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PEST SNAPSHOT: Formosan Subterranean Termite (Coptotermes formosanus)

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Publication Number: P3999
View as PDF: P3999.pdf

Mississippi PMP: An Extension Series for Pest Management Professionals. Mississippi State University Extension Urban Entomology.

  • As of April 2024, Formosan subterranean termites (“Formosans”) are known to be established in at least part of 26 Mississippi counties (A) and have been found sporadically in six other counties as far north as DeSoto County, suggesting they could potentially be encountered by a PMP anywhere in Mississippi.
  • Alates (“swarmers”): Yellowish-brown with dark heads (B), typically larger (about ½ inch with wings) than our native Eastern subterranean termites (ESTs) and related species. Nighttime swarmers that are highly attracted to light. In Mississippi, Formosans swarm from May to June, while ESTs swarm from February to May. Formosans and ESTs both possess two distinct veins on the leading edge of wings; however, Formosans also have numerous small hairs on the wing that are easily seen with magnification (C).
  • Soldiers: Teardrop-shaped head (D) as compared to the rectangular, blocky head of ESTs (E). Formosan soldiers make up a higher percentage of the colony (about 10%) than ESTs (about 2%), so you will notice more.
  • Formosan carton nests (F) are often high, near a moisture source, and can be difficult to detect. Cartons allow Formosans to break contact with the soil for moisture, which renders traditional soil termite treatments ineffective. Spray foam insulation can hide leaks and infestations, making inspection and treatment more difficult.

For more information, visit the MSU Extension Termite page.

Formosan subterranean termite distribution by county as of April 2024. Established (in at least part of the county): Adams, Wilkinson, Amite, Madison, Hinds, Rankin, Copiah, Lincoln, Pike, Walthall, Marion, Smith, Jasper, Covington, Jones, Lauderdale, Lamar, Forrest, Perry, Greene, Pearl River, Stone, George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson.
Submit samples collected outside of the “established” range (red counties) to the MSU Extension Insect ID Laboratory.

 

Two swarmers in a dish of liquid.

Swarmer wing under magnification showing numerous small hairs.

Drawing of a teardrop-shaped Formosan head.Drawing of a rectangular EST head.

Close-up of a Formosan carton nest with many small openings and many termites.


This work is partially supported by Crop Protection and Pest Management, Extension Implementation Program, award no. 2021-70006-35580 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The information given here is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products, trade names, or suppliers are made with the understanding that no endorsement is implied and that no discrimination against other products or suppliers is intended.

Publication 3999 (POD-06-24)

By J. Santos Portugal III, PhD, Assistant Extension Professor, Blake Layton, PhD, Extension Entomology Specialist, and Joe MacGown, Research Technician/Scientific Illustrator, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology.

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Portrait of Dr. Jose Santos Portugal
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