterranean termite is an exception. For example, Formosan subterranean termites first arrived in Georgia from shipments of infested railroad ties that had departed New Orleans.

Have you ever known someone who fell victim to a Formosan subterranean termite infestation?