What Makes Formosan Termites Different?


In South Carolina, there are two main types of termites that can cause damage to homes and buildings: subterranean termites and drywood termites. The main difference between the two is that subterranean termites live underground and dig tunnels to their food source while drywood termites live in the wood itself.

There’s one type of termite, however, that’s worse than all the rest: the Formosan termite. This termite is native to southern states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and yes, South Carolina.

So what makes this termite so different from others?

First of all, Formosan termites are actually a species of subterranean termites that was first found in China and Japan prior to the 1600s. The species made its way to Hawaii in the late 1800s and to South Africa by the 1950s. Not long after that, it was found in the southern U.S.


What sets these termites apart from others is not how much wood they consume individually, but how much they consume as a whole. One Formosan termite colony can contain several million termites (as opposed to the several thousand or hundred thousand usually found in common subterranean and drywood colonies). With several million termites all feeding on a single structure, the damage can be catastrophic. Each year, home and business owners report billions of dollars in damage due to these termites.

Other Food Sources

While the cellulose in wood is a main food source for Formosans, they’ve also been known to attack many species of living plants and non-cellulose materials like plaster, asphalt, plastic, and thin sheets of soft metals.


In terms of looks, Formosan termites do have some differences as well: instead of having a rectangular head like other subterranean termites, Formosans have oval heads. Also, the winged Formosans (also called alates) are a tan or brown color while other alates tend to be dark brown or black.

How to prevent Formosan termites:

  • Keep your yard clear of dead trees, scrap wood, and cardboard
  • Keep your plants and landscaping trimmed to at least one foot from your home
  • Fix leaks in outdoor faucets, water lines, indoor fixtures, drains, and appliances as soon as possible
  • If you use mulch in your landscaping, keep it as far away from your home as possible
  • Seal up any cracks in your walls and foundation
  • Get a regular termite inspection

If you think you may have a termite infestation (whether it’s Formosan or not), don’t hesitate to contact our Columbia, Florence, or Charleston pest control company. We’ll set up an appointment to inspect your home or office as soon as possible and take any steps needed to eliminate your infestation.

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