Formosan Subterranean Termites Affect Landscapers

Dennis Ring  |  4/13/2005 9:01:35 PM

Landscapers have not been greatly affected by subterranean termites, but they are increasingly challenged by the Formosan subterranean termite. An invasive species, the Formosan subterranean termite is believed to have been introduced in New Orleans and Lake Charles, La.; Galveston, Texas; and Charleston, S.C., from East Asia around the end of World War II. Its presence was not detected in Louisiana until 1966.

This termite is now considered the most destructive insect in Louisiana and causes millions of dollars in losses caused by treatments, repairs, defaults on loans, and collapse and demolition of structures. It is being spread across Louisiana and to other states.

Subterranean termites attack some plants landscapers use. Native and Formosan subterranean termites are found on and in trees and woody plants; however, the Formosan subterranean termite eats the centers of live trees and woody plants. Here is a partial list of susceptible tree species found with infestations of Formosan subterranean termites:

  • Oaks (Live, Water, Laurel, Texas Red, Willow, White, Shumard’s, Cherrybark, Southern Red and Overcup)
  • Chinese Tallow
  • Bald Cypress
  • Drummond Red Maple
  • Elm (American, Chinese and Slippery)
  • Slash Pine
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Southern Magnolia
  • Sweetgum and Blackgum
  • Netleaf Hackberry
  • Green Ash
  • Black Willow
  • Sycamore
  • River Birch
  • Pecan
  • Camphor Tree
  • Eastern Redcedar
  • Chinaberry

The Formosan subterranean termites attack other tree species, too. They tunnel inside a tree, eat the center and build carton nests. They can develop huge populations, as many as 10 million insects in a colony. They also spread to surrounding structures, including homes, from these colonies in trees. Trees should be inspected for the presence of Formosan subterranean termites. The most effective method to determine if a tree is infested with Formosan subterranean termites is a thorough visual examination of the exterior of the tree from ground level to about 6 to 8 feet up the tree trunk.

  • First, look up and down the trunk for evidence of mud tunnels. If they are fresh, living termites may be inside the tunnel.
  • Sites with living termites may be found at ground level and just below the ground in the crotches at the base of the tree.
  • Living termites also may be in the upper part of the tree where branches form a crotch with the trunk.
  • Areas of rotted or loose bark around the trunk of a tree may be locations where living termites may be found. Carefully remove some of the outer bark with a knife or screwdriver in these areas.
  • Locations where limbs have been cut should be examined for evidence of living termites.
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